Pretty much everyone is counting down the hours until the live-action remake of The Lion King finally arrives in theaters on Friday, July 19. Perhaps especially parents who remember watching the original 1994 animated version when they were kids themselves. That's sort of the whole point of these nostalgic reboots from Disney, right? Parents want to share the things they loved from their own childhood with their kids, which is why many may be wondering whether The Lion King is appropriate for kids under 10. After all, it has been 25 years since the first movie was released, so you might need a refresher on the plot line.
For those of you who may have forgotten the story behind the original 1994 Disney classic, here's a brief rundown of what you can expect from the new live-action version of The Lion King, as many reviews have said the updated movie stays pretty true to the original. If you'd like to be totally surprised, however, please note there are some plot-line spoilers ahead.
The Lion King — both new and old versions — focuses on a young lion named Simba who is the son of Mufasa, the actual lion king. Mufasa has a brother named Scar who is a bit of a jealous jerk and wants to be king instead of his brother. So he has Mufasa killed, in what's perhaps one of the most heartbreaking and iconic death scenes in film, and convinces Simba it was his fault. Simba goes off into the jungle and grows up with the help of new friends Pumbaa the warthog and Timon the meerkat, but he eventually is convinced to come back to try to save his kingdom from Scar by his childhood friend Nala.
So, yes, this movie is essentially Hamlet with lions. And therein lies the rub. Because while Timon and Pumbaa (voiced in this new film by Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner, respectively) should offer a whole lot of comic relief, there are some dark and emotional moments in The Lion King parents may want to know about before bringing their kids to the theater.
The death of a parent, for instance, is one of the pivotal scenes in both the animated and live-action versions, and I know the moment in that film where Simba is curled up with his father was difficult even with the original film. With this new movie's devotion to realism, however, it might prove especially upsetting for young children, as Common Sense Media noted in its review.
"Parents need to know that The Lion King is an extremely realistic computer-animated remake of Disney's beloved 1994 original," according to Common Sense Media. "Because of the realism (you'll likely forget you're not watching real animals some of the time), the violence is definitely more intense and potentially upsetting here than in the more cartoony classic."
Scenes like the stampede and Mufasa's death are likely much more intense in the photorealistic version, so parents will have to gauge their child's sensitivity on those subjects. All children deal with the concept of death differently, after all, so parents are going to have to make that call themselves. If your child struggles with nightmares or has a lot of anxiety about death or violence, this might not be an easy watch for them.
As for whether it's OK for kids around 10 years old, Common Sense Media notes in its review that it's probably appropriate for kids 8 years old and up.
With all that said, however, the movie is most definitely geared towards family, with a PG rating. The soundtrack in particular should be even more spectacular than the original on account of Beyoncé (who voices Nala) and other talented musicians. Plus there are important life lessons for kids to pick up in this film — courage in the face of adversity, loyalty in friendship, responsibility, how our place in the world is all connected to each other, and obviously "Hakuna Matata," which means no worries in case you didn't know. It really is a wonderful phrase.
If parents are feeling a bit wary about seeing The Lion King with their kids, feel free to take a page out of my book and go alone the first time. This ends up working out on a few levels since you will get a better sense of the film, you get a few hours alone, and if you decide to take your kids you can concentrate on their reactions rather than the movie. It's a problem-free philosophy.