There have been half a dozen or so live-action adaptations of classic Disney animated movies in recent times – including two already this year. But The Lion King feels different.
For one thing, it's the most recent Disney classic to be subjected to the live-action treatment – the generation that grew up on the 1994 original is still very much a vocal part of the cinema-going audience. They can still feel the love tonight, and probably have on multiple nights since 1994.
Secondly, it's the first live-action version of a Disney animation to feature no human characters at all. Representing a stunning achievement in visual effects, the new Lion King looks, for all intents and purposes, like an episode of Planet Earth, but with talking animals and murder.
With no fellow homo sapiens on screen for the audience to relate to, it places a significant onus on the humans who give voice to the perfectly rendered creatures of the African savanna that populate the story.
For this task, director Jon Favreau (who cut his teeth on this sort of thing with 2016's The Jungle Book) recruited someone of the most beloved entertainers around, assembling a killer voice cast led by Donald Glover (aka musical artist Childish Gambino) as the adult Simba, opposite none other than Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as the grown-up version of Simba's betrothed, Nala.
"To me, casting is the foundation of great cinematic storytelling," Favreau tells TimeOut. "I didn't come from the tradition of visual directing, it's always been about storytelling and performance. I came up as an actor. You can't compromise one iota on cast, you have to get the best people you can, because they're the ones that are going to do everything."
For Glover, it was the story's message of connectedness, declared in its most famous song, that motivated him to take on the role.
"Jon was really good about the Circle of Life having a major hand," says Glover. "I really feel like it's good to make movies that are global, and making sure we talk about how connected we are right now because it's the first time we've ever really been able to talk to everybody at the same time."
Speaking to TimeOut the day after the film's world premiere in Los Angeles, Glover reveals that he didn't tell his 4-year-old son he was in the movie before he took him to the screening.
"My son saw it last night and he was freaking out," says Glover. "I didn't tell him anything, I really didn't. [The original] is his favourite movie so I was like 'I'll just wait until he gets there'. But somehow he found out about it, but still didn't know I was in it. He was just like, 'Oh, the one with Beyoncé!' And then during the movie, 'Oh, Dad's in it too! This is great! A bonus'."
As Simba's father Mufasa, the great James Earl Jones is the only member of the original cast to reprise his role. He is joined by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor as the traitorous Scar, as well as John Oliver as the Zazu the hornbill, John Kani as Rafiki the mandrill and Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, Simba's mother.
But just like in the animated version, it's the meerkat/warthog duo of Timon and Pumba who almost walk away with the entire movie. Voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, respectively, the pair generate all the biggest laughs, bringing a light, improvisational touch to an otherwise heavily digital enterprise.
"It was a lot of improvisation," Rogen tells TimeOut. "And we were actually together every time we recorded which is a very rare gift to have as someone who's trying to be funny in an animated film. Which I've done a lot of, and you're often just alone in there. And I think you can really tell that we're playing off each other. It's incredibly naturalistic feeling. And they really captured Billy. That is what amazing. He essentially played himself on a TV show [Billy On The Street] for years, and this character is more Billy than that character, somehow."
Eichner couldn't be happier with his on-screen avatar.
"I wish I was as cute in real life as I am in the movie," Eichner tells TimeOut. "The Timon they designed is so adorable. And I think the juxtaposition of my personality in that little Timon body, really works. I agree with everything Seth was saying. I can't imagine now, looking back not being in the room together. Being able to riff off of each other and really discover our chemistry together in the same moment, you can feel it when you're watching the movie."
Adds Rogen: "The fact that it has a looseness applied to probably the most technologically incredible movie ever made is an amazing contrast. It feels like people in a room just talking and then it's refined to a degree that is like, inconceivable in a lot of ways. And that mixture is what I think is so incredible."
What: The Lion King
When:In cinemas now