Chinese pianist Lang Lang and his new wife, pianist Gina Alice Redlinger, play "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" together at China premiere of Jon Favreau's new CGI remake of "The Lion King" held at the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, July 10, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]
On a starry night, with dazzling fireworks filling the sky, and in front of the famed Disney castle and tens of thousands of fans and tourists, China's most famous pianist Lang Lang and his new wife, pianist Gina Alice Redlinger, played "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" as a duet a steinway – what romantic, spectacular scene in the world would top that?
The couple were in the Shanghai Disney Resort on Wednesday for the China premiere of "The Lion King", the most anticipated new film for this summer, which is actually a photorealistic computer-animated remake of the legendary Disney film of that name released in 1994. However, no cast and crew could show up as they had attended the Hollywood world premiere on Tuesday night.
"She's my Nala," Lang Lang introduced his wife on stage by using the name of the lioness that is the wife of the Lion King, Simba. It was the couple's first appearance since they announced their marriage in June. Lang Lang added he was thrilled and excited to be in Shanghai for "The Lion King" that has so inspired him when first seen on a big screen - a quarter of century ago.
Later, cheers and applause rang out around the Walt Disney Grand Theatre during the first advanced screening of the new version, indicating it will surely strike a responsive chord in the hearts of moviegoers based on the nostalgia factor.
The Academy Award-winning original animated feature, influenced by William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," reached China in 1995, one year after it premiered in North America and other markets.
The audiences pack the Walt Disney Grand Theatre, ready to see Jon Favreau's new CGI remake of "The Lion King" for the first time during China premiere of Jon Favreau's new CGI remake of "The Lion King" held at the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, July 10, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]
It was the first widely-released animated film and first imported foreign animated blockbuster in China, creating a mind-blowing and eye-opening experience for many Chinese moviegoers, most of whom never thought an animation could be viewed on a big screen and could be so thrilling and epic. This was because, at that time, all the Chinese animations were just made for TV screens.
The original version earned 41 million yuan in 1995 and become the sole, and most profitable, animated film to enter the top five list on box office charts that year. Its soundtrack album, VHS, DVD, toy and book releases later also helped strengthen its classic status amid all the childhood memories, especially resonating with those born in the 1980s and 1990s. Its musical version, the top-earning title in box-office history for stage productions, had grossed nearly $8.1 billion worldwide. It was performed on stage 500 times over a year at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in Shanghai from 2016 to 2017.
Famous Chinese writer Ma Boyong said at a seminar held by Disney on July 5 that the reason why "The Lion King" has proved so great and timeless is because "the film has the humanistic care and philosophy as well as great spirit and sentiments beyond visual effects and narratives.
Zhang Qi, clutching her premiere night ticket, told China.org.cn: "I still remember when I was a primary school student I went to cinema with my classmates to see 'The Lion King' for the first time."
"When the opening number began, I was awestruck. And I cried a lot when Mufasa died. I was nostalgic, and I hope the new version will be faithful to the original, and I would love to hear James Earl Jones' voice again."
Jon Favreau's new version of "The Lion King" is truly faithful to the original, which will please its fans, according to the observations of the China.org.cn reporter present, by reenacting the original animation beautifully. For some iconic scenes, it was a shot-for-shot remake.
At the same time, a new voice cast, including Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé, John Oliver, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, and reworks of the classic songs and scores by Hans Zimmer, Elton John and Tim Rice introduce a breath of fresh air, helping to introduce the classic to new generations. Beyoncé even wrote and produced a new song "Spirit," for the film.
It is epic in terms of production and music, and surely is a game changer for the industry -- the film is a pioneering blend of live-action filmmaking techniques, state-of-the-art virtual reality technology and innovative photoreal visual effects as nearly 100% of the film was made in digital world through most-advanced technologies.
This makes the film the first keyframe-animated movie shot on a virtual reality (VR) set with a live-action aesthetic, thanks to efforts and exploration by Favreau and visual effects teams who worked on "Titanic," "Avatar" and "Jungle Book."
In recent years, Disney has had mixed success in China with remakes of its own animated classics, such as 2015's "Cinderella" ($71.57 million), 2016's "The Jungle Book" ($150 million) and 2017's "Beauty and the Beast" ($89.2 million).
Fireworks display in the sky above Disney castle at the Shanghai Disney Resort during China premiere of Jon Favreau's new CGI remake of "The Lion King" held in Shanghai, July 10, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]
The company continued its remake efforts by putting out "Dumbo" and "Aladdin" earlier this year and, in China, the two generated $21.4 million and $53.43 million respectively. Box office analysts believed the nostalgic factor and visual effect wonders will put "The Lion King" remake ahead of "The Jungle Book" at the box office.
Still today, the original "The Lion King" enjoys high score of 9/10 on China's movie review site Douban.com after more than 425,000 users give out their ratings, no wonder, the new CGI version is very much appealing to huge Chinese fanbase and families who are eager to enjoy a high-quality family entertainment. The film will hit Chinese theaters on July 12, 2019, one week ahead of North America and other markets.
Fireworks display and light show coordinate with pianist Lang Lang's "Circle of Life" performance in front of the Disney castle at the Shanghai Disney Resort during China premiere of Jon Favreau's new CGI remake of "The Lion King" held in Shanghai, July 10, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]
A child stands and looks on at the posters of "The Lion King" at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in the Disneytown of the Shanghai Disney Resort where China premiere of Jon Favreau's new CGI remake of "The Lion King" was held, July 10, 2019. [Photo/ China.org.cn]
"The Lion King" merchandises including toys, T-shirts and cups are on display at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in the Disneytown of the Shanghai Disney Resort where China premiere of Jon Favreau's new CGI remake of "The Lion King" was held, July 10, 2019. [Photo/ China.org.cn]
A Chinese poster of Jon Favreau's new CGI remake of "The Lion King" [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]