Aladdin and The Lion King Live Action Remakes and the Original Animated Classics

Have you seen the new live-action version of Aladdin? I haven’t, but I find it quite interesting, and I’m curious as to how it compares with Disney’s original animated classic. If anyone can play the Genie after Robin Williams’ tour-de-force vocal performance in 1992, it has to be Will Smith! Judging from what reports I can gather, the new film is doing very well at the box office.

Yet to be released at this date, Disney’s new computer-animated remake of The Lion King also looks to be a fascinating film. With Jon Favreau in as director (he directed or served as executive producer on several of the biggest Marvel superhero movies, like Iron Man and Avengers: Infinity War) and a voice cast that includes Seth Rogan as Pumbaa (!), this one looks to be an immediate smash hit.

With all the interest in these new films percolating, the original animated versions are not without their loyal fans. I think those fans will jump for joy when they see some of the wonderful original production art from these Disney Renaissance classics we have in our next Animation Art auction. Aladdin was one of the earliest Disney features to have no hand-painted cels, but the richly textured backgrounds were painted by hand; we have one of those in our upcoming auction. We do have a cel and background setup with Jafar that actually features an honest-to-goodness production cel, with both pieces taken from Disney’s Aladdin the Series; the intensely colored background is a real knock-out.

Disney's Aladdin the Series Jafar Production Cel on Master Production Background (Walt Disney, 1994)

Disney’s Aladdin the Series Jafar Production Cel on Master Production Background (Walt Disney, 1994)

Speaking of Jafar, this Disney Villain never looked better than this superb Disney Studio maquette. These extremely rare three-dimensional figures were created as guides for studio animators, and were originally gray-toned; this particular piece was beautifully hand-painted (by the Disney Ink and Paint Department located at the Burbank studio lot), and originally sold as part of the 1993 “Art of Aladdin” Auction held in New York. Jafar’s wise-cracking pet parrot Iago is included, as a removable addition to Jafar’s shoulder. The two pieces work together to form a remarkable set, no doubt about it!

Aladdin Jafar and Iago Maquette (Walt Disney, 1992)

Aladdin Jafar and Iago Maquette (Walt Disney, 1992)

The Lion King was another animated film created without hand-painted cels, but many of the hand-painted backgrounds are absolutely stunning. Case in point: a pre-production background painting of Simba’s Pride Rock, the central focal point in the film. The colors, the shading, the overall composition are all excellent.

The Lion King Pride Rock Pre-Production Background (Walt Disney,1994)

The Lion King Pride Rock Pre-Production Background (Walt Disney, 1994)

A “pan” background (a long piece of art that the camera “pans” across) from The Lion King features a frightening elephant’s graveyard, with big skulls and long tusks; in the film, the young Simba runs past these as he is being chased by a scary-looking hyena. This background was included in the 1995 “Art of The Lion King” Auction, with a hand-painted presentation cel of the action included. This setup is a real showstopper!

The Lion King Presentation Cel and Production Background (Walt Disney, 1994).

The Lion King Presentation Cel and Production Background (Walt Disney, 1994)

There are several more great items from each film included in our auction; I’d love to talk about them all, but your best bet is to check them out yourself online, and in the catalog. These original films were unforgettable. Time will tell if the new remakes measure up!

Posted by David Tosh

David Tosh is a cataloger for the Animation Art department. He is also the author of Rise of the Superheroes: Greatest Silver Age Comic Books and Characters and editor of the Eisner Award-nominated Walt Kelly’s Fables and Funnies. His most recent book is Jumbo Mumbo.

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