Another roaring Disney success

John Kani and Lebo M at the South African premiere of the new-look The Lion King.


THE Disney magic continues… this past weekend, cinemagoers across South Africa flocked to the photo-realistic, animated remake of one of the most successful of all films, The Lion King.

With more than 274 000 attendances, the film roared to life as it took in R24.5 million over the weekend, making this the biggest July and the third-biggest opening weekend of all time at the South African box-office, only behind Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War.

Friday, July 19, saw The Lion King take in more than R6.4 million, which is the biggest opening day July has ever seen in South Africa.

Saturday, July 20, saw the film take R9.8 million, making it the second biggest box-office day ever, only behind Avengers: Endgame’s opening Saturday on April 27 this year.

That weekend’s taking also marked the biggest opening for a Disney-branded film.

Elsewhere on the African continent, The Lion King opened at number one in both East and West Africa, also with the biggest July opening day and the all-time biggest opening weekend in July ever.

In East Africa it opened with over kes 16.2 million (the fourth biggest opening weekend) and in West Africa, the tally was over N74.5 million (the fifth biggest opening weekend).

This follows Disney’s South African outdoor premiere of The Lion King under the stars on July 18, on the lawns at The Country Club, Johannesburg. In attendance were John Kani (the voice of Rafiki), Lebo M (creator/producer og\f the African vocal/choir arrangements), Khaya Mthethwa (South Africa Choir musical leader).

Also in attendance were a number of local celebrities, influencers and special guests, including AKA, Enhle Mbali Maphumulo, Connie Chiume, Casper Nyovest, Masechaba Ndlovu, Maps Maponyane, Refilwe Modiselle, Busiswa, Tresor and Blue Mbombo.

Directed by Jon Favreau, the film journeys to the African savannah, where a future king is born. Simba idolises his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny.

However, not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother – and former heir to the throne – has plans of his own.

The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile.

With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba has to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.

The new movie is certainly engaging, much of it a close copy of the original animated film, and I enjoyed the humour between meerkat Timon and warthog Pumbaa, particularly loving the reference to Be Our Guest from Beauty and Beast.

I would have liked to have heard more songs from the stage musical – notably He Lives in You – but most of the original film’s hit songs are here.

The all-star cast includes Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, John Kani as Rafiki and Billy Eichner as Timon.

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