On Thanksgiving Day, the first teaser trailer for 2019’s “The Lion King” pleasantly surprised everyone. Though it turns out the film won’t be quite as “live action” as we thought -- meaning Donald Glover won’t be running around Africa -- the lifelike CGI was enough to sate us all.
Well, all of us except Linda Woolverton.
Woolverton, who wrote the screenplays for classics like “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” as well as newer ventures like “Maleficent” and 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland,” wasn’t floored with Disney’s rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” last year. How you can be disappointed with Emma Watson is beyond me, but Woolverton had qualms with other parts of the film, namely some fabricated plot points that messed with the backbone of the story.
"I wasn't thrilled with 'Beauty and the Beast,'" she told The Hollywood Reporter.
For one, the relationship between Gaston and his right-hand
man pawn LeFou was never supposed to have those romantic undertones that were pretty prevalent in Josh Gad’s interpretation -- he’s just a little puppy dog of a dude who wants to be as cool as Gaston.
"Was he in love with Gaston? No. He was just a toady and besotted with a person he could never be," Woolverton said.
Then there was the inclusion of the magic mirror that allowed Belle and the Beast to travel out of the castle entirely. The Beast takes Belle to see the home she shared with her parents when she was a baby before her mother died.
“The castle is supposed to be impenetrable. After that, the mythology didn't work for me,” Woolverton explained.
There were other changes made to this film, of course, like some small adjustments to song lyrics and the mention of Belle’s mother at all, which director Bill Condon chalked up to a need to expand the characters’ personalities to create a more believable love story for modern day.
“Belle has to credibly fall in love with the Beast, which means we have to sort of make people feel that these two characters are meant only for each other. Which means they have to be less archetypal than they are in the animated film; they have to become more individual,” Condon told SlashFilm. “The fact that the Beast, while being her captor, also gives her the chance to discover this thing...it is an extra connection that they have.”
Composer Alan Menken (a familiar name, since he also did the score and soundtrack for ‘91's “Beauty and the Beast”) had also spoken about decisions to tweak the music before the film was released, explaining, “My main priority was to protect what was there originally and add in those places where it feels organic to the medium.”
If the higher-ups changed pivotal elements of “Beauty and the Beast,” who’s to say that “The Lion King” will be any different? It’s understandable that Woolverton, who started her career by literally dropping a novel she’d written at Disney in the 1980s, would be a little iffy on what’s going to happen in next year’s “The Lion King.”
A love triangle between Scar, Mufasa and Sarabi? A time-traveling hyena? Let’s hope they stick pretty true to the script.