Elton John Says Why He’s Not a Fan of ‘The Lion King’ Remake

As buzz surrounds Elton John’s memoir and its tidbits about Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, and Queen Elizabeth, attention returns to the musician’s body of work. His prolific career includes more than three dozen albums, over 100 singles, and songs for Broadway productions, feature films, and other artists.

Songs John created for The Lion King helped to make that original soundtrack a hit, and when the remake arrived this past summer, comparisons were quickly made. But John recently shared his thoughts on the new movie’s music, and it might surprise you.

Sir Elton John
Elton John | Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for EJAF

Elton John’s history with ‘The Lion King’

For the 1994 film, John was tapped to compose the entire soundtrack, and also performed the famous “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life.” John created the melody for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” while Tim Rice wrote the lyrics, and the song sold 11 million copies worldwide.

The song was so impactful that it’s become automatically linked to the movie forever, and appeared in the 2019 remake, this time sung by Beyoncé and Donald Glover. During the ‘90s, the track earned an Academy Award and nabbed a Grammy for Elton John as Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

“Circle of Life,” which is also etched in audiences’ minds from the beloved film, stands as one of John’s other classic compositions that is tied to the essence of The Lion King. Since 1994, it’s been redone and performed multiple times, and was featured in the latest iteration of the movie.

John’s hopes for the remake were high

When news of The Lion King remake spread throughout the world in 2017 and 2018, everyone started speculating on how it would measure up against the original. Besides being converted from its much-adored animated roots to a live-action version, would the music be the same or swapped out for something new?

John told The Sun in 2018 that he was on board to help with the soundtrack, and had this to say:

“They need to have a new end credits song. There’s going to be four of our songs in the film, from the original: ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’, ‘Hakuna Matata’, ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ and ‘Circle of Life.’
And then there will be an end, closing song, and we’ve been speaking to Beyoncé’s people and hopefully Tim and I and her can cook up something. That’s going out in 2019 as well. And it will be great to work with her. So we will see.”

How Elton John really feels about the 2019 ‘The Lion King’ soundtrack

In a new interview with British GQ, Rocketman didn’t hold back with his thoughts about the music for the live-action version.

“The new version of The Lion King was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music up. Music was so much a part of the original and the music in the current film didn’t have the same impact. The magic and joy were lost. The soundtrack hasn’t had nearly the same impact in the charts that it had 25 years ago, when it was the bestselling album of the year. The new soundtrack fell out of the charts so quickly, despite the massive box-office success. I wish I’d been invited to the party more, but the creative vision for the film and its music was different this time around and I wasn’t really welcomed or treated with the same level of respect. That makes me extremely sad. I’m so happy that the right spirit for the music lives on with the Lion King stage musical.”

It should be noted that John’s collaboration with Beyoncé didn’t make it onto the final cut for the soundtrack but one of his other new songs, “Never Too Late,” was featured. Four tracks from the 1994 version were also included in the 2019 soundtrack.

But it sounds like his initial hopes for the musical direction for the film were dashed when it was all said and done. Perhaps some fans’ hopes were dashed too.