By now the word is out that the live-action version of The Lion King closely adheres to the original animated feature. For that reason, it might seem superfluous that Disney Press released The Lion King: The Novelization by Elizabeth Rudnick. While it’s true that if you’ve seen the original film you know the story, it doesn’t mean that there’s no point to reading it.
Novelizations like this are usually in the works before the film is in the can, often based on some iteration of a script that may not be final. For that reason, fans of the live action film will notice at least one entire scene that isn’t in the film, in addition to some altered dialogue or different jokes. This is often because the actors improvise when they’re working on the film and sometimes the Director chooses their moment of inspiration for the final cut over what the writers originally intended.
Elizabeth Rudnick pens the majority of Disney’s novelizations and always handles them with great care. She expands on the settings and feeling of each moment, allowing readers to linger in them. And if you didn’t know that some of the scenes featured iconic songs, you wouldn’t know that any of the story is adapted from a musical. For example, a chapter in the book features Simba and Nala trying to evade Zazu at the watering hole. In the film, this happens through the song “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” In the book, it’s expanded into a bigger game of chase.
The Lion King has touched the hearts of millions for over two decades and I believe the secret to its enormous success is because it talks about life and death in such a simple, yet profound way. This novelization is no different and while the story may be in a different format, it’s no less touching. Reading through it makes it almost more of a spiritual experience.
Before the first Harry Potter book, I was a fairly unmotivated reader as a kid. When I was inspired to read a book, it was usually the novelization of an upcoming movie I was really excited for, or a movie I loved so much that I wanted to “See” it again and didn’t want to wait for it to come to Blockbuster. If your kids are similar to the way I was, I encourage you to help them access whatever books interest thiem, even if its a novelization of a remake of a film they know so well. At first glance, The Lion King: The Novelization seems pointless, but it recaptures the magic of the film and gets kids reading, which is win-win.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.