What do you do when you have a Lion King Paint and Preview Party in two hours to celebrate the Blu-ray release of Disney's "The Lion King" (2019) and your popcorn machine goes up in flames (literally it was smoking), and the movie projector won't project? You throw up your hands and listen to Timon and Pumbaa's advice — "Hakuna Matata." Because there's no need for worries when you're throwing a Disney screening party featuring Timon and Pumbaa fare, a Rafiki Painting Station and the opportunity to introduce a whole new generation of kids to "The Lion King." I could have handed everyone a stale bag of crackers, a coloring book and shown the movie on my laptop computer and they would have been ecstatic because nothing can spoil the "Magic of Disney."
I didn't, however, serve my 50+ guests burnt popcorn and make them crowd around my laptop with a 15-inch screen that afternoon. Instead (after a mild panic attack, and maybe some not-so-Disney-like language ... "Pumbaa not in front of the kids"), I popped the popcorn old-school style (yup, right on the stovetop), grabbed my husband to lug our big-screen TV to the venue and then he, my son and I worked swiftly to transform the Dalton School of Art and Creativity into a Lion King Haven the pride would be proud of. So, as I said, "Hakuna, Matata."
All Photos Courtesy of Kaitlin Delasco Photography
Welcome to Africa
We began our afternoon of Lion King fun at the Dalton School of Art and Creativity where our young visitors rotated between Nala's face-painting table, Rafiki's crafting station, and a visit to the jungle to nosh on some Timon and Pumbaa fare complete with grubs, worms, ants and butterflies. Yum! Our face-painter delivered a variety of animals straight out of Africa and things began to get a little wild with all of the lions, leopards and zebras running around,. We even had a butterfly flitting about. Who knew these wild beasts were also fans of the Patriots? 🤷🏻♀️ With the help of Elizabeth Kick the budding artists also re-created Rafiki's Simba painting and then visited the Pride Lands for a Lion King photo op.
Onto the main event
As "The Lion King" 2019 began kids and adults were instantly captivated as Rafiki opened the movie with the classic presentation of a young Simba cub to the animals, and I was overcome with a bit of nostalgia.
I am sitting in a movie theater in 1994 with a handful of friends awaiting the release of Disney's original animated film. We had just graduated from college and even at 22, the allure of a Disney animated film was too much to resist. Note: If you had stopped by my graduate school residence following that viewing there was a pretty good chance you would have found me dancing around my small one-bedroom apartment while belting out the lyrics to "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" (true story). Fast forward nine years later, when the film was released on DVD and I'm now dancing and crooning that same tune in the living room of my farmhouse with my three young children ages 4, 4, and almost 2, giggles filling the room and my heart.
All Photos Courtesy of Kaitlin Delasco Photography
At our screening I witnessed the delight this song is now bringing to a new generation of Disney fans, as a young girl of about 3- or 4-year-olds jumped up in glee, looked at her mother with a sparkle in her eye, and started grooving to JD McCrary (young Simba) John Oliver (Zazu) and Shahadi Wright Joseph's (young Nala) newest rendition of the song at our Lion King Paint and Preview Party. That's one of the reasons "The Lion King," be it the original animated version, or the new live-action film will continue to produce new fans through the generations. This soundtrack has staying power! And with new songs from Beyonce ("Spirit") and Elton John' (Never too Late"), your kids will be begging you for the soundtrack, and because it's just as appealing to adults, you'll probably get it.
Besides the soundtrack, the movie stays pretty true to the original film, with a few more cinematic touches that have the movie running approximately 2 hours. I feared the length would deter some of our younger guests, and some of the preschoolers left after the first hour or so. But we did have some younger troopers stay for the duration, and the elementary school-aged and older children were glued to the screen the entire length of the movie (except for the occasional visit to the jungle for more grubs). The realistic scenes such as the stampede was incredible and the realism added greatly to the intensity of the more ominous scenes. And as would be expected, the musical numbers were an obvious hit. And, of course, the chuckles were audible during any mention of Pumbaa's digestive issues. The gas humor gets them every time. So, if you're looking for a Family Movie Night pick with a little bit of humor, some upbeat musical numbers and bits of intense drama made more intense by the realism of the animals ... did I mention that "The Lion King" 2019 just hit stores on Blu-Ray recently? Find it at movies.disney.com/the-lion-king-2019.
* I have been compensated to facilitate this review, however, all opinions are my own.