Elton John came down hard on Disney’s remake of “The Lion King” from earlier this year, calling the film a “huge disappointment” and saying that the creative team specifically “messed the music up” that he wrote for the original animated film.
The legendary pop star sat for an interview with British GQ and said the “magic and joy were lost” from the new film, and he wished he was more involved in the creative process.
“The new version of ‘The Lion King’ was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music up,” John told the magazine on Sunday. “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.”
Jon Favreau’s live-action remake of “The Lion King” used John’s music that he co-wrote with lyricist Tim Rice, including the songs “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Be Prepared,” “Hakuna Matata,” “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and “Circle of Life,” and John and Rice actually wrote a new song called “Never Too Late” that appeared during the film’s ending credits.
Pharrell Williams ultimately oversaw the music for the new film and its soundtrack, updating some of Rice’s lyrics and John’s music, naturally with new recordings by the film’s stars Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner. And Beyoncé contributed a new song for the film and soundtrack called “Spirit.” Despite those heavy hitters, John was further disappointed the film’s soundtrack didn’t have the same chart-topping success as the original.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Back in 2018, John was hopeful that he and Rice might end up collaborating with Beyoncé on her song, but the partnership never panned out. Still, his upbeat, Motown-influenced track “Never Too Late” would be eligible for the Best Original Song category at this year’s Oscars, where John would have to compete not only with Beyoncé, but also another of his own tracks written for the biopic “Rocketman.”
Check out John’s full interview with British GQ here.