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New "Lion King" evokes fond memories of Chinese filmgoers

(Xinhua)    11:29, July 22, 2019

BEIJING, July 22 -- As the overture of the "Circle of Life" begins and the sun beams down upon the African savanna, the new live action-style remake of "The Lion King" calls back memories of Yuan's first introduction to the young lion prince, Simba.

"It was a summer night in 1995, and I went to the cinema after my late-night work," said Yuan, a big fan of the film, whose first album in his collection was the movie's soundtrack and who has had "Hakuna Matata," a famous line from the film, as his motto on Wechat for many years.

Though the original 1994 movie of the same name was screened more than one year later in China than in the United States, it was still regarded by many Chinese audiences, like Yuan, as an unprecedented work in their youth.

On July 12, the new version of "The Lion King" hit the big screens on the Chinese mainland, a week earlier than North American cinemas.

It has raked in a total of more than 550 million yuan in the box office since its premiere and led the Chinese mainland box office for almost a week, according to China Movie Data Information Network.

Unlike 1995, when Chinese audiences had to wait about one year after a blockbuster was released in the U.S., China, now the second-largest movie market, possesses over 50,000 screens nationwide and millions of movie-goers.

According to PwC analysis, China's movie box office will reach 12.28 billion U.S. dollars by 2020, surpassing the United States to become the world's largest film market, which makes the country the first choice for the premiere of an increasing number of international film productions like the new "Lion King."

In the past two decades, more imported movies and domestic films have broadened horizons for Chinese audiences and brought new vitality to the Chinese movie market.

Though many have already watched the classic animated classic "The Lion King" in 1995, they were still eager to watch it again on the big screen. For them, memories of "The Lion King" are tinged with a special feeling about the time when film resources in China were not as adequate as they are now.

"I was deeply touched by the scenes where Mufasa risked his life rescuing his son Simba, and I wept when I saw the death of Mufasa when I was little," an audience surnamed Cheng said, recalling her memories of film from her youth. "Still, what impressed me the most in the new version is the use of the same plot."

Many netizens echoed and left their comments effusively on China's major social media platforms such as Weibo and Douban, saying that the film reminds them of their common memory of the post-1980's generation childhood, from which they learned about love and courage.

The topic "grow up with bravery like Simba" on Sina Weibo has gained a total of 580 million views after the 2019 version movie hit big screens in China.

The past 25 years have witnessed a growth of both the Chinese film market and a generation.

"I think the simulation effects of the new version does do a better job in achieving an immersive experience," Cheng said. "Now I feel that I have a better understanding of Mufasa's love and his expectation of Simba as I watched it again as an adult."

While there are some complaints about the overemphasized technology applied in the new "Lion King," some said it is worth a second watch. "After I became a mom, I understood more about the fear and fury when Mufasa saw his son in danger, which is really touching," said another viewer on Weibo.

Instead of yearning for the good old days, the remake also arouses Yuan's emotion to his beloved son Leo, who, in Yuan's eyes, still needs to experience as much as Simba did.

It was not very popular for kids to watch films in a cinema back in the 1990s, especially not in big cities. Many movies and series were watched on DVDs or VCD. For them, what behind is the big screens is even more nostalgic.

"'The Lion King' is the first animation VCD my father bought for me when I was in the third grade, on which I can feel my great emotion attached," a Weibo user said.

The circle of life never ends. "When I was a child, I watched the animated 'Lion King' with my parents, and now I have brought my child here," a Weibo user said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Hongyu)

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