Disney and Jon Favreau's live-action adaptation of The Lion King casts John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) as Zazu, a royal advisor. Walt Disney Pictures have found success in recent years by adapting some films from their animated classics collection to live-action. While Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella and Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast were extremely close adaptations - although they added certain elements, like Alan Menken's new songs in the latter - Robert Stromberg's Maleficent was more of a different interpretation on the Sleeping Beauty story, shifting the focus from the princess to the typical villain.
Disney's live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, originally based on Rudyard Kipling's work published in the 1800s, also found great success when it was released last year. Directed by Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book was a hit with critics and audiences alike, receiving largely positive reviews and earning more than $900 million at the worldwide box office. After the film's success, Disney tapped Favreau to direct The Lion King, another adaptation of one of the Mouse House's animated classics.
Now, The Wrap is reporting Disney has cast former The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver as Zazu, the red-billed hornbill royal advisor to first Mufasa, then Simba in the animation studio's 1994 hit. The character was voiced by Rowan Atkinson (more widely known as Mr. Bean) in the original animated feature. According to The Wrap, neither Disney nor Oliver's representatives have commented on the report.
Oliver is perhaps best known as a TV personality for his work on The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, but has done a great deal of voice work, with roles in The Smurfs 1 and 2, as well as guest appearances on Rick and Morty, Bob's Burgers, The Simpsons. In The Lion King, Oliver joins previously announced cast members, Donald Glover (Untitled Han Solo Movie) as Simba, James Earl Jones reprising his role as Simba's father Mufasa, as well as Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as Pumbaa and Timon, respectively. Early reports indicated Disney's first choice for the role of Nala was Beyonce, though she had scheduling conflicts that may have prevented her from signing onto the project.
As evidenced by the current cast list for Disney's live-action The Lion King, it seems the Mouse House and Favreau are again bringing in a number of talented and well-known actors to lend their voices to new versions of classic characters - as they did with The Jungle Book. Unlike The Jungle Book though, many of the main cast members in The Lion King are more well known for the comedic work, like Oliver. While The Lion King is loosely based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Disney's animated film injected the story with a great deal of humor. Based on the cast the studio and director have so far assembled, fans of the 1994 animated feature can expect the live-action The Lion King to keep that humor in tact.
Source: The Wrap
- The Lion King (2019) release date: Jul 19, 2019