- Release Date: July 19, 2019
- Cast: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Oliver, John Kani, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph
- Director: Jon Favreau
- Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Donald Glover as Simba
Donald Glover was cast as the voice of Simba, the protagonist of The Lion King, early in the process; along with James Earl Jones, Donald Glover was the first casting announcement for the film. Glover, a Grammy Award-winning singer and rapper who performs under the stage name Childish Gambino, will sing for the role, including classic songs like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” After landing a breakout role as Troy Barnes in Community, Glover created and starred in the award-winning television series Atlanta. The Lion King isn’t the only Disney franchise that Glover is reprising a major character; he is set to play Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Ten-year-old J.D. McCrary will voice and sing the role of young Simba.
Beyoncé as Nala
After months of rumors about negotiations, Disney announced that Beyoncé would voice the part Nala, Simba’s love interest. While Beyoncé is best known for her legendary singing career, she appeared in Dreamgirls alongside Jennifer Hudson and voiced Queen Tara in the animated film Epic.
In addition to playing Nala, Beyoncé will also be involved in film’s music production. She is working with Elton John to create an original song for the live action film. It was also rumored that she would be producing the soundtrack, although that has not been confirmed since her casting.
Young Nala will be voiced by Shahadi Wright Joseph, who appeared in NBC’s Hairspray LIVE! as Young Inez.
James Earl Jones Returns as Mufasa
After James Earl Jones voiced Mufasa in the original 1994 Lion King, it is difficult to imagine who could replace him in the live-action remake. This problem was solved when Disney announced that Jones would return to reprise the role of Mufasa, Simba’s father and the original lion king.
Beyond The Lion King, Jones may be best known for lending his iconic voice to the character of Darth Vader. A versatile actor, he has won three Emmy Awards (Heat Wave, Gabriel’s Fire, Summer Days), two Tony Awards (The Great White Hope, Fences), and a Grammy Award (for his audio performance in Great American Documents); he has been nominated for an Oscar (for the film production of The Great White Hope). While he may be an outlier, Mufasa could help Jones win an Academy Award and secure his EGOT status.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar
While initial casting rumors claimed that Hugh Jackman was cast in the role of Scar, Simba’s villainous uncle will actually be played by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor is a veteran actor with a diverse background in both theater and film. He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave, but has also appeared in blockbusters like Doctor Strange.
In an interview with The Sun, Elton John named the songs that would appear in the new film; he did not include Scar’s song “Be Prepared”, so fans may not get to hear Ejiofor sing.
Related: Chiwetel Ejiofor in Talks for Scar
Incredible Ensemble Cast
The ensemble cast of The Lion King includes Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, the lion queen, mother of Simba, and the wife of Mufasa. John Kani will voice Rafiki, Simba’s baboon spiritual mentor, and comedian John Oliver will play Zazu, the rambling bird advisor to Mufasa. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen will play Timon and Pumbaa respectively. Black Panther‘s Florence Kasumba will join comedians Eric André and Keegan-Michael Key as Scar’s hyena henchmen.
Disney has made a clear effort to promote the film’s all-star cast, and as a result, The Lion King has generated a significant amount of press over a year out from its release date. Disney announced the full cast along with headshots:
The Lion King Trailer and Poster
At this time, no trailer or posters have been released for The Lion King. There are currently no set pictures, other than Jon Favreau’s picture with Donald Glover. This page will be updated as details emerge.
Simba returns! 🦁👑 pic.twitter.com/SHunf9fDkQ
— Jon Favreau (@Jon_Favreau) December 21, 2017
Classic and New Songs
Original composers Elton John and Tim Rice are returning to collaborate on the music for The Lion King. In an interview with The Sun, Elton John confirmed that the live-action remake would include classic songs from the original film: “The Circle of Life”, “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”, “Hakuna Matata”, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”. It appears that Scar’s song “Be Prepared” and other songs from the musical adaptation of The Lion King will not appear in the film.
John also confirmed that he and Rice have teamed with Beyoncé to create a new ending credits song for the film.
Live-Action But Not
The Lion King is part of Disney’s project to produce live-action remakes of its classic and beloved films. This project arguably begins with Tim Burton’s playful reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, but Disney has consistently produced one live-action remake a year since 2014: the Angelina Jolie-led Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast. Christopher Robin, based on Winnie the Pooh, is set to come out later this year, and three live-action films have release dates in 2019: Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King. A dozen more films are in production, including Mulan and The Little Mermaid.
Like The Jungle Book, The Lion King is expected to use motion capture technology to generate its animal characters; while The Jungle Book centers on a single human character, it looks like The Lion King will only have motion capture characters.
Director Jon Favreau has discussed how the technology developed for The Jungle Book paved the way for The Lion King. While the tone of the film and the style of the characters will be modified to best fit the source material, Favreau wants to create photo-realistic settings and animals to retell the story of The Lion King.
Director Jon Favreau
While many moviegoers may know Jon Favreau best as “Happy” Hogan in the Iron Man films and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Favreau also has an impressive career as a director. He’s directed Elf , Iron Man, and Iron Man 2 – and most recently helmed the CGI remake of The Jungle Book for Disney.
The Jungle Book grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide ($996.5 million), and so it’s no surprise that Disney entrusted Favreau with another classic film “live action” adaptation.
Writer Jeff Nathanson and Composer Hans Zimmer
Jeff Nathanson was hired by Disney to develop the script for the live-action adaptation of The Lion King. Nathanson has written scripts for Spielberg before, including Catch Me If You Can and a draft of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull . He has also written for Disney before, penning Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Favreau has been open about his involvement in the story, and his approach to ensuring that the remake honors the original film.
Oscar-winning Hans Zimmer, who composed the score of the original The Lion King, is returning to develop the score for the live-action remake. Inviting Zimmer back, along with actor James Earl Jones and composers Elton John and Tim Rice, signals that Disney wants the new version of The Lion King to resonate with the original film.
More Lion King News
- The Lion King Remake Gets a Summer 2019 Release Date
- Disney’s Live-Action The Lion King Casts John Oliver As Zazu
- The Lion King: Luke Cage’s Alfre Woodard to Voice Sarabi
- The Lion King Casts Civil War’s John Kani as Rafiki
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