I love The Lion King. I’ve written gushingly about it before on this site, and I while I realize it probably isn’t the best Disney musical of all time, it certainly is my favourite. It has so much style and grace, and the score is absolutely incredible. Everything a I love about it can be experienced in the song “Be Prepared”, which is still my favourite song period. It’s a movie with an enormous amount of ambition, and heart and I’ll love it forever. That doesn’t mean that I’m an elitist who thinks it’s also an unimpeachable classic that should never get remade, which means Disney’s in luck! I’m super excited for this remake and I can’t stand the fact that it’s coming out in 2019, so in the mean time I’m going to write about my thoughts on it, like what I think of the cast.
Donald Glover as Simba:
It’s common knowledge these days that Donald Glover is insanely talented, and it should come as no surprise that he kind of rocks as a voice actor too. Just from his brief role on Adventure Time as Marshall Lee the vampire you could already tell that he kicks ass at this voice acting thing on top of everything else. Also, I don’t even need to tell you he’s got the singing part down as well. As for Simba’s character, I have a strong feeling he can convey the same tone as Matthew Broderick in his role as Simba, that of a young adult coming to terms with having real responsibilities for the first time. In short, it’s gonna be great as things often are with Glover.
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala:
I… don’t know much about Beyoncé as an actress (I haven’t seen Dreamgirls) but I do think her casting will likely mean more singing bits for Nala since she really only had one part of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. Honestly though, if she does only sing the few verses Nala had in the original film, I’m sure Beyoncé will kill it.
James Earl Jones as Mufasa:
Remember…. remember…. how great James Earl Jones was in the original movie? Ya? He’ll do that again in this film, only slightly worse like his performance as Darth Vader in Rogue One. I’m not complaining, even a JEJ past his prime is still amazing, but there’s not exactly much to speculate on here.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar:
This casting choice to me holds the most importance. I’ve always loved Scar as a character, and a lot of that had to do with Jeremy Irons’ performance in the original. He had this wonderful, entitled, nasally, and condescending quality to his voice that will be incredibly hard to replicate with an actor with as powerful a voice as Ejiofor. This performance he gave in Kinky Boots definitely put my original fears at ease however, as his voice can reach this menacing tone even as he sings. I also have to accept that this probably won’t be the same Scar as before, it will be one who may not have the same larger than life presence as Mufusa, but could be imposing in his own way. Less the intellectual and physical opposite to his brother, and more the wannabe despot who doesn’t quite measure up. Obviously “Be Prepared” is getting adapted, but I hope to God they also adapt the stage musical exclusive “Madness of King Scar” as that is a wonderful song that I relate to on a personal level (except for the end bit obviously).
Alfre Woodard as Sarabi:
A dignified actress playing a dignified character. Not much else to say here, Simba’s mom wasn’t exactly a character with a large role.
John Oliver as Zazu:
I love this casting a whole lot. John Oliver just has an incredible sense of comedic timing and a natural talent for voice acting. Also, Zazu’s role is mostly to be exasperated at everything that is happening, and Oliver can deliver that sense of frantic fear that everything is falling apart with aplomb. I cannot wait to see him bounce off this movie’s Scar.
John Kani as Rafiki:
He was fine for his role in Captain America: Civil War, but honestly, I was never a big Rafiki guy. He felt too much like a standard issue wise old master shaman guy. He also had this vaguely unhealthy obsequiousness to him that never gets examined.
Seth Rogen as Pumbaa:
The only casting choice I outright despise. Free tip for anyone working in animation: Don’t hire Seth Rogen to do voice work. He’s awful at it. His voice is grating and when disembodied from his expressive real life self, all you’re left with is an unceasing guttural noise. He almost single-handedly ruined Sausage Party for me, so thank God he’s only voicing a side character. I mean, Pumbaa wasn’t super great to begin with, but Seth Rogen as Pumbaa is a hard pass from me.
Billy Eichner as Timon:
Nathan Lane is a legend and a tough act to follow, but if Eichner can reign in his crazy for a more grounded neurotic performance (there is neurotic, and the there’s Eichner neurotic), he could easily honour the role of Timon. “Akuna Matata” is already a wash because of Rogen’s presence so I’m not particularly concerned about his singing, but I can really get behind him as a comedic foil to Simba’s growing sense of responsibility. Eichner’s a wild card though, so this performance could honestly go either way.
Eric Andre as Azizi:
I’m assuming Azizi is what they’re calling Ed or Banzai this time around. If so, Eric Andre is the right man for the job. Banzai is basically the hot-headed and dumb stooge while Ed is the REALLY dumb stooge, and Andre is very good at playing both.
Florence Kasumba as Shenzi:
She definitely has a sense of authority about her that could lend itself well to her role as the hyena leader, but I’m really worried she lacks something else that made Whoopi Goldberg’s performance as Shenzi so much fun: Charisma. Another actor I mainly recognize from Civil War, she didn’t really have an opportunity to play anything other than stoic. Stoic isn’t how I’d describe Shenzi, so I really hope they bring back the humour and fun that helped define her.
Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari:
I’m guessing he’s playing either Ed or Banzai, and honestly, I really hope it’s Banzai because Key would be wasted as Ed. As Banzai he could easily play a new interpretation of the character, as sort of a anxiety-ridden yes man and second in command as opposed to dumb brute.
Child Actors playing Young Simba and Young Nala:
No idea who they are, and I hope they do a good job. Weirdly enough, it might actually be young Simba who has the more demanding role given he has to be the one that reacts to his father’s death.
And that’s it for my thoughts on the cast of the new Lion King. As you can see I’m really optimistic and am hoping like all hell that when it finally arrives it kicks ass.
Quote of the Day:
“Oh Zazu do lighten up. Sing something with a little… bounce in it.”
– Scar, The Lion King.