Time to freak out, 90s kids. Yesterday, Disney officially revealed the entire voice cast of the upcoming live action The Lion King remake. As Disney acknowledged, Atlanta’s Donald Glover as Simba and Star Wars’ James Earl Jones as Mufasa were confirmed earlier this year. But now we know that the cast also includes John Oliver as Zazu, Difficult People’s Billy Eichner as Timon, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and, of course, Queen Beyoncé as Nala.
People have (understandably) been losing their minds over the Beyoncé news—she was rumoured to have been attached to the project for months, and she’s arguably the cast’s biggest star. But while Beyoncé can’t help but pull focus, we don’t want to ignore her stellar Lion King co-stars. We think each and every actor can bring something new and exciting to the table, and here’s why.
We’ve got to at least start the list with Beyoncé, right? Beyoncé, like Nala, is nurturing and patient but also unapologetically fierce. Nala and Simba rule the Pride Lands with the same degree of grace and dignity that Beyoncé and Jay-Z use to rule the music industry, and you know Beyoncé’s going to give us a kick-ass rendition of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
Speaking of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) will no doubt be a singing partner worthy of Beyoncé’s talent. Simba starts off as a scrappy, cocky, naïve kid and grows up to be a mature and confident (but still fun-loving) ruler. Similarly, Glover’s first prominent role was as the sweet, adorkable Troy in Community while he’s now best known for his starring role as the ambitious but flawed Earn in Atlanta. Glover won’t be voicing Young Simba (that role went to K.C. Undercover’s JD McCrary), but we’re confident that his Adult Simba will strike the perfect balance between playful and thoughtful.
Ok, so this casting choice is kind of genius. Even though Ejiofor isn’t known for taking on villainous roles, (unlike Jeremy Irons, who voiced Scar in the 1994 film) the juxtaposition might actually work in his favour. Apart from the audience, nobody really knows that Scar is the bad guy until the very end of the movie. So Ejiofor’s likeability could make the fact that the Pride Landians don’t realize a scary-looking lion with a huge scar and a demonic grin isn’t up to something more believable.
Zazu—an advisor to Mufasa, Scar, and eventually Simba—is nervous, practical, and a little bit of a know-it-all. And as much as we love Oliver and his work on Last Week Tonight, we have to admit that his personality fits Zazu’s to a T. We kind of hope the CGI version of Zazu wears glasses just to make his similarities to Oliver even more obvious. We also expect Oliver to bring a lot of humour to the role, as he’s appeared in comedies like The Daily Show, Bob’s Burgers, and even Community alongside Donald Glover.
Billy Eichner is unapologetically outspoken and unafraid to tell people how it is—just watch any clip from Billy on the Street. Timon, similarly, isn’t intimidated by Simba (despite the fact that he’s a lion and could plausibly eat him) and insists that the young cub adapt to his and Pumbaa’s way of live instead of the other way around. We can’t wait to see Eichner’s Timon inevitably argue with Pumbaa about which grub is the most delicious, and more importantly, perform the infamous Hula Dance.
Seth Rogen has played slackers (and stoners) in more movies and TV shows than we can count—which is perfect, because Timon and Pumbaa are essentially the ultimate slackers. They lounge around, eat, and sing songs about lounging around and eating. And while Rogen has taken on slightly more mature roles as of late (e.g. Steve Wozniak in 2015’s Steve Jobs), we know he can channel his former Knocked Up-era self for The Lion King.
His name may not sound familiar, but you probably recognize Kani as King T’Chaka from Captain America: Civil War. Rafiki’s a little wackier than T’Chaka, but he’s just as (if not more) intelligent. We’re excited to see the legendary South African actor spout some wisdom and do the recently deceased Robert Guillaume (who played Rafiki in the original movie) proud.
Does this one even need an explanation? Jones killed it as Mufasa back in 1994, and we honestly don’t think anyone could play the paternal, deep-voiced, regal King of the Pride Lands as well as he did.
Stay tuned for more teasers and trailers before The Lion King comes out on July 19, 2019.