Coming three years after the live-action (or CGI and motion-captured) remake of The Jungle Book, Disney and director Jon Favreau are giving The Lion King the same updated treatment -- with an all-star cast. While bits of casting news had previously added links to the food chain, today the Circle of Life was completed with a full casting announcement, including Queen B officially reigning supreme.
Leading the live-action Lion King's charge into theaters are Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala and Donald Glover as Simba. If Disney absolutely has to revamp everyone’s childhood favorites, at least they’re putting their full financial weight behind it to find the absolute hottest artists. Complementing the two stars are James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor taking over Scar, and John Oliver playing the properly square Zazu.
Providing the comic relief are Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa, which is a hard meerkat and warthog duo to replace. Eric Andre, Florence Karumba, and Keegan-Michael Key will play some henchmen hyenas. Seeing the wildness these performers already bring to their roles (especially the raw physicality of the flailing Andre, expressive Key, and over-the-top Eichner) bodes well for their CG counterparts.
Rounding out the cast, Alfre Woodard and John Kani (fresh off playing King T'Chaka in Black Panther) bring gravitas to their level-headed roles of Sarabi and Rafiki.
As suspicious as one might be about a “live-action” reenactment of the Oscar-nominated animated film, this cast promises Disney’s full support for Favreau and team. It also shows that Disney has high predictions for the film’s box-office potential, which is completely understandable after The Jungle Book made over $966 million.
A high-profile cast is the first step in pushing The Lion King at the box office and during awards season; now let's see if the film can live up to the hype generated by casting Beyoncé as one of its leads. What do you think? Are you properly hyped?