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Who's who in Disney's live-action remake of The Lion King


"Everything the light touches is our kingdom" is a sentiment that far exceeds the mere realms of feline monarchy. In fact, in 2019, it's a statement that might aptly describe the influence Disney has had in the world of film.

With acquisitions of Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm and, more recently, 20th Century Fox, Disney are now unequivocally top of the cinematic food chain. Luckily for us, Disney's dominance has paved the way for a forthcoming stampede of live-action remakes of their own classic films that'll be hitting our screens very soon.

As such, generations of movie-goers young and old can live – and re-live – the Disney magic and all its timeless tales, endearing characters and adored musical numbers. The last few years have already reminded us of the bare necessities of life in Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book and we've once again renewed our love of talking crockery with Beauty and the Beast.

But now we're working on our roar as we eagerly await the live-action retelling of arguably Disney's most beloved tale: The Lion King. Favreau once again takes up the Disney directorial reigns in this remake of the 1994 animated film about family, exile and redemption, which itself is a reimagining of Shakespeare's Hamlet – only with sharper teeth and flowing manes.

But before Favreau's pride comes pouncing into Cineworld cinemas this summer, here is a handy breakdown of who's playing who in Disney's live-action The Lion King. Hakuna Matata!

Simba in Disney's The Lion King remake

Simba (Donald Glover)

It seems fitting that The Lion King's central hero – one who rises from the proverbial ashes – should be voiced by someone whose own career is rapidly on the ascent.

Donald Glover currently has his paws in many pies, from flexing his acting credentials in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Solo: A Star Wars Story and FX's TV show Atlanta, to his musical ventures under the stage name Childish Gambino. (Remember 'Redbone' from Jordan Peele's Get Out, folks? If not, 2018's 'This is America' surely sticks in the mind.) 

Glover is seemingly everywhere and in lending his voice to the lion-hearted adult Simba, his career  shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Nala (Beyoncé)

Beyoncé is more than a mere musician – she is a powerhouse of the entertainment scene with a filmography dating back to 2001. And so it's apt that 'Queen B' should take up the Nala mantle – the assured lioness who quickly becomes perfect royalty material after reconciling with the estranged Simba when they're both grown up.

It's hard to think that Beyoncé could be worshipped more than she already is, but, then again, she's never voiced a Disney character before.

Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor)

Chiwetel Ejiofor had been doing the movie rounds long before his Oscar-nominated rise to stardom as Solomon Northup in Steve McQueen's powerful 12 Years a Slave.

Loyal Ejiofor-ians will remember him fondly as the leader of an underground terrorist group in Alfonso Cuarón's gritty dystopian drama Children of Men and as Huey Lucas in Ridley Scott's American Gangster, but voicing the iconic Scar will surely bring him more popularity than ever.

Needless to say, original voice actor Jeremy Irons is one hard act to follow, but we're confident Ejiofor will give us a villain-who-we-all-secretly-adore all over again.

Timon (Billy Eichner)

When compared with the A-list names that make up The Lion King's cast, Billy Eichner is comparatively unknown. That said, Eichner – perhaps best known for his role on the sitcom Parks and Recreation – will be playing meerkat Timon a.k.a. half of a Disney duo who epitomise the very notion of scene-stealing.

Meerkats have proved to be a pretty effective marketing tool in recent times, so what better way to catapult your career than by voicing one?

Pumbaa (Seth Rogen)

The other half of said dynamic duo is, of course, fan-favourite Pumbaa. The bumbling but beloved warthog will be voiced by stoner comedy golden child Seth Rogen. But, aside from a reputation for effectively playing himself in almost all his films, Rogen has shown on more than one occasion – Steve Jobs; The Disaster Artist – that he can really act.

Plus, we'd be lying if we said we weren't just a little ecstatic at the prospect of a wild pig chuckling away with Rogen's infectiously distinctive laugh.

Zazu (John Oliver)

Taking over from Rowan Atkinson, John Oliver will be assuming vocal responsibility of royal advisor, Zazu. The British comedian has taken the US by storm in recent years, with his tackling of important political issues in his weekly HBO show with his signature comic timing. It only seems logical that his next venture would be lending his voice to an entitled, but loveable hornbill, right?

Kamari, Shenzi and Azizi (Keegan-Michael Key; Florence Kasumba; Eric Andre)

Even when faced with Scar's deliciously deceptive charm, it's difficult to forget the other memorable members of The Lion King's circle of villains. It was inevitable that the Hyena trio would return for the live-action shenanigans – only Shenzi retains her original name, though – and we can't wait for the voices of Key (from Key & Peele), Kasumba (Black Panther's Ayo), and Andre (The Eric Andre Show) to provide us with the bickering playfulness we love.

Rafiki (John Kani)

South African actor John Kani is perhaps best known among mainstream audiences for playing T'Chaka in Marvel's Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther. However, the wise former King of Wakanda will this time be taking a trip over to the Savanna as Rafiki: the spiritual mandrill who often speaks in riddles but is far less enigmatic in his allegiance to Simba.

Mufasa (James Earl Jones)

When it comes to Mufasa – the gentle but firm leader of Pride Rock and Simba's beloved father – there was, and still is, only one man for the job. With perhaps the most distinctive voice in all of cinema – a fact that a certain paternal Sith Lord can attest to – James Earl Jones, to the joy of anyone who has seen The Lion King ever, will reprise his role as Simba's father this summer.

While that's great news for everyone, it also means we must experience the infamous stampede scene all over again and we're not sure our hearts can take that kind of a pounding a second time.

Sarabi (Alfre Woodard)

Joining her 12 Years a Slave co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor in The Lion King cast is Alfre Woodard as Simba's mother, Sarabi. Let's be honest, she didn't get a massive amount to do in the Disney original, so fingers crossed Favreau and his team will give the talented, silkily-voiced Woodard more to work with.

The Lion King roars into life on 19th July, so tweet us @Cineworld if it's on your must-watch list.

George Nash is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.