The Circle of Life continues as new reports claim the Disney live-action prequel of The Lion King is casting new roles.
The Lion King live-action movie debuted in July 2019. Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Mandalorian), the musical fantasy brought fan-favorite characters to (almost) real-life using impressive CGI technology to create stunning visuals. The movie stars a plethora of A-list talent including Donald Glover (Simba), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (Nala), and saw the return of Mufasa voice-actor, James Earl Jones.
Based on the Walt Disney Animated Classic of the same name, The Lion King grossed over $1.6 billion at the global box office and was nominated for many industry awards including the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. The movie famously used photorealistic effects to bring The Lion King cast back to the big screen, and as a result reportedly became one of the most expensive movies ever made, with a budget of around $260 million.
The Lion King is beloved by Disney fans, and its latest turn at the box office continued to cement its popularity for a worldwide audience. The original composers — Elton John, Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer — were back to score the movie, bringing the unforgettable music and iconic songs like “Circle of Life”, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” and Timon and Pumbaa’s anthem, “Hakuna Matata”, into startlingly real-life. There didn’t seem to be doubt in anyone’s mind that one of The Walt Disney Company’s biggest projects would fail.
And it certainly didn’t. While it may have been criticized for its closeness to the source material and lack of facial expressions from its animals, a follow-up was announced in September last year, with Moonlight (2016) director, Oscar winner Barry Jenkins, attached as director.
New casting announced?
According to an industry insider, Daniel Richtman, The Lion King prequel is reportedly casting actors between the ages of 8 and 13, to play young Mufasa and Scar in the upcoming movie. The report goes on to add that these characters will allegedly lead the film after Disney announced last year the follow-up will be a prequel.
In addition, new characters are also being cast, Richtman reveals. The characters for the next lion epic are apparently as follows — Adah, Horatio, Elijah, Celia, Kaliban, Cardi, and Zola. There is no additional information as to who these characters may be, and whether they will be on the side of good or evil, but we can expect that they may appear in Scar and Mufasa’s past if the reports of younger versions appearing are correct.
The legacy of The Lion King
The original animated movie, The Lion King (1994) debuted as part of what is known as the Disney Renaissance era, joining other classic musical movies like The Little Mermaid (1989), Hercules (1997), and Tarzan (1999), during a period of huge growth for Disney animation and The Walt Disney Company overall. Directed by Roger Allers (Open Season) and Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little, The Haunted Mansion), The Lion King is one of the most adored movies of all time.
Following Simba (Matthew Broderick) as he learns the ways of the Pride Lands from his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the animal-centric animated classic made characters like Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), Nala (Moira Kelly), Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) and Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), household names. Despite its universal acclaim, The Lion King drew criticism for its similarities to Kimba the White Lion (1965-1967), a Japanese anime television series based on a popular manga franchise.
The success of The Lion King spawned two direct-to-video follow-ups including a sequel, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), which follows Simba’s and Nala’s daughter, the lion cub Kiara, as she explores the trials and tribulations of living on Pride Rock. There has also been a hit Broadway production and two television series — Timon and Pumbaa and The Lion Guard — as well as the live-action 2019 remake.
There is also a popular immersive musical experience — A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King — in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, that feels more like a Broadway spectacular than a theme park show.
It will be interesting to see if these casting announcements come to fruition and to see the history of Scar’s and Mufasa’s fraught brotherhood. It will be even more interesting to see if Disney will stick to their guns and follow the CGI process used in the first movie, or if they will heed the criticisms and give fans and critics less realistic animal characters.
No release date has yet been announced.
Are you excited for the next film in The Lion King franchise?