Will the New Lion King Cast Live up to the Legacy of the Original Stars?

2019 has already kicked off as the year for live action and reimagined Disney movies, and the world can’t seem to stop talking about the upcoming mid-summer release of everyone’s favorite classic; The Lion King.Ever since Disney released the trailer last month, the anticipation has escalated to an all-time high. The original animated movie dates back to 1994, and since then, fans can’t seem to get enough of the characters, songs, and heartfelt story.

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With the remake on the way, everyone is talking about the all-star cast that will be voicing our beloved Lion King characters. What some of us forget is the fact that the original animated movie also included its fair share of big-name stars. Did you know that Matthew Broderick, aka Ferris Bueller, voiced the role of Simba in the original film? That is just one of a long list of Hollywood big players featured in the 1994 hit. So the question lies, will the cast of the remake really measure up to their predecessors? And is the cast going to be enough to match the high bar that the original movie set decades ago? Let’s take a look at who they have lined up and who’s shoes they will need to fill to make this movie really roar.

Seth Rogen as the New Pumbaa

Who better to play The Lion King’s most fun-loving character than Hollywood’s most fun-loving comedian, Seth Rogen. This famously Jewish Canadian star was first discovered in 1999 by Judd Apatow and he made his acting debut in Apatow’s cult hit series Freaks and Geeks. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after only one season and its popularity did not kick off until much later. Since then,  Rogen has starred in, written, directed and produced many hilarious hit movies and his resume keeps building.

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To list them all would take a few pages but some noteworthy movies include co-writing Superbad, writing and starring in Pineapple Express and starring in Knocked Up. Rogen’s voice is extremely recognizable and his contagious laugh just screams ‘Hakuna Matata.’ This seems like a more than appropriate match for the worlds most lovable Warthog.

Ernie Sabella as the Original Pumbaa

Sabella is actually most known for the voice of Pumbaa. He took the role beyond the 1994 animated classic and has voiced the character in various video games, theme park attractions and made for TV movies and shows.

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It Looks like Sabella took full ownership of this role so Rogen definitely has his work cut out for him. He is also known for his Broadway roles as well as for various television appearances.

Billy Eichner as the New Timon

This pairing seems so obvious! Billy’s loud and boisterous charisma is the perfect match for the tiny animated meercat with a notoriously huge personality. This will not be Eichner’s first-time voice acting as he has guest starred in several episodes of the animated series, Bob’s Burgers as well as in The Angry Birds Movie and Penguins of Madagascar.

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He was discovered by wider audiences when he joined the cast of Parks and Recreation during their sixth season. We can not wait to see his portrayal of Timon and how his and Seth Rogen’s recognizable voices will play alongside each other.

Nathan Lane as the Original Timon

Eichner also has huge shoes to fill as Timone has become somewhat synonymous with Nathan Lane. Nathan also played alongside Mathew Broderick in the movie version of The Producers so you can imagine that their Timone and Simba on-screen chemistry will be hard to beat.

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Lane has a fantastic track record both as a voice and live actor. His acting career on Broadway and in TV and movies started as early as the 80s and he is still going strong today. He has received many impressive awards throughout his career, including three Tony’s.

Alfre Woodward as the New Sarabi

Woodward is one of those actresses that everyone has seen. She is one of the most versatile and accomplished actors and has been nominated for almost every award you can think of. With four Emmy awards under her belt, it’s no doubt that she is a qualified and talented performer.

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Her filmography and list of television roles are lengthy, to say the least as she has been acting since the late ’70s. Basically, any film she touches is bound to be a success so it’s no wonder that they asked her to take on the role of Simba’s mother, Sarabi.

Madge Sinclair as the Original Sarabi

Sinclair was a Jamaican actress whose rose to fame in the mid-’70s through her roles in the films Cornbread, Earl and Me and Convoy as well as in the mini-series Roots.

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You might recognize her from her time starring alongside the legendary Eddie Murphy in his 1988 movie, Coming to America, which currently has a sequel in the works. Sinclair, unfortunately, passed away from Leukemia in 1995, just one year after The Lion Kingwas released.

James Earl Jones as the New Mufasa…And the Original

Most would agree that no one else would be fit to voice the role of Mufasa as well as James Earl Jones. Other than the fact that Jones has one of the best-known voices in show business, he also has an outstanding career track record. The actor started off in Broadway in 1957 and has since won countless awards for his many roles in both film and television.

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Jones’ voice not only perfectly epitomizes Simba’s father, Mufasa. He is also known for voicing another famous father, Darth Vader, in the original Star Wars movies. It just wouldn’t be right to try and replace his powerful baritone vocal cords so Jones will be returning to the role of Mufasa in the remake. We have no doubt that the force will still be with him.

Florence Kasumba as the New Shenzi

The past couple of years have been a whirlwind for Florence Kasumba as she was introduced to the Marvel universe in 2016 and her fame kicked off from there. Kasumba is a Ugandan-German actress who is well known for her roles in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War.

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She is the epitome of woman empowerment so we have no doubt that she will kill it as Shenzi, proud leader of the villainous hyena clan and by far the most cunning of the three. We are used to seeing Kasumba in much more serious roles so it will be interesting to see how this will play into Shenzi’s sassy character.

Whoopi Goldberg as the Original Shenzi

Speaking of woman empowerment, Whoopi Goldberg is nothing short of inspirational. Goldberg has a true rag to riches story as she worked her way out of poverty and into the hearts of worldwide audiences. She dominated the Holywood scene throughout the ’80s and ’90s and can be seen today co-hosting The View.

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Some of her most famous works, if we had to narrow down the long list, include her starring roles in the Sister Act and The Color Purple.Goldberg’s brazen, ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude is perfectly embodied in the animated version of Shenzi which makes us wonder why she won’t be returning to the role.

Keegan Michael Key as the New Karami/Banzai

Key is nothing short of hilarious so it is no wonder that they are utilizing his talents in the role of Karami, one out of three of Scar’s henchmen. The hyena was previously named Banzai in the original film. It is unclear why they chose to change the name but one theory is that this rendition of the character will be a bit more sinister than the last, making Banzai an unfit name. That being said, we hope that they still utilize Keegans comedic talents in the role.

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The comedian started his career with his own Comedy Central sketch series, Key & Peele. He also made numerous guest appearances on Drew Carry’s Whose Line is Anyway and spent six seasons on Mad TV. It seems like every comedian wants a piece of Keegan as he has appeared as a guest on many different shows throughout his career. Recently you can see him starring in the Netflix comedy, Friends from College.

Cheech Marin as the Original Banzai

It seems only fitting that Keegan will take the role handed off by the legendary comedian, Cheech Marin. Like Keegan, Cheech gained popularity through his own comedy series named Cheech & Chong.

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The Mexican American comedian has offered his talents to numerous other Disney animated films as well as other Television appearances.

Eric Andre as the New Ed/Azizi

No Disney classic is complete without having a dopey, insane character like Ed the Hyena. In the remake, however, he will be named Azizi, which makes us wonder if the role will be a little more level headed than Ed. If they are sticking to the original weirdness of the character, then Eric Andre is a perfect match. What can we say, the American comedian is known for being just plain weird.

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Andre is the creator and host of The Eric Andre Show, a show that aims to poke fun of public access talk shows. The show features pranks, sketches, shock humor, and celebrity interview. Granted, the animated character did not have too many lines, it seems like Disney knows what they are doing with this choice.

Jim Cummings as the Original Ed

Often referred to as the voice of a generation, Jim Cummings is an American voice actor who has appeared in almost 400 roles. He is most famous for his voice work in Winnie the Pooh.

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In 2018 Cummings became the first animated voice performer to reprise his roles for a live-action Disney film with the 2018 movie, Christopher Robin. You can also hear his voice in animated classics such as “Aladdin,” Pocahontas, Balto, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Shrek,and the list really does go on and on.

John Oliver as the New Zazu

Who better to play Mufasa’s royal advisor than John Oliver. Most known for his comedic wit and uncensored political commentary, it only seems right that the British comedian voices the wise and overprotective red-billed hornbill. Since 2014, Oliver has been the host of his own HBO series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. He has made waves with his political satire and grand commentaries which have even managed to influence various US policies and reforms.


He became well known through his involvement with The Daily Show with John Stewart as its Senior British Correspondent. Among other TV appearances, he had a significant role in the show Community. We imagine that his dynamic with one particular Communityco-star had something to do with this casting choice, considering who they have lined up for Simba.  

Rowan Atkinson as the Original Zazu

I bet you didn’t realize that Mr. Bean was the voice of the original Zazu. Rowan Atkinson, famously known for his performances as Mr. Bean and more recently, Johnny English is a British actor, comedian, and screenwriter. He has been recognized as one of the 50 funniest actors in Britsh comedy and has won several awards, including a BAFTA.

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His slapstick humor and wacky personality are renowned worldwide. Playing the stuck up character of Zazu in the animated classic seems a step away from his usual nutty roles but he has definitely set the bar high for John Oliver.

Shahadi Wright Joseph as the New Young Nala

Shahadi is just kicking off her acting career but has already managed to impress us in her starring role in Us. Shadi was also cast in the Broadway rendition of The Lion Kingwhen she was just eight years old, so she is no stranger to Pride Rock.

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She also performed in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock and in Hairspray Live!We are excited to see what this talented actress, singer, and dancer will do next.

Niketa Calame as the Original Young Nala

Calame’s role as young Nala in The Lion Kingdid not skyrocket her career in movies.

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You can find her acting in various TV series and live action shorts. Last year she starred in the movie Timeless.

John Kani as the New Rafiki

Playing the mysterious and all-knowing baboon is the South African actor, John Kani. Kani is a legendary name in his home country and has been involved in South Africa’s film industry for decades. He is also an author and play writer as well as a director.

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Kani made his mark on the international stage through his role of King T’Chaka in Marvels Captain America: Civil War.We are sure that Kani’s bright authenticity will do the comedic and mystical role of Rafiki a whole world of justice.

Robert Guillaume as the Original Rafiki

Emmy award-winning, Robert Guillaume is well known for his character on the 1970’s sitcom, Soap and it’s spinoff show, Benson, which ran until the mid-’80s. Guillaume grew up in poverty and spent years working his way up. Tragically, Guillaume died of prostate cancer in 2017, just one month before his 90th birthday.

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Not only does he leave behind the legacy of being an Emmy award-winning actor but he also won a Grammy award for his spoken word performance of an audiobook version of The Lion King. So John Kani definitely has his work cut out for him when it comes to filling Guillaume’s shoes.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as the New Scar

Ejiofor is a British actor and director renowned for his role in 12 Years a Slave. He made it big when he caught the attention of Steven Spielberg who cast him in the critically acclaimed movie, Amistad.

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After that, his career took off and you can find him in numerous movies including Dirty Pretty Things, Love Actually and Kinky Boots. He also stars in several TV shows and stage productions.

Jeremy Irons as the Original Scar

It will be strange to see a portrayal of Scar without Irons’ voice behind it. The English actor has a very notable voice that many still attach to Scar’s character. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t have numerous other roles on his resume.

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In fact, the list is quite long. He is also well known for playing Alfred in the DC Universe Batman and Justice Leaguemovies.

JayDon McCrary as the New Young Simba

This American singer, dancer, and actor began his career just a few short years ago at the young age of 8. He debuted his acting talents through a guest appearance on the show K.C. Undercover and it looks like we might be seeing more of him in the coming years.

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McCrary also has a beautiful singing voice. He even made a guest appearance on Childish Gambino’s song “Terrified.” Which is pretty crazy since Gambino is going to be voicing adult Simba in the remake.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas as the Original Young Simba

JTT was basically every 90’s kid childhood crush. We all fell in love with him when he starred in several Disney films such as Tom and Huck, Man of the House and I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Jonathan is most famous for his role in ABC’s sitcom Home Improvement. He also made guest appearances in numerous other shows.

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Although he stole the hearts of many in the ’90s, as an adult, he chose to step away from a career in acting. To many, Jonathan Taylor Thomas will always be Simba but we hope they give McCrary a chance to impress.

Donald Glover as the New Simba

When you take a look at Donald Glover’s career, you’ll see that there’s not much that this 35-year-old hasn’t already done. He is an actor, writer, comedian, director, producer, and musician so you could say he keeps busy. Glover kicked off his career in 2006 as a writer for the show 30 Rock. He also began his music career around the same time, under the name Childish Gambino. If this name sounds random, that’s because it is. He got the name from the Wu-Tang Clan’s online name generator. Glover became known to wider audiences through his role as Troy Barnes in Dan Harmon’s NBC sitcom, Community.

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He has appeared in numerous shows and films and has earned countless awards both for his music and his titles in TV and cinema. Most notably, he has received well deserved praise for his role in the ongoing show Atlanta, where he writes, directs, produces and stars as the main character. It seems safe to say that Donald is more than qualified to take on the challenge of reigning as king of the jungle in the upcoming Dinsey remake.

Matthew Broderick as the Original Simba

Most people know Matthew Broderick from the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which he stared in at the young age of 23. His career definitely kicked off from there and you can see him acting alongside Hollywood’s elite still today. What many people don’t know however was that Broderick was also the voice of the adult Simba in Disney’s The Lion King.

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That fact alone is enough reason to re-watch the 90’s classic. Although Broderick has a pretty great singing voice, which he shows off in both the Broadway and film adaptation of The Producers, he did not perform his own vocals in The Lion King. Instead, the lead singer of Toto, Joseph Williams and actor Jason Weaver were responsible for adult Simba’s singing voice.

Beyoncé as the New Nala

This is a woman that needs no introduction. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is a singer, songwriter, actress, director and record producer. Her track record in the music industry has earned her the well-deserved title of ‘Queen Bey.’ She is a worldwide sensation that has won numerous awards both from her time as a member of Destiny’s Child and from her outstanding solo career.

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Beyoncé has sold almost 200 million records worldwide throughout her career and she shows no signs of stopping. She has been listed among Time’s 100 most influential people in the world for two years in a row and Forbes has ranked her as the most powerful female in entertainment. We have no doubt that Beyonce is going to dominate as Nala in the remake.

Moira Kelly as the Original Nala

You might recognize Moira Kelly from her role on the hit teen drama One Tree Hill. She is also well known for her portrayal of Kate Moseley in the 1992 film, The Cutting Edge.

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Kelly has been acting since the early ’90s and has appeared in a variety of movies and TV shows throughout the years.