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Lion King Remake Casts James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Donald Glover as Simba

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Disney’s The Lion King remake has found its Simba and Mufasa. James Earl Jones, who originally voiced Mufasa in the 1994 film, will reprise his role, because any other choice would have been a massive disappointment. Donald Glover, of Community, Atlanta and perennial Spider-Man dreamcast fame, will voice Simba.

Director Jon Favreau, who also directed Disney’s live-action Jungle Book, announced the casting on Twitter.

Unlike the Jungle Book remake, the Lion King remake will not be live-action. However, as The Hollywood Reporter put it, “though The Lion King won’t be live-action, it will look it.” Favreau intends to build on the technologies he used for The Jungle Book to give The Lion King a more realistic look.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this one. It might be a failure of my imagination, but I just can’t imagine the Timon and Pumbaa scenes looking anything less than horror-show with realistic animals. Have you seen what warthogs look like in the wild? I do not want one of those singing at me. With The Jungle Book, so many of the animals are predatory or threatening towards Mowgli that I could understand how realistic animation might work for the story. With The Lion King, where many of the animals are our happy heroes, I’m just not sure how they’ll pull it off. I’ll be happy to be surprised, though.

I also give Disney credit for not repeating one of their racist choices from the original. In the animated film, super-white Jonathan Taylor Thomas voiced young Simba, and super-white Matthew Broderick voiced adult Simba. Young Nala was voiced by black actress Niketa Calame, but adult Nala, who needed to be coded as desirable, was voiced by white actress Moira Kelly. The other roles that went to actors of color–Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin–were the stupid, universally hated hyenas. All around, it was not a good look, and I’m heartened to see that so far, Disney isn’t actively enforcing racial hierarchies around who gets to be a hero in their voice casting. Let’s hope it continues.

Given Glover’s successful musical career as Childish Gambino, I’m also curious to see if he’ll contribute at all to the film’s music. The Lion King remake will definitely use the music from the animated film, and perhaps from the Broadway musical as well, but it could potentially expand the soundtrack. I mean, he already dropped a Mustafa reference in “3005”…

(Via The Hollywood Reporter; image via Walt Disney Studios)

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