26 Apr 19
It's hard to believe that 2019 marks 25 years since Disney introduced the world to a little lion cub named Simba – and the world fell in love. Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff's joyous musical extravaganza was a smash hit, spawning video games, books, television series and a wonderful Broadway musical. Finally, this summer, The Lion King returns to the big screen in a stunning new version with an all-star cast and crew.
Jon Favreau, who brought The Jungle Book to life in 2016 in a fantastic new vision, is in the director's chair. "This is a story that belongs to everyone who grew up with the original film," he says. "I wanted to demonstrate that we could be respectful of the source material, while bringing it to life using new techniques and technologies." The film combines the characters that audiences know and love with groundbreaking technology, creating a new way of looking at Pride Rock and the breathtaking Kenyan landscapes that form the setting for the epic story.
For many, The Lion King will need absolutely no introduction; for the rest, the story focuses on a pride of lions led by Mufasa, whose young son, Simba, is a fearless – if not rebellious – prince. However, Mufasa's nefarious brother, Scar, has designs on the throne, and he'll do whatever it takes to claw his way to the top. With a little help from some new friends, Simba has to find the courage to stand up and become the king his father always wanted him to be. Inspired by William Shakespeare's Hamlet, it's a story of heartache, redemption and self-discovery, and Favreau's singular talent for combining visual spectacle with emotional resonance helps the story to soar to new heights.
A film as visually ambitious as The Lion King deserves a cast of stars to match, and Favreau has assembled an exceptional roster of talent to lend their voices to the beloved characters. Simba is played by American singer and actor Donald Glover, who made his name in hit television show Atlanta before playing charming space rogue Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story. He's joined by global superstar Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, who plays Simba's best friend and love interest, Nala, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, taking on the role of Simba's dastardly uncle, Scar. Reprising his role from the original film is acting legend James Earl Jones, who once again lends his distinctive voice to Simba's wise and just father, Mufasa. Comic relief will be provided by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as the hilarious warthog and meerkat double act, Timon and Pumbaa, and John Oliver as Mufasa's fastidious hornbill advisor, Zazu.
For fans of the original film's iconic songs, written by Tim Rice and Elton John, there's reason to be excited: hits including Can You Feel The Love Tonight? and Hakuna Matata are in the new film too, performed with heart and soul by the immensely talented new cast. "Everybody who's involved is a fan, and everybody who's involved knows it really well," says Glover. "They're like, 'So here are the lyrics,' and I'm like, 'I know the lyrics! Don't worry.'"
Favreau's new vision of The Lion King offers a familiar story told in a bold and exciting new way that is visually stunning, and that showcases a host of incredible talent with a shared love of the original film. A story of self-discovery, friendship and courage, this enthralling new version offers something for old and new fans alike, transporting you to the African plains for an adventure like no other.
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The critic, journalist and host answers all your questions at our Members' Bar
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