The Lion King remake has an incredible cast, but what are they like compared to the originals? Let’s take a look at the original cast versus the new ones.
When the original ‘The Lion King’ movie was released back in 1994, pretty much every child of the ‘90s begged their parents to see it at the cinema. However, less than halfway into the movie, we all regretted our decision as we watched the untimely and savage passing of Mufasa. It wasn’t long before we were back in our happy places, though, as we sang along to classics such as ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,’ ‘Hakuna Matata,’ and ‘Circle of Life.’ This animated Disney movie changed the world in many ways, especially with its political undertones and the way it deals with tough subjects such as loss.
With all of the Disney remakes coming out, it didn’t surprise us when they announced they were going to be rebooting The Lion King. After all, it’s a classic. What did surprise us, however, was just how many famous faces they managed to rope in for the remake. But will they live up to the original cast? Let’s see who will be voicing our favorite animated animals.
Jeremy Irons as Scar
Boo! Hiss! Disney fans are likely to call Scar one of the meanest villains of all time, simply because he took away our beloved Mufasa. Of course, any good baddie has to be played by a Brit and English actor Jeremy Irons did the job so well.
This classically trained actor started his life treading the boards of the West End, before getting his taste of the movie world in 1981. His part in The Lion King won him an Annie Award for Best Achievement in Voice Acting and a nomination for Best Villain at the MTV Movie Awards.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar
While Jeremy Irons may be a tough act to follow, Chiwetel Ejiofor is not afraid to step up and take on the role of Scar in The Lion King remake. This British actor has a similar background to Irons, having started his career in theater.
He got his big break in the movie world back in 1997, when he was just 19, and has gone from strength to strength since then. His most notable role was Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave, for which he was nominated for dozens of awards. How will he fare taking on one of the best villains of all time, however?
Nathan Lane as Timon
Meerkat Timon was the bit of comic relief we needed after watching the fate of Mufasa, and he was initially played by Nathan Lane in the 1994 version. This American actor has a rich and varied history in Hollywood, with over 80 acting credits to his name.
Some people may recognize him from TV shows such as Modern Family and The Good Life, but he has been on our screens since the ‘80s! As well as voicing Timon in the original movie, he also went on to play the meerkat in the Timon & Pumbaa TV series for which he won a Daytime Emmy Award.
Billy Eichner as Timon
There’s no denying that Timon is a comical character, which is probably why the casting director decided on the comedian and actor Billy Eichner. As the creator, executive producer, and star of the comedy game show Billy on the Street, this American actor has proven he’s got what it takes to make people laugh.
You may have also seen him pop up in the sitcom Parks and Recreation, or as a recurring character in the anthology series American Horror Story. With his comedy background, it will be interesting to see what he can bring to the hilarious character of Timon.
Ernie Sabella as Pumbaa
You can’t have Timon without Pumbaa; these two were the ultimate comedy duo in the original The Lion King. The flatulent Warthog was played by the American actor Ernest Sabella, who is best known for his work on Broadway.
This thespian starred in shows such as The Robber Bridegroom, Guys and Dolls, and Man of La Mancha. He has had very few roles on the silver screen, but all of the Timon & Pumbaa TV shows, video games, and safety shorts have kept him busy over the years. In fact, voicing Pumbaa is a massive part of his 111 acting credits!
Seth Rogen as Pumbaa
Once again, the casting team for The Lion King remake knew they had to find the perfect comedian for their new version of Pumbaa - step up, Seth Rogen! This Canadian-American funny guy started off his career doing stand-up comedy, before working his way up to Hollywood.
In fact, most people will likely have seen at least one comedy film with Seth Rogen in it, as it seems like he is everywhere. He is also known for his writing, producing, and directing work, again mainly in the comedy world. Seth Rogen certainly seems like he has what it takes to play Pumbaa!
Robert Guillaume as Rafiki
The late, great Robert Guillaume was an American actor who took on one of the most significant roles in The Lion King - Rafiki. This mandrill monkey served as the Royal Mjuzi (an advisor) to Mufasa and the rest of the lion royals. He’s a real support to Simba on his journey, and the name Rafiki actually translates as ‘a friend’ in Swahili!
Robert Guillaume’s acting career spanned over five decades on stage, on TV, and in films. His portrayal of Rafiki was legendary and is likely to be a hard one to live up to. He even won a Grammy Award for his audiobook version of The Lion King in 1995, so it’s going to be a tough act to follow.
John Kani as Rafiki
South African actor, playwright, and director John Kani is the man who has to fill the shoes of Rafiki - and we’re expecting him to do an incredible job. Kani has had an interesting background, writing and starring in a lot of political plays - some of which saw him allegedly beaten by police in South Africa, which is how he lost his left eye.
He recently starred in Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther as T’Chaka, with his real-life son, Atandwa, playing the younger version of his character. Kani has a lot to bring to this role, and we can’t wait to see what he does with it.
Rowan Atkinson as Zazu
This British actor is probably best known for two things - his creation and portrayal of the hapless comedy character Mr. Bean, and voicing Zazu in The Lion King. More recently, he has also found success as the titular character in the Johnny English film series, too.
This actor has been on our screens for decades, writing and starring in some of the greatest comedy shows throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. His stern but fair Zazu was another character to bring some comic relief to The Lion King, and the movie wouldn’t have been the same without the uptight red-billed hornbill.
John Oliver as Zazu
Strangely enough, the casting director seems to have found a replacement for Zazu that looks more like the original bird than Rowan Atkinson did! John Oliver is a British comedian and actor, who is also known for his writing and producing work, TV hosting, and political commentary. Phew!
This busy guy made his way over the pond to star late-night talk shows, winning dozens of awards in the process. He’s such an influential person in the States that he made it into the 100 Most Influential People in Time Magazine, and has created something called the ‘John Oliver Effect.’ We just hope he has the sternness of the Zazu we all know and love!
Whoopi Goldberg as Shenzi
Who can forget the trio of loyal minion hyenas that worked for Scar, in The Lion King? Their haunting laughs still plague our nightmares to this day! Whoopi Goldberg played the leader of the pack, Shenzi, and she was easily the most savage.
In fact, that’s precisely what the word Shenzi means in Swahili. Goldberg is one of the most prominent black female actors in Hollywood, who is also one of the only entertainers to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award. Some of her credits, other than as Shenzi, include Ghost, Sister Act, and Toy Story 3.
Florence Kasumba as Shenzi
Trying to compete with Whoopi Goldberg’s epic portrayal of Shenzi is the Ugandan actress Florence Kasumba. After growing up in Germany, most of her roles came in German and Dutch films, until she got her big break in Hollywood…
Her one line interaction with Black Widow in Captain America: Civil War was called “scene-stealing” by critics, and she reprised the role of Ayo in the Black Panther movie. Alongside her MCU appearances, she’s also featured in the DC movie, Wonder Woman. With the fierceness she has brought to her other characters, we can imagine her playing an impressive Shenzi.
Jim Cummings as Ed
Another one of the laughing hyena crew was Ed, who you might recognize for always having his tongue hanging out. He’s another loyal henchman to Scar, but he’s certainly not as smart or as savage as Shenzi. While he may have had very few lines in this movie, other than laughing like a bit of an idiot, Jim Cummings is one of the most prolific voice actors of all time.
With nearly 550 credits to his name, this American voice actor (and singer!) is probably best known for voicing Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog, and many other characters in movies, TV shows, and video games.
Eric Andre as Azizi
Interestingly, Ed will not be making a return in The Lion King CGI remake and will be replaced instead by a character called Azizi. Very little is known about the new character who will be replacing Ed, other than the fact that Azizi means ‘precious’ in Swahili.
We also know that he will be played by comedian, actor, and TV host Eric Andre. People may recognize this American star from his work on The Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim, along with small parts in shows such as 2 Broke Girls and Man Seeking Woman. With that background, we can expect Azizi to be a bit more vocal than Ed!
Cheech Marin as Banzai
The third and final hyena in the pack is Banzai, who is a lot more vocal than Ed - and a bit more intelligent, too. His name translates as ‘skulk’ or ‘lurk’ in Swahili, which sums up his character quite nicely. Banzai is voiced by one half of the comedy act Cheech & Chong, Cheech Marin.
Interestingly, it’s believed that Tommy Chong, the other half of the duo, was going to play Shenzi in the original Lion King. However, it’s thought they had a falling out before filming, and so Whoopi Goldberg took on the role instead. We wonder how different it would have been with this pair!
Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari
Banzai is another character that has been scrapped in the new Lion King, being replaced by a character called Kamari. Again, all we know about this character is what their name means in Swahili - ‘gambler.’ Kamari will be played by Keegan-Michael Key, who is another comedian and actor.
With the replacement of the hyena characters, we have a feeling that the two new ones will provide a bit more comic relief than the others. You probably recognize Keegan-Michael Key from his recurring roles in shows such as Parks and Recreation, Playing House, Key & Peele, and Mad TV.
Madge Sinclair as Sarabi
While we don’t see her a huge deal in The Lion King, Sarabi is the partner of Mufasa and mother of Simba - making her the Queen of the Pride Lands. The very few scenes that she is in, we learn that she is proud and fearless; not afraid to put Scar in his place. The original Sarabi was played by Madge Sinclair, a Jamaican actress who moved to New York in 1966 to pursue her love of acting.
She was known for roles in movies such as Cornbread, Earl, and Me, and Coming to America. Sinclair also nabbed herself a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Drama Series, for her role as Gabriel’s Fire. Unfortunately, she passed away a year after The Lion King.
Alfre Woodard as Sarabi
Only a strong, fearless woman would be able to take on the role of Sarabi, and the casting director made a perfect choice with Alfre Woodard. Known as one of the most accomplished and versatile actors of her generation, she has been nominated for more awards than you can count.
On top of her acting work, she’s also a political activist and is producing an upcoming TV series about the voting rights and civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer. If there is someone who can bring the fierceness to the character of Sarabi in The Lion King remake, then Alfre Woodard is that person!
Niketa Calame as Young Nala
As a young lioness, Nala was betrothed to Simba from pretty much the moment she was born. However, we watch as the two young lions go from being the best of friends and playing together, to finally falling in love. Young Nala was originally played by Niketa Calame, sometimes credited as Niketa Calame-Harris.
Since her voice work in The Lion King, this actress has worked on several TV shows and shorts, including playing Carrie on the NBC show Timeless. Calame also tried her hand at producing, when she worked on a short called Mannie Man Up, which she also starred in.
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala
She may only be young, but Shahadi Wright Joseph has an impressive line of credits to her name already. Her first major role came when she was just eight years old, where she was picked to play Young Nala in the Broadway version of The Lion King!
Well, at least she already knows her character quite well. She has also starred in School of Rock and Hairspray Live! on the stage. Shahadi Wright Joseph has said that she loves playing Young Nala as she feels like the character is a role model for young girls. What a little star, for someone who is still so young!
Moira Kelly as Nala
Nala grows up to be a pivotal character in the original Lion King, as she is the one who convinces Simba to come back and claim his throne at Pride Rock. She explains that if Simba doesn’t return, then everyone will starve and that he is their only hope.
The American actress Moira Kelly plays grown-up Nala, but she already had a fair few credits to her name before she landed the role. She is probably best known for her role in the rom-com The Cutting Edge, as well as starring in the TV series One Tree Hill. Kelly also reprised her role of Nala for the Lion King shorts and video games.
Beyonce as Nala
When the news broke that Queen Bey was playing Nala in the CGI remake of The Lion King, people couldn’t believe their ears. After all, she’s Beyonce! Of course, she already has some acting experience in movies such as Dreamgirls, and as Queen Tara in the animated film, Epic.
On top of this, Beyonce is known for putting on some incredible performances in her music videos, so we all know the girl can act! She rose to fame as part of the girl band Destiny’s Child and has since gone on to become one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Do we really need to explain who Beyonce is?!
Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Young Simba
Of course, the main character in The Lion King is Simba; the son of Mufasa and Sarabi, and the future king of Pride Rock. He has a tough job ahead of him when his father passes away, but with the help of his friends and Nala, he pulls together and takes back Pride Rock from Scar.
The young and inexperienced Simba was played by American actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas who was known for his work on several TV shows before he landed the role. He is probably best known for playing Randy Taylor on the sitcom Home Improvement and, more recently, as Jeremy in 8 Simple Rules.
JD McCrary as Young Simba
11-year-old JD McCrary has earned himself a place in The Lion King remake cast as Young Simba, and this talented kid is undoubtedly going to go far. He was just eight when he started his acting career and released his first EP, Shine, back in April 2019.
He also made a guest appearance on the Childish Gambino song, Terrified, and has spoken freely about his respect for Donald Glover. He said that the actor and musician “is so talented” that he didn’t even need to think twice about accepting the role of Young Simba if he knew he was going to grow up to be him…
Matthew Broderick as Simba
As the loveable Simba mourns the loss of his father and finally grows up to take back Pride Rock, Young Simba is replaced by the American actor Matthew Broderick. This star’s breakthrough role came as the titular character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and he quickly rose to fame from then onwards.
Throughout the late ‘80s and the ‘90s, you couldn’t go to the cinema without seeing his face everywhere! He also became the youngest winner of a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Broderick spends most of his time on stage now, although he does occasionally come back to TV.
Donald Glover as Simba
As if getting Beyonce to play Nala wasn’t enough, the casting team really outdid themselves when they picked this guy to play grown-up Simba! Is there anything that this American legend can’t do? He’s a writer, producer, director, actor, comedian, DJ, and musician. Phew! Some people may recognize him under his stage name Childish Gambino, which he reserves for his music.
However, you may also know Glover for his parts in TV shows such as Atlanta and Community, or for his roles in movies such as The Lazarus Effect, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. This guy is the definition of a triple threat, and we can’t wait to see him playing Simba.
James Earl Jones as Mufasa
Our hearts hurt a little bit when we think about Mufasa. As the former King of Pride Rock, he has his life brutally taken away from him when Scar sets him up. He risks his life to save his son and is the reason most of us sobbed throughout the movie.
Mufasa comes back as a ghost throughout the film to advise Simba on the path he should take, which gets us crying all over again. James Earl Jones is the legend that took on the role of Mufasa in The Lion King, and he’s a star who is often described as “one of the greatest actors in American history.”
James Earl Jones as Mufasa
Of course, who else could play Mufasa as well as James Earl Jones? Nobody - and that’s why he is reprising his role for the remake. With a career spanning over six decades, and taking on some of the most pivotal roles in history (Darth Vader, anyone?), it would have been sacrilege to find anyone else to play Mufasa.
James Earl Jones has countless awards to his name, including the Voice Arts Icon Award, along with an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Harvard. There isn’t anyone out there like Jones, and so we’re thrilled he’ll be reprising his role.