Look, you've seen the pic by now. Even if you're not on Twitter ie: a person working in the media, someone flogging their mixtape or a pro-Trump bot, I'm sure someone's emailed a link or shared a grainy screenshot of Disney's cast announcement for the new Lion King film on your Facebook wall. "BEYONCE!!!" has been the main focus so far. She's been cast to voice lioness Nala in her adult years AKA the bad bitch who had to teach a man-child to get himself together with a combination of roughhousing and then reunion shagging.
But the story goes further than that. Have you read every name on this cast list? Have you not then immediately imagined Seth Rogen's goddamn bassy chuckle jackhammering between lines as he voices A GASSY AND KIND OF INSECURE WARTHOG?? Have you not thought about Eric Andre in the voiceover booth, just slowly and repetitively perfecting his hyena cackle, channeling the spirit of Whoopi Goldberg minus all the problematic shit she says like every other week on the The View? Oh … no? Well we have.
Donald Glover as Simba
Imagine, if you will, a shirtless Donald Glover with all those motion sensor sticker things on his torso, play-fighting with a Beyoncé body double because real Beyoncé obviously is contracted to only be touched by non-family members for a maximum of three seconds. Donald has an Emmy now. Donald is not a joke. He will fully display the nuances of the emotional journey from Simba the childish moron to Simba the guy out to vanquish his father's untimely death on some 'taking the kingdom back' shit. Donald will make you cry.
Beyoncé as Nala
The ultimate ride-or-die. The one who probably should have got away but just aged prematurely in her twenties on account of never having enough food while living under dictatorial rule and then doing unpaid emotional labour for her best friend/man. Beyoncé's acting skills over the years have at least improved since the ultimate low that was yelling "I'M A WHOLE LOTTA WOMAN" on a loop as Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers in Goldmember, so she should be able to make us feel Nala's pain and very sincere, slow-burning pride. You know when Bey sits in that deep part of her speaking voice, when she's talking about God or the strength within her in a really serious documentary scene? We want that.
James Earl Jones as Mufasa
THE ORIGINAL MUFASA FROM THE 1994 ANIMATED FILM. My guy, this is what you call impeccable casting. More of the same please, thanks.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar
Someone on the Noisey desk just described as Scar "so sexy for an animated lion" so I guess this is an open-and-shut case?? All Chiwetel needs to do is ham up a campy, slowly extended smile and drag out his words over more syllables than normal. Have you just imagined Chiwetel with half-open eyes, looking over his own impeccable manicure while ordering around Zazu (coming in a second) and sort of sashaying across the green screen room? Good.
Alfree Woodard as Sarabi
Don't mean to alarm you but no one can fulfill this 'righteous mum who will not be fucked with and wraps her hair every night after putting the kids to bed, for that single bit of alone time all day' role more than Woodard.
John Oliver as Zazu
Just in time for the 'all lives matter' brigade, yes, there will be white people in this. And, to really keep you satisfied, they're all men! John Oliver as a well-meaning and loyal hornbill who, even though he's a bird, definitely looks like he needs glasses, is some of the most on-the-nose casting I've seen in years. Except lots of spluttering.
John Kani as Rafiki
At the risk of being rude, this is the first we've heard of Kani. But since he's been acting for about 40 years, chances are he'll be able to perfectly channel the spirit of a jaunty baboon who spends most of the day giggling to himself, welcoming newborn lion cubs to the pride and communicating with spirits, all while lurching around as though he's been gone off the Henny for days. Kani is South African, rather than east African (where the Lion King's Swahili references come from) so I look forward to him best Kenyan accent.
Seth Rogen as Pumba
This, with all due respect, is the role Seth Rogen was born to play. We all solemnly enjoyed his big line ("I like your boobs") in Donnie Darko, we endured the seven thousand films about weed starring Rogen as Wildly Average Loser and James Franco as James Franco, and we collectively chose to pretend Sausage Party didn't exist. But now, NOW, is his time to step the fuck up to what is 100 percent Hollywood's most sensible casting choice since Nicolas Cage did not end up playing Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. I personally can't wait for 2020 when Seth Rogen wins an Oscar for voicing a hog whose defining characteristics are farting and going "ARGHHHHHHH!"
Eric Andre as Azizi
They renamed two of the hyenas, and it's unclear why—Azizi used to be Ed. All Andre really needs to do here is be weird. No one cares about this hyena, sorry.
Florence Kasumba as Shenzi
Absolutely no shade but Shenzi, as the hyena originally voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, is the one people care about. So it delights me to see Kusamba glo up from being "Nurse American Hospital" in a 2009 film about an Austrian actress to this (and next year's Black Panther). What more can we want from this beyond a high-frequency cackle to both tickle and haunt children for years to come? In years to come, Kusamba will regale her children with tales of upstaging two very talented men while voicing an animal that waits to eat the rotting flesh scraps off carcasses.
Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari
There are a lot of main characters in this thing, my god. Rounding off the lightskin-comedians-as-supplementary-hyenas double act, Key just needs to walk in the booth and do that laugh he does where he's almost shouting. Key was cast on account of his laugh, guaranteed – it is a bonus that he's an incredible comedian and more than capable of embodying a sidekick (Kamari used to be Banzia in the original) who hovers around Shenzi.
JD McCrary as Young Simba
Yung king, I have never heard of you but wish you all the best in being cute and good at singing and mourning your lion father's death.
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala
And you, yung queen, be playful and adept at smashing the gender binary that assumes girls/lioness cubs can't also roll around in the scorching savannah. Thank you all, see you in summer 2019.
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