Film Friday: Disney Announces the Cast of 'The Lion King'

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Oh, I just can't wait to see The Lion King!

That's something I would not have said a week ago. I'll admit, I haven't been the biggest fan of Disney's live-action remakes these past few years, mostly because I'm still re-watching the original animated classics, and I'm tired of seeing the same movies again and again (get some new stories, Hollywood!). No matter how great the live action film is, I'm ultimately going to be comparing them to the original classics.

Image result for lion king zazu gif

My reaction to hearing that even Winnie the Pooh and Chip n' Dale are getting live-action movies

But with Disney's cast announcement released this Wednesday, I can't help but be excited for the upcoming film. See below for a photo of the full cast below: 


You may have heard what I'm about to say already, but here goes anyway: Beyoncé as Nala! Donald Glover as Simba! John Oliver as Zazu! I'd be freaking out over James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa, if it wasn't so clear that he could never be replaced as Mufasa. No one can replace Mufasa (It's been over 20 years, and I'm still not over it).  

While this announcement is exciting simply for the incredible amount of talent assembled here, it's also being rightly celebrated for being representative of the film's setting, which is strongly implied to be set in the African savanna. This is in contrast to the 1994 animated movie, which had a majority of white actors voicing characters whose names were in Swahili. Disney has struggled with updating their classics to include more diverse and representative casts, and has been criticized for some of their casting choices for Aladdin and Mulan. The casting announcement has given fans hope that the live-action remake will be not only true to the original film's story, but also more inclusive for children of color. As pointed out in my recent post on the Emmys, the entertainment industry still struggles with diversity and inclusion; like this year's Emmy awards, this is a wonderful step in the right direction.

Nina Bradley's article in Bustle points out that "being able to identify with someone that looks and sounds like you on screen plays a critical role in one's growth and validation...the Lion King movie will offer young black children an opportunity to feel that their presence matters." For a new generation of children, this live-action version may be their first introduction to The Lion King, and many children of color will be able to appreciate the story in a much deeper way as they can identify with the characters they see and hear onscreen. The live action movie, expected to hit theaters on July 19, 2019, will not only be more authentic to the story's roots in African heritage, but will show both children and adults how a diverse range of talent can take a beloved classic and make it even better.

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Banner image source: Have You Seen The Current Cast Of The New “Lion King”? Check Inside! | WADL TV Detroit  

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About the Author
Melanie McFadyen is a Development Editor for the Communication & College Success team at Macmillan Learning. Originally from the Boston area, Melanie recently moved to New York and is currently spending most of her free time wandering around the city.