- Dec 21, 2002
- Real Name
- Jake Lipson
Genre: Adventure, Family
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Oliver, John Kani, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Amy Sedaris
Release: 2019-07-17Plot: Simba idolises his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
As I mentioned in other threads around the time of Beauty and the Beast's release this past March, my feeling is that the remake is not strictly necessary -- even moreso in this case because there's nothing "live-action" about it -- but, since Disney is going to do it anyway in the name of money, there's no reason that the remake can't be good, and I hope for the best and am generally excited about it. Beauty and the Beast didn't need to be remade either, but was handled with respect and care and tuned out to be pretty great, in my opinion, especially considering the large margin of error looming over such a project. So, I hope they will aim for a similar result with The Lion King, and if we get something resembling Beauty and the Beast in terms of quality level, I'd be good with that.
Anyway, yesterday Disney announced what they are calling the "complete cast" for the remake, but I have some concerns about it. Not all of these actors would have been my first call if I were the casting director, but I don't have a major problem with anybody there. If you haven't seen it, here it is:
My concern is the absence from the list of two of the three hyenas, Bonzi (originally voiced by Cheech Martin) and Ed (originally voiced by Jim Cummings), who as of the date of this post are pictured right over there on the left above my name as my avatar. There have been some articles (such as the one from the Hollywood Reporter) that have said the new characters listed on the image as "Azizi" and "Kamari" the hyenas with new names. However, neither the image nor Disney's official website actually confirms that they are the hyenas, so I think that is an inference on the part of the article's' authors based on them being listed next to Shenzi, the third hyena from the original film who is definitely in this one. It may very well be a correct inference, but I don't think it can be taken as fact until Disney, Jon Favreau or someone else directly connected with the production makes a comment to that effect.
Azizi and Kamari could just as easily be new characters who don't have a counterpart in the original film, such as, for example, Stanley Tucci's piano character from the new Beauty and the Beast. I actually hope that they are new, because that would indicate the movie is doing something new and will therefore offer something different and fresh, which would help justify its existence (apart from the billion-plus it's likely to gross, of course.) But...if they're just Bonzi and Ed, or fulfill Bonzi and Ed's function, why not just call them Bonzi and Ed? They've been Bonzi and Ed for 23 years and that's worked out just fine.
I feel like it is incumbent upon Disney and/or Jon Favreau to make a statement to explain what they are doing here. I haven't got a problem with the movie changing or having unique elements (if it didn't, it would just be the original again, in which case we could just all watch our Blu-rays of that.) But if you are going to make a major change such as possibly eliminating two significant characters, it's appropriate to give the fans some insight into that. If they have indeed been renamed, that will work, although I'd still like to know the reason for the decision, but the way in which they released that information is not clear, and I think it should be clear. They need to realize that they are dealing with a much-loved property, and emotions run high when you do that. I don't mind the idea of change; I would just like to know for sure what to expect in regards to two significant characters from the original that I think are great and hilarious and endearing.
I should also point out that The Lion King is my #2 all-time favorite film, ever (behind only Aladdin, and they're very close), so I feel very protective of it and emotionally connected to it. But I still think the fans deserve to be let in on understanding what's going on here. It's not like "Why is Luke not in The Force Awakens trailer?", where they had to withhold answers because Luke being missing was basically the entire plot of the movie. I also don't really understand how Disney could expect to release a "complete cast list" without Bonzi and Ed and not have people notice or care.
Although not Disney, a similar situation occurred when the movie Anastasia was brought to Broadway. The villains from the movie, Rasputin and Bartok, who are major presences throughout the film, were completely eliminated from the show -- but the creators of the show got out in front of that choice. Rather than leaving fans wondering or confused, they said multiple times in multiple interviews that while they loved those characters in the movie, they were attempting a more serious take on the material for the show, and a rotting corpse and talking bat didn't fit in with what they were doing. Because they addressed it, the fans were able to know this and digest it ahead of time, instead of expecting Rasputin and Bartok and being confused about not getting them. And I love love love the score for the Broadway Anastasia and I think it works perfectly without them, and the change makes sense. So, all this to say, I'm not going to automatically turn on the new film if they've cut Bonzi and Ed, but they are a major appealing part of the original, so some clarity on the issue would be much appreciated and is in order.
I've tweeted Jon Favreau to ask about this, and I have no idea if he'll respond or not, but it does seem like something that could easily be clarified within a tweet, and I don't really see any benefit to keeping silent. Whether he responds to me personally is not significant; it would be cool, but it's not a big deal. However, since we know he uses Twitter and has included it in a film before (Chef), it would be really easy and not terribly time consuming to send out a tweet explaining what's going on with these characters, whether directed at me or just in general to his Twitter followers as a group.
I also should probably note here that a couple of my friends for whom Lion King is not a favorite film, who have not seen it in several years, claimed they didn't remember Bonzi and Ed when I mentioned this yesterday. I think this is due to the general tendency to refer to the hyenas as "the hyenas" and think of them as a group because they always appear together. However, if you look at the film, Bonzi and Ed are decidedly not cameo characters, and do have a lot to do, and are significant in many different scenes throughout the running time, not just one section. So I don't think it's fair to say that they are peripheral to the action, and I do think it will make a difference if they are not there. I also think that Cheech Martin and Jim Cummings did a sensational job voicing them last time, and certainly helped to make them memorable for people who like the film.
As you can probably tell, I care very deeply about this, and I want the film to be good and I want to like it. I was really impressed with Jon Favreau's Jungle Book, and it will be fun to see what he does here.
Just...where are Bonzi and Ed?
As an aside, It's also worth noting that despite similar articles claiming that the cast for Aladdin is complete (albeit no cast image from Disney for that one), the roles of Iago and Abu have not been filled for that movie, either. Even though I really like him, I could see them cutting out Abu -- they did for the Broadway show to nominal effect -- but Iago is a much larger role than Abu, and they did keep him in the Broadway show, and it's difficult for me to imagine an Aladdin remake in which he is not present. But they're already shooting that and have made no statement about him. (He would likely be a CGI character, so an actor wouldn't need to be on the set, but still.) Twice is a pattern, and it appears Disney is either messing with or being unclear about their sidekick villains in their remakes, and I just really wish they would clear that up.
But I'm still looking forward to the movies. Just...what the heck, Disney?