It’s the Circle of Life! Disney’s latest reimagining of one of its classic animated features is set to open in theaters next week, and today saw an informative press conference in Southern California for The Lion King, after last night’s star-studded world premiere welcomed the film’s cast and creative team of the movie to Hollywood.
Prior to the beginning of the press conference, attendees were treated to a jaw-dropping live performance of the iconic song “The Circle of Life” from both the original The Lion King movie and the new version.
Watch “The Circle of Life” live performance at Disney’s The Lion King press conference:
Then, director Jon Favreau remarked on how his work in making 2016’s The Jungle Book helped prepare him to take on this massive challenge. “I’ve been working on both these movies back-to-back for about six years, and all the new technology that was available, I had finally learned how to use it by the end of The Jungle Book. At that point, with the team that we had assembled for it, all the artists, the idea of using what we learned on that, the new technologies that were available to make a story like The Lion King, seemed like a wonderful, logical conclusion.”
Watch Jon Favreau discusses how The Jungle Book prepared him to make The Lion King:
The Lion King voice actor Donald Glover (Solo: A Star Wars Story) touched on how his Simba is different from what we may have seen before from the character. “Jon was really good about the Circle of Life having a major hand in it. I really feel that it’s good to make movies that are global and metropolitan, as citizens of the world, making sure that we talk about how connected we are now. It’s the first time we’ve ever really been able to talk to everybody at the same time, so I felt like it was a necessary thing.”
Watch Donald Glover discusses his role as Simba in Disney’s The Lion King:
Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange) explained how he approached his take on the villainous Scar. “I felt that it was really interesting to go into that psychology, to really try and uncover that and to look at it. I’m a huge fan of what was done before, obviously, like everybody else, by Jeremy Irons. [My approach was] just going back in and exploring that character again from a slightly different perspective and seeing what was there.”
Similarly, Alfre Woodard (Captain America: Civil War) put some interesting thought into her role as Simba’s mother Sarabi. “It is called The Lion King, but everyone knows that the lionesses are actually the rulers, the protectors, the nurturers, the hunters of the pride. And so Jon was able to give us the space to be that.”
Watch Alfre Woodard and Chiwetel Ejiofor discuss their roles as Sarabi and Scar in The Lion King:
Having seen the movie last night, I can honestly say that the movie’s absolute standout performances (among an all-around wonderful cast) come from Billy Eichner (The Angry Birds Movie) and Seth Rogen (This Is the End) as Simba’s meerkat and warthog buddies Timon and Pumbaa. After a hilarious mixup at the top of the press conference where the two chummy costars got separated in the seating order, they examined how they brought the wacky wildlife pals to life once again on the big screen.
“It was a lot of improvisation,” said Rogen. “What was so nice was we were actually together every time that we recorded, which is a very rare gift to have as someone who’s trying to be funny in an animated film. I think you can really tell that we’re playing off of each other; it’s incredibly naturalistic-feeling.”
“I can’t imagine now, looking back, not being in the room together,” agreed Eichner. “Being able to riff off each other and really discover our chemistry together in the same moment, you can feel it when you’re watching the movie. I was shocked by how much of the riffing actually ended up in the movie.”
Watch Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen discuss their roles as Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King:
Disney’s The Lion King is set to be released in theaters on Friday, July 19.
Mike has been fascinated by theme parks and Disney all his life. He has worked in the entertainment journalism field since 2015, after spending a decade as a film projectionist at one of Hollywood’s most prestigious movie theaters. He resides in Burbank, California with his wife and cat.