Helped along by an all-star voice cast and director Jon Favreau’s trailblazing VR technology, every character in this classic morality tale is larger-than-life, and they’ll all be leaping off the ODEON screen on 19 July.
Here’s your guide to the pride...
Voiced in the early scenes by JD McCrary, the plushy prince of the Pride Lands is such an adorable furball that you’ll hope he never hits adolescence. But Simba really develops as a character when Donald Glover enters the vocal booth, with the Atlanta star catching the cub’s conflict as he struggles with the responsibilities of kinghood.
“It’s really fun to be part of a movie you’ve known your entire life,” says Glover. “I didn’t have to learn the lines, I didn’t have to learn the songs, it was second nature.”
As the noble king of the Pride Lands, Simba’s father has more wisdom than a crate of fortune cookies and a voice like wild honey – it’s remarkable to hear James Earl Jones reprise his role a full 25 years after the original 1994 animation.
Meanwhile, beside every great lion is a great lioness, and with Passion Fish star Alfre Woodard at the microphone, Simba’s mother Sarabi has both heart and claws.
The singer and all-around cultural phenomenon is a double-threat in The Lion King, not only bringing a sweetness to Simba’s childhood friend and future love interest Nala – but also belting new songs like recent single Spirit.
“My God,” Favreau told Entertainment Weekly, “she lives up to her reputation as far as the beauty of her voice and talent.”
Voiced by Jeremy Irons, Scar was always more oily than scary in the original Lion King animation. But now, a quarter-century later, Twelve Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor makes your flesh creep as Simba’s battle-worn uncle, whose cruel scheme to murder Mufasa and frame the cub unleashes chaos across the Pride Lands.
“He’s possessed,” says the actor, “with his own ego and his own want.”
With all those bitter blood feuds, you’ll need some comic relief – and after Simba is exiled, the laughs come courtesy of his new companions, Pumbaa the dimwitted warthog and Timon the motormouth meerkat. They might do a mean rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, but they also butt heads.
“Like any two people who spend a lot of time together,” says Rogen, “they’re going to have things that bother each other.”
British comedian and Last Week Tonight host John Oliver is shrewd and smart as the king’s hornbill fixer, Zazu – while South African playwright John Kani gets that iconic moment as the shaman baboon Rafiki, holding baby Simba aloft on Pride Rock.