There was “Cinderella” in 2015, “The Jungle Book” in 2016, and then “Beauty and the Beast” in March this year. Disney has been cranking out live-action versions of their past animated film classics, and the ones mentioned now are only the most prominent and recent. Next on the production schedule is the 1994 masterpiece that was “The Lion King.” Last year Disney already announced their plans to develop a live-action remake of the movie, with CGI used to animate the animal characters. Starting from last February the studio has begun announcing cast choices as they were made, with the latest being that of English comedian John Oliver as Zazu the hornbill.

Taking up from a fellow British comedian

Disney’s casting announcement of John Oliver to portray Zasu was done on Monday, July 10. In the 1994 animated film, Zasu was a straight-laced and acerbic hornbill who served as an advisor to the Lion Ling Mufasa, ruler of Pride Rock in the African wilds. The role was originally voiced by fellow British comedian Rowan Atkinson of “Mister Bean” fame. Oliver himself is no stranger to voicing characters in animated films, as he portrayed Vanity Smurf in the 2011 live-action/CGI "Smurfs" film from Sony-Columbia Pictures, as well as its 2013 sequel.

One major perk the planned live-action “Lion King” remake is in getting the original voice actor of Mufasa, “Darth Vader” James Earl Jones himself, to reprise his role from 1994.

Other casting choices by Disney include Donald Glover as the main character Simba (taking over from Matthew Broderick), Billy Eichner as Timon the meerkat (replacing Nathan Lane) and Seth Rogen as the warthog Pumbaa (original by Ernie Sabella).

Production schedule

The live-action/CGI remake of Disney’s “The Lion King” is being written by Jeff Nathanson and directed by Jon Favreau, who both directed Marvel Studios’ first and second “Iron Man” films as well as the 2016 “Jungle Book” remake.

It is interesting to note that Favreau was also considering Beyoncé to voice the female lead lioness Nala, though with her pregnancy that has fallen into uncertainty. Full production of the film was slated to begin last May, with Favreau aiming to shoot it back to back with a “Jungle Book” sequel. The remake is slated to premiere in July of 2019.

The Lion King” is one of the most successful Disney animated films, even developing a franchise of its own with sequels, animated series spin-offs and more. The latest offshoot of “The Lion King” is the still-running children's series “The Lion Guard” on Disney Channel and Disney Junior.