Disney today announced the full main cast for its live-action* remake of The Lion King, and boy, it must be good casting movies when you've got Disney money to spend:
Donald Glover as Simba and a returned James Earl Jones as Mufasa, we knew (as well as Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as Pumbaa and Timon). Chiwetel Ejiofor is a classy choice for Scar; hopefully the ordinarily restrained actor lets loose in the voice booth a little. Alfre Woodard, as well: super classy. And John Kani is an easy choice for Disney, having played King T'Chaka for them in Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther. Young Simba and Young Nala will be played by different actors to their grownup versions: check. We didn't (or rather, I didn't) know about John Oliver playing Zazu, but I guess he's today's Rowan Atkinson in the sense he's a funny Englishman that people know. Shrug.
This casting announcement also suggests a few changes to the Lion King an entire generation knows off by heart. The character names of the three hyenas - played by Eric Andre, Florence Kasumba (also appearing in Black Panther), and Keegan-Michael Key - suggest, that this is (at least in intent) a more authentically African telling of the story than the original, despite having Jon Favreau, who is pretty dang white, at the helm.
More substantially: Beyonce's casting as Nala is huge. Expect an expanded role for a character who in the original was basically just there as a motivator for Simba, probably an additional song, and definitely a huge marketing push. The stage musical gave Nala "Shadowlands" to sing, but I'm suspicious Disney will gun for that Best Original Song Academy Award with something new. Bet on seeing Beyonce and Childish Gambino perform at the Oscars in 2020.
There's still the question of whether or not a remake of The Lion King is a good idea. Creatively, it seems a little bit pointless, other than making it more culturally appropriate. But so did the borderline shot-for-shot remake of Beauty and the Beast, and that thing made half a billion dollars in the United States alone. I'm sure The Lion King will do the same when it lands in summer 2019 - notably, on the original film's 25th anniversary. That's the circle of life.
* (it's still entirely CGI)