The Lion King has finally arrived, but which version boasts the best Zazu?
Audiences have been invited to return to Pride Rock, but we all know that only one lion can be crowned king.
It’s always a little nerve-wracking when a film like 2019’s The Lion King comes along. Hollywood has a very well-documented and tricky relationship with remakes. Often, they’re met with sighs from the audience, but alas, they often tend to provide satisfying returns for the big studios. Some can be surprisingly great, and often it’s when the new filmmaker approaches the original with a fountain of their own ideas.
Now, with The Lion King, this clearly isn’t the case. Reimagining a beloved classic is one thing, but Disney’s 1994 family gem? That’s another thing. It’s generally considered one of the greatest family movies of all time, and that’s because its power is undeniably universal.
The animal kingdom it depicts is irresistibly animated, but it’s the themes of loss and renewal at its core which make it so timeless. Can you recapture such magic?
Disney traces its steps
Recently, the Mickey Mouse house has been revising its own titles, updating their old animations in photorealistic CGI remakes, and actually, they’ve found success so far. Efforts like 2017’s Beauty and the Beast and 2016’s The Jungle Book have gone down a treat; it’s no coincidence that they’ve invited the director of the latter – Jon Favreau – back for The Lion King.
Of course, we have a whole new cast, featuring the likes of Beyoncé (Nala), Donald Glover (Simba), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar) and so many other talents. James Earl Jones even reprises the role of Mufasa, proving that some performers are simply irreplaceable – which in turn, brings us to Zazu.
The Lion King 2019: Who voices Zazu?
As you can see, they’ve brought some exceptionally gifted people onto the project, and this has essentially rewarded the film with an unprecedented amount of buzz in the run-up to release.
Audiences have been keen to see how the fresh cast will nurture a new spark in old favourites. Considering both versions are musicals, the voice actors are one of – if not the most – important determiners of the films’ success. A fan favourite in the original was unquestionably Zazu, who added a nice, comic touch to the mix.
Here, the stress addled red-billed hornbill is voiced by the sensational John Oliver. Ring any bells? Well, he’s best known for HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which has seen him deliver more quick-witted rants than you can shake a feather at.
You may look at the satirical late-night talk show and think “hmm, that’s an odd choice.” On the other hand, it’s worth looking across his wider work. He’s lent his voice to numerous family films, including The Smurfs (he played Vanity) and 2019’s Wonder Park (Steve); he even voiced Dr. Xenon Bloom on Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty.
Did John Oliver deliver the perfect Zazu?
Declaring Zazu one of The Lion King’s best characters is bold, but then again, look at the man behind the original take.
Zazu was voiced in Disney’s 1994 film by the one-and-only Rowan Atkinson. It’s hard to know where to begin with someone like this, so we’ll start by saying he’s the iconic Mr. Bean. He’s given the world such beloved characters as Johnny English, Blackadder and beyond, so there’s no confusion as to why he’s considered a national treasure.
He was perfectly cast as Zazu, but really, John Oliver is an inspired choice. Both nail the nervous, uptight and sometimes hilariously bumbling nature of the character. You can see why John was cast, but let’s be honest, you’re never gonna top Rowan’s take, although it’s hard to think of anyone else who could’ve done the role more justice with a second approach.
The circle of life continues, so be sure to find The Lion King in cinemas everywhere from Friday, 19th July 2019.
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