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Disney is rolling out remakes of its classic animated films and one of the biggest hot ticket items is the new The Lion King. Directed by Jon Favreau, the movie utilizes an absolutely star-studded voice cast that includes Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, James Earl Jones, and freakin' Beyonce. Likewise, the original Lion King voice cast was nothing to shake a stick at, consisting of Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones (again), and Nathan Lane. But this cast could have been a little different, because Eddie Murphy was apparently up for the role of Timon.
We considered Eddie Murphy for Timon, but Nathan [Lane] and Ernie [Sabella] brought this great stupid-funny thing to it that worked really well. It's a heavy story, about a lion cub who gets framed for murder, so you need this lightness on the side, and they were able to provide it.
It's funny to think of now considering the movie's ultimate legacy, but The Lion King was seen as an underdog when it was first conceived. After successful hits like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, The Lion King was seen as a gamble because it was not based on a fairy tale and starred no human characters. There's also the fact that it featured the on-screen death of the main character's father, which was dark for a 1994 animated movie. Perhaps all these factors led to Disney seeking some comedy star power to brighten up the film, which put Eddie Murphy into consideration.
Entertainment Weekly had some of the cast and producers of The Lion King talk about the making of the classic animated film, and among the interesting tidbits they dropped, producer Don Hahn revealed Eddie Murphy was up for the role of Timon. That role ultimately went to Nathan Lane, and it's admittedly tough to picture anyone else doing the part. While Murphy definitely had the comedic chops, the role of Timon is entirely dependent on chemistry with Pumbaa, and the same is true for the voice actors. A lot of Timon and Pumbaa's characteristics and jokes were based on adlibs and interactions between Lane and Ernie Sabella during the recording process. In fact, they auditioned for the parts together (though they originally were going to play hyenas) and it was their chemistry that led to being cast as the two sidekicks.
Eddie Murphy would still get his moment to shine in a Disney movie. A few years later, he was cast as Mushu in Mulan, which fits him a bit better. Mushu definitely capitalized on Murphy's comedic energy and gave him plenty of spotlight to help leave his mark.
You can see the newest version of The Lion King when it hits theaters on July 19, 2019. To find out more, here's everything we know so far.