Lion King Director Jon Favreau Explains Why He Brought James Earl Jones Back As Mufasa

Mufasa surveying his kingdom with his son in The Lion King

Jon Favreau recruited an all-star cast of actors to provide the character voices in his upcoming 'live-action' remake of The Lion King. Donald Glover, Beyoncé and Seth Rogen replaced the likes of Matthew Broderick, Moira Kelly and Ernie Sabella from the original 1994 film, but there was one actor who wasn’t replaced. James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa in the remake, and speaking about why he brought him back, Jon Favreau explained:

I see it as carrying the legacy across. Just hearing him say the lines is really moving and surreal.

The legacy of The Lion King is a heavy one; the original film represents the zenith of Disney’s Renaissance and remains one of the studio’s most iconic movies. The fact that it is being remade in and of itself continues the legacy of that movie in a way, but Jon Favreau wanted to have an even greater connection between the two and brought back James Earl Jones to carry that legacy across.

So the baton is not so much being passed as James Earl Jones just gets to run another race with a whole new team. And although Jon Favreau doesn’t say it, if there is one voice that couldn’t be replaced, you would have to think it would be James Earl Jones’ Mufasa. His voice is so recognizable, powerful and full of gravitas that it would be a fool’s errand for anyone who replaced him to live up to his iconic Mufasa.

That makes James Earl Jones the natural choice to carry The Lion King legacy forward and help retell this story for a new generation. Getting to hear that iconic voice sounds like it was an amazing experience for director Jon Favreau. As he told Empire, hearing James Earl Jones speak the lines was surreal and I expect it will be the same for audiences when they see the film and get to hear Mufasa again.

Yet, although those of us who grew up with The Lion King should feel right at home with James Earl Jones’ Mufasa, his voice won’t be exactly the same this time around, as Jon Favreau went on to explain:

The timbre of his voice has changed. That served the role well because he sounds like a king who’s ruled for a long time

It seems that like a fine wine, James Earl Jones’ voice has only improved with age and his Mufasa in the live-action remake will sound even more wise, powerful and majestic. The change in the timbre of James Earl Jones’ voice may be one of the only changes for Mufasa though.

Jon Favreau has previously indicated that Mufasa’s dialogue is still relevant, and without the need to update it, it hasn’t really been changed for the new film. On the one hand, you don’t want to mess with perfection, but hopefully we’ll still get some new lines from James Earl Jones that further flesh out Mufasa and help differentiate this newer performance and the film itself.

The Lion King roars into theaters on July 19. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to prep for all of this summer’s biggest movies.

Nick Evans

Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.