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How Donald Glover Was Asked To Play Simba In The Lion King

Donald Glover as Simba in Lion King
(Image credit: (Disney))

Following his highly-successful and cutting-edge take on Disney’s The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau took the helm to retell The Lion King, arguably the animation studio’s most beloved film, with photo-realistic visuals and a jaw-dropping list of actors behind the voices. Among them was Donald Glover, a multifaceted talent who has found careers in stand-up comedy, his Grammy-winning music project Childish Gambino, television writing and acting roles such as Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Receiving the highly coveted call where you learn you're joining a major motion picture is something that’s always an exciting moment to hear about, and Donald Glover’s call with Jon Favreau sounds like it was quite casual. Check out how the Simba actor recalls it:

When I first heard Jon was doing it I was very excited because I really like The Jungle Book adaptation he did. And he was like ‘hey, I don’t know if you heard, but I’m making The Lion King.’ And I was like oh, yeah, yeah, congratulations.’ He was like ‘Do you wanna be Simba?’ It was like that.

No biggie. He was only asked to play one of the most iconic characters in modern cinema. And sing “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” with Beyoncé. And Quip lines with Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner’s Pumbaa and Timon in the studio. It's just another day in the life of Donald Glover, I’d assume.

In an interview on the Blu-Ray extras for The Lion King (opens in new tab) hitting shelves and online stores on Tuesday, Donald Glover explained the exchange. He also shared his initial thoughts about the massive role:

I never hesitated for a moment, I guess the only thing really scary is singing with Beyonce. That’s the only part where I’m, like ‘Y’all sure y’all want me to do this?’

As it turned out, he didn’t record his duet with Beyoncé live in the same room. Due to their other responsibilities around the world, they collaborated together by sending recordings back and forth to one another. Glover has expressed some relief because of her goddess-like status, saying it was a tad less intimidating to throw pieces of paper in the trash at home rather than play with Michael Jordan on the court.

Of course, The Lion King was phenomenal success among audiences. It effortlessly passed the $1 billion mark, becoming the second highest-grossing movie of 2019 and is heading toward nabbing Jurassic World’s No. 6 rank on the biggest movies at the box office of all time. The production used innovative visual technologies, with its production budget reportedly costing $260 million.

However, the “live-action” Lion King recieved some criticism as well, due to its borrowing of the original content right down to the lines and shots. Lion King songwriter Elton John recently called the remake a “huge disappointment,” pointing out that he felt the music was not done as he would have liked.

Donald Glover’s portrayal as Simba certainly brought about interest in audiences to revisit the movie years later, along with the rest of the star-studded cast.

Jon Favreau will unveil his next project with Disney later this year. The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars television show, comes to Disney+ on November 12.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.