The legacy of The Lion King is unparalleled. The 1994 Animated Musical not only went on to win universal acclaim, but also outstanding commercial success, grossing almost $1 billion internationally, spawning various stage productions of it. The torch is handed off to multi-talented Jon Favreau to tell this story theatrically to a new generation of fans. Expectations are high for this upcoming Remake, which utilizes cutting-edge realism and an all-star Cast which has just about everybody circling their calendars in preparation for its July release.
The Cain and Abel-like story centers on a lion named Simba (Donald Glover) who is destined for greatness as Crown Prince of the Pridelands, in line to succeed his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones). He is derailed into exhile by his father’s ambitious brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and it is up to Simba to reclaim what rightfully is his.
The starpower is staggering as the Supporting Cast is rounded-out by Alfre Woodard, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner and Beyoncé.
See the Trailer:
Daytime Emmy winner Billy Eichner, known widely for his energetic and spontaneous brand of humour on Game Show Billy on the Street, plays wisecracking meerkat Timon, paired with slow-thinking warthog Pumbaa (Seth Rogen). The Funnyman is in Toronto to promote the release of what many are calling the cinematic event of the Summer and we are delighted to speak to him.
Eichner describes himself to us as mix of Theatre and Comedy worlds and he admits he likes this space. He also feels he is in a unique position being of an old school Theatre background, but also speaking to the new school in this Social Media age. In this upcoming Remake, he sings beloved Hakuna Matata and even jokes that he’s on a Track with Beyoncé as Timon sings a snippet of the Film’s centerpiece number, Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
We ask Eichner to tell us about the casting process and his reaction to being cast as Timon.
Eichner: “It was pretty shocking. I literally got a cold call from my agent that Jon Favreau wanted me to be in The Lion King. I had no preparation for it. I didn’t audition for it. I don’t think he auditioned anyone for it actually, maybe the kids?” . He adds, “I knew Jon and I knew he was a big Billy on the Street fan, but I’ve never worked with him before and literally I was shocked.” .
At the time our conversation, we still had not seen this latest incarnation of The Lion King. Curious, we ask Eichner how different it is from its Predecessor.
Eichner: “It’s completely different. Because of this, our vocal performances have to match the photo-realism of the Movie. They’re using some state-of-the-art technology, Virtual Reality and things I don’t comprehend. They put a helmet on me at some point and I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. I’m just here to try to be funny’.” .
“The Movie just looks incredible. It looks so real and it is really breathtaking.” . While he realizes he really doesn’t have to do much to sell The Lion King to us since it is so well-loved, he reveals, “It’s such a nice escape from the real world and the daily onslaught of everything.” .
Eichner is known for his energetic and fast-thinking on Billy on the Street, where often he brings a notable name onto the street, giving New Yorkers a real shock and delight. We ask how different it is for him working in a controlled framework and a Script.
Eichner: “I’ve done scripted things before like American Horror Story. I would improvise and they would be like ‘What are you doing?’. But in The Lion King, the way that Jon wanted to do it, he encouraged us to riff and improvise. And a lot of our Improv remained in the final cut of the Movie. And I was surprised, I thought maybe we were just doing it as an exercise. It really gives this version of Timon and Pumbaa a really unique feel. Me and Seth Rogen aren’t going to sound like the original characters (voiced respectively by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella), so I’m guessing there was a lot of spontaneity and Improv involved and I’m guessing that’s what Jon Favreau really wanted since he cast me and he knew that’s my background.” .
Walt Disney Studios Canada release THE LION KINGThursday, July 18, 2019.
(Photo/video credit: Mr. Will Wong/Walt Disney Studios Canada)