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Circle of life: The Lion King returns to reign in new Disney primetime movie, TV series

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Cue the signature bellowing, African vocal as Rafiki raises a newborn Simba into the air: yes, as the circle of life might dictate, The Lion King will be resurrected once again through a new Disney primetime TV movie and TV series, reports Variety.

Disney is reportedly working on both a primetime movie, called The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar and a TV show, both based on the highly popular 1994 animated film.

Related: Alvin and the Chipmunks will grace the small screen once again

The short movie and following TV show will pass the torch and focus to Simba’s second-born cub Kion as he and his posse of friends known as The Lion Guard try to maintain order in the African jungle. A rebel of sorts, Kion has moved beyond the pride, and recruited other animals that he feels are heroic to join his group. The TV series, planned for early 2016, would presumably follow the story that’s introduced in the movie, drawn out into shorter episodes and skewed toward a young audience, airing on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. (Though, let’s face it, mom and dad who grew up in the ’90s will likely be just as excited to tune in for a dose of nostalgia.)

According to Nancy Kanter, Executive Vice President of Original Programming and General Manager at Disney Junior Worldwide, this wasn’t a rash decision made in the wake of a ton of other ‘90s comebacks. The venture has actually been in the making for the last four years.

Indeed, with a movie as big as The Lion King, which was well-received by critics, racked up tons of awards — including two Oscars for its music — and became known as the highest-grossing 2D animated film of all time in the U.S.,  it’s important to get things right and avoid tarnishing the brand’s reputation. The Lion King was so popular, in fact, that it spawned a Broadway musical full of beautiful costumes, makeup, and memorable music.

Not surprisingly, Disney spent the last 48 months pulling out all of the stops to create something worth watching, including consulting with wildlife education experts at its Animal Kingdom theme park to learn the typical characteristics of the animals in the show, and with Sarah Mirza, an author and expert in Swahili.

Perhaps most exciting is that the highly-recognizable voice of James Earl Jones won’t have to be replaced, as the actor will be reprising his role as Mufasa, Simba’s dad, along with Ernie Sabella, who will return as the voice of Pumbaa. Rob Lowe will voice Simba, who was voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick at different ages in the original flick; and Gabrielle Union will take over as mama lion Nala, originally voiced by Niketa Calame (young Nala) and Moira Kelly (adult Nala). Max Charles (The Neighbours, Harvey Beaks) will snag the starring role as the voice of Kion.

Others actors lending their vocal talents to new characters include Joshua Rush as Kion’s honey badger friend Bunga, Atticus Shaffer as an egret named Ono, Diamond White as Fuli, a cheetah, and Dusan Susan as Besthe the hippopotamus.

Naturally, this move would introduce The Lion King to a whole new generation of kids. The story, after all, is timeless. But how well will it perform with today’s audience? You know what they say: Hakuna Matata.

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Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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