Lion King
Movie stills from the 1994 movie (left) and the upcoming release Mufasa: The Lion King Image Credit: Disney

Get ready for a nostalgic journey back to the Pride Lands, the green Savannah from Disney’s iconic movie – The Lion King. This week, Disney unveiled a first look at their upcoming musical drama film, Mufasa: The Lion King.

A prequel to the 1994 film, the movie is set to be released this December. Fans across the world just can’t wait to find out the story behind the unlikely rise of Mufasa, one of the greatest and most beloved kings of the Pride Lands.

Known to be a kind, just, and wise leader, Mufasa is often counted among the best characters in Disney history. “Orphan, Outsider, King” – these are the words that describe Mufasa in the official poster of the movie, inducing curiosity among fans.

A timeless classic

From Generation X to the current Generation Alpha, the 1994 movie has equally touched hearts across different age groups, since its release.

For most fans, the animation movie still causes goosebumps, right from the first song where Rafiki, a mandrill who is the shaman of Pride Lands, holds up Mufasa’s son, Simba; right to the end of the movie, when Simba’s cub is held up.

The background score, ‘Circle of Life’, performed and composed by the legendary Elton John, became an anthem of sorts for the 90s kids around the world.

Not knowing the actual lyrics of the Zulu chant ‘Ah Zabenya’, the prelude to ‘Circle of Life’, didn’t stop young fans from belting it out confidently, while holding up pets or baby siblings.

That famous first line of the song is spelled: "Nants ingonyama, bagithi Baba." Translated into English, it means: "Here comes a lion, father."

Mufasa: An orphaned cub

The new Lion King trailer start with a narrator saying: “A lion was born without a drop of nobility in his blood.”

‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ will see Rafiki relaying the legend of Mufasa to young lion cub Kiara, daughter of Simba and Nala. Told in flashbacks, the story introduces Mufasa as an orphaned cub, lost and alone until he meets a sympathetic lion named Taka — the heir to a royal bloodline. The chance meeting sets in motion an expansive journey of an extraordinary group of misfits searching for their destiny — their bonds will be tested as they work together to evade a threatening and deadly foe.

Many are also eager to know the villain backstory for Scar, Mufasa’s brother. In the new movie, Scar will be referred to by his birth name Taka. Casting a spotlight onto Taka could add an inevitable layer of tragedy to the movie.

No matter the efforts made by Mufasa and Taka to settle their differences, audiences know the end of their relationship will come when the grown Scar kills Mufasa.

Star cast announced

On Disney’s official website, an all-star roster of talent was announced. Celebrated award-winning songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda is writing the film’s songs, which are produced by Mark Mancina and Miranda, with additional music and performances by Lebo M.

The photorealistic animation is directed by Barry Jenkins, written by Jeff Nathanson, and produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pastel Productions.

“The Lion King has an incredible musical legacy with music from some of the greatest songwriters around, and I’m humbled and proud to be a part of it. It’s been a joy working alongside Barry Jenkins to bring Mufasa’s story to life, and we can’t wait for audiences to experience this film in theaters,” Miranda said.

List of the new and returning cast members called on to lend their voices to the film:

  • Aaron Pierre as Mufasa
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Taka, a lion prince with a bright future who accepts Mufasa into his family as a brother
  • Tiffany Boone as Sarabi
  • Kagiso Lediga as Young Rafiki
  • Preston Nyman as Zazu
  • Mads Mikkelsen as Kiros, a formidable lion with big plans for his pride
  • Thandie Newton as Taka’s mother, Eshe
  • Lennie James as Taka’s father, Obasi
  • Anika Noni Rose as Mufasa’s mother, Afia
  • Keith David as Mufasa’s father, Masego
  • John Kani as Rafiki
  • Seth Rogen as Pumbaa
  • Billy Eichner as Timon
  • Donald Glover as Simba
  • Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala
  • The movie will introduce Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, as Kiara, daughter of King Simba and Queen Nala
  • Additional casting includes Braelyn Rankins, Theo Somolu, Folake Olowofoyeku, Joanna Jones, Thuso Mbedu, Sheila Atim, Abdul Salis and Dominique Jennings.

Blending live-action filmmaking techniques with photoreal computer-generated imagery, ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ is set to be shown in theatres on December 20.