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Jon Favreau on The Lion King’s predominantly black cast

AUTHENTICITY: Jon Favreau directs a predominately black cast in The Lion King

IF YOU’VE already seen Disney’s The Lion King, which was released in cinemas yesterday, you’ll no doubt have noticed that the animal characters are voiced by a predominantly black cast. While it seems an obvious choice for a story inspired by and set in Africa, whitewashing is an all too familiar Hollywood tale and has historically meant talented black actors have been denied opportunities.

We spoke to The Lion King's director Jon Favreau about the black representation in the live action re-imagination of this Disney classic.

“First of all, every performer is top choice regardless of [what colour they are] great performers, great voices, great singers. Second of all, I think, you know, you want to update it – it’s 2019,” Favreau told The Voice.

He added: “I looked at what changed from the original production to the stage show and they brought more authenticity and reality to the music, to the art direction, to the casting and I think we live in a small world now where people demand authenticity. And I think it draws attention to what inspired the story in the first place so I think it created a better experience I think that’s what it is now.”

Pharrell, who worked as a music producer on The Lion King referred to Favreau as the genius behind the casting decision.

“A lot of it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for him pushing for those things,” he told The Voice.

Florence Kasumba, who plays hyena Shenzi, has already been part of one major Hollywood film lauded for, many things, including its predominantly black cast.

She told us about the significance of the casting in this remake.

“It’s always important to represent because I remember when I grew up I didn’t have that many movies that I saw when I thought, oh I can relate to the characters or I see myself, so when it comes to that, I really like the fact that all of us can tell the story and people know the faces behind and think, you know what, this is what I can become too," she said.

She added: “Yeah there have been a lot of black people cast for the movie but I think there have been a lot of really talented people. It’s not just, I’m not just black, you know...it’s not just my colour, it’s also talent that’s behind that."

See our interview with The Lion King’s Scar, Chiwetel Ejiofor on The Voice YouTube channel.

The Lion king is in cinemas now.

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