My Reaction to the Casting of Disney’s Aladdin, The Lion King, Mary Poppins and Dumbo at D23.

My Reaction to the Casting of Disney’s Aladdin, The Lion King, Mary Poppins and Dumbo at D23.

As a geniune film lover, I grew up on Disney like so many others.  Disney movies are in a league of their own mainly because the studio has created so many timeless classics. I don’t think that any other studio has released so many films that have defined generations upon generations. It all started with the Snow White and has continued for over 70 years.

Today at the D23 Expo, Disney went a little crazy and started to annouce their casting choices for several of their planned upcoming live action remakes. These are modern day reimaginings of many of their beloved animated classics. Now, while I am not against the idea of remaking of these films for new generations to enjoy, I do have some feelings towards the casting choices. I want to point out before I begin that these are my opinions and my opinions alone. If you don’t agree, feel free to share why in the comments below.

Disney’s Aladdin

I realize that many under the age of 30 absolutely adore The Lion King and while I do love that film, I have to admit that Aladdin resonated with me more. I remember seeing Aladdin at the Dunellen theater in NJ as a child. My aunt took me to see it and I remember failing in love with the music as well as Robin Williams as the Genie. A live action remake of this film was inevitable because let’s be honest, Aladdin like most of the other films on this list is regarded as a disney classic that was even turned into a Broadway musical.

Mena Massoud as Aladdin – I don’t know anything about this actor but he looks the part. I think it is rather wise that Disney has chosen a lesser known actor to play a lead character than someone like Dev Patel, who was rumored before the news broke.

Naomi Scott as Jasmine – Perfect. I think Scott was dynamite in Power Rangers earlier this year and she has great potential as an actress. I look forward to seeing her in this role, my only concern is that I hope it doesn’t stop her from reprising her role as Kimberly in the Power Rangers sequel.

Will Smith as Genie – I hate being THAT guy but no one will be able to top Robin Williams as the Genie. I know that they are going for the diversity angle with this one and while I generally like Will Smith as an actor, I don’t think he is a good choice because in his previous voice work in Shark Tale wasn’t too great or memorable. I think Smith is a brand name which is how he got the role but he is also somewhat distracting considering the two leads aren’t that well-known and then Smith is this big name that everyone knows. I think this was a pretty generic pick and one that could have been better.

Guy Ritchie – Director – I don’t get this. I don’t like it. I don’t want him to be part of it. I don’t hate Guy Ritchie like some critics do but I think he makes mediocre action films that are style over substance. The great thing about Aladdin is the music and the characters. Ritchie’s last two films weren’t great and him being part of such a huge family film, a genre that he has no experience with, makes this guy very nervous.

Disney’s The Lion King

Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase. It means no worries, for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy, Hakuna Matata!

Jon Favreau – Director – After seeing The Jungle Book, I am not shocked that Disney picked Favreau as the director for the live action  remake of one of their most beloved animated classics. After proving his skillset with The Jungle Book in 2016, I am certain that Favreau will knock this one out of the park.

Hugh Jackman – Scar (RUMORED) – This hasn’t been officially confirmed but I am in-different towards this choice. I love Jackman but honestly, I don’t know if he is the right voice choice for this role especially given his singing ability. Why not cast him as a character that actually sings unless there is going to be a baddie song that will be new to this live action version.

John Oliver – Zazu – While Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) was pretty great as the original Zazu, I think John Oliver is a good choice for this live-action remake. I think he will be able to capture the same comedic timing as  Rowan Atkinson and since he is more well known to American audiences, this should work out nicely for Disney when it comes time to promote the voice cast.

Seth Rogen – Pumbaa – It is no secret that I am not a big fan of Seth Rogen’s comedy but honestly the bigger issue with him being hired to voice Pumbaa is that Rogen’s voice is so distracting. I feel like it is going to be incredibly to forget that Rogen is voicing this character and will only distract me from enjoying what made Nathan Lane so perfect for the part.

Donald Glover – Simba – Great choice as Glover has a wide range of talent and a great vocal range. I think he is a perfect choice.

James Earl Jones – Mufasa – He nailed it in the 1993 animated classic so I am sure he will do it again in live action form. This does brings up a big question, if so many of the original voice actors are alive and working, why not just have them reprise their roles? This doesn’t make much sense.

Billy Eichner – Timon – I am indifferent towards Eichner as a comedic actor on television shows like Parks and Recreation and Difficult People because he seems to be playing the same type of role over and over again. I think his voice fits Timon but given the fact that Timon and Pumbaa are so iconic, I am not overly thrilled with either choice. 

Disney’s Dumbo

Michael Keaton – YES! YES! YES! I love Michael Keaton and I firmly believe he can take on any role and do it justice. The fact that he is reteaming with Burton after so many years makes me so incredibly excited. He is rumored to be playing the villain which we all know Keaton can do without any problem.

Colin Farrell – I find Farrell to be rather hit or miss as an actor. I don’t know why but he is one of those actors who always rubbed me the wrong way and I never found myself walking out of any film which he starred in saying “wow, he was fantastic in that.” I think depending on how big his role is in the film, it could be fine but I am not sold on this casting choice at the moment.

Danny DeVito – Love me some DeVito and the actor teaming up with Burton again is another dream come true for me. I can see DeVito fitting perfectly into this story as most of it takes place around a circus. I think DeVito will slay it.

Eva Green – This is another actress that I don’t get the hype that surrounds her. Yes, she’s beautiful but I don’t recall ever been blown away by her performance per say. I know that Burton works with her often as she was in Dark Shadows as well as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children but those two films were some of Burton’s weaker ones as of late. I won’t write her off yet but I can’t say this casting choice makes me excited.

Tim Burton – Tim Burton’s career started at Disney. I love The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie, and Ed Wood. I realize that Tim Burton’s latest projects have been rather hit and miss but when Burton is passionate about something, he usually kills it. Dumbo was a very dark and depressing film so I think Burton will do the material justice.

Mary Poppins Returns

Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins – Great choice. I love Blunt as an actress and she has proven she can take on any role and make the most of it. I have no worries that she will be able to do the same with this iconic character.

Lin-Manuel Miranda – Jack – I am on-board for Lin-Manuel Miranda to be in anything musical related. The man is so charming and has redefined music with Moana and Hamilton. This is perfect.

Meryl Streep -Topsy – It’s Meryl Streep. Do I need to say anything else? No, I didn’t think so.

Colin Firth – Between his British comedies and dramas, I don’t think it is remotely surprising at all that Firth is now part of the Mary Poppins Universe.

Rob Marshall – Director – I liked the fourth Pirates movie more than most so I am curious what he will do with this. I am also one of the few 30 something men who grew up and appreciated Mary Poppins. I am not sold on Marshall directing it but I think with this great cast, they will make him shine.

Please let me know what you think about the casting and directors in the comments below.

Written by
Born in New Jersey, Scott "Movie Man" Menzel has been a film fanatic since he was three years old. Growing up, he watched as many movies as he could and was highly influenced by Tim Burton, John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis, and Steven Spielberg. Scott has an Associates Degree in Marketing, a Bachelors in Mass Media, Communications and a Masters in Electronic Media. He has been writing film reviews under the alias of MovieManMenzel since 2003 and started his writing career as a contributing critic at IMDB.com and Joblo.com. In 2009, Scott launched MovieManMenzel.com where he posted several of his film reviews but in 2011 decided to shut down the site when he launched We Live Film.com, which he founded. In 2015, We Live Film became We Live Entertainment. The domain name changed occurred after months of debate but was done so that he and his fellow staff members could write about anything and everything in the world of entertainment.

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