Disney’s THE LION KING – Classroom Education Series – Part 3: Meet the Characters


Everyone has their favorite character in THE LION KING,   whether it’s the wise-cracking meerkat Timon or Simba’s evil uncle Scar.   We talked to some of the performers who’ve starred in THE LION KING around the world   to get their thoughts on the characters that they bring to life onstage.   He’s a diverse character, that’s what Simba is. He’s just a restless wanderer.   He’s just wandering around, jumping around, trying to find a better place.   ‘Cause he’s traveling through the jungle with Timon and Pumbaa, so he’s putting on this front of –   you know – I’m energetic, I’m young, I’m just going to have fun with you guys.   But at the same time he’s got a lot of emotional baggage.   It’s not until Simba’s able to open himself to what his father taught him all those years ago   that he’s able to complete his journey into manhood and into becoming the king he’s meant to be.   When Nala shows up in the picture, that’s when he has to really face the fact that   things happened in his past that he really, really needs to confront.   Nala is Simba’s best friend, and they grew up together and they are inseparable.   She’s very strong, feisty, and she’s very brave. When Simba goes away, Nala feels really left alone.   She sees what happens to all of the Pridelands and what it’s going to be under the dictatorship of Scar.   At that moment, at 10 years old, she needs to grow up and   she needs to be the person that’s going to speak up for her people.   She thinks Simba is dead. And then Scar decides that she should be his queen   and so she feels she must flee and leave.   But she vows to her family that she will return. She’ll be back.   When Nala says “Giza buyabo,” that’s exactly what it means, translated out. Giza buyabo, I will return.   …I’ll remember my pride. Giza buyabo. Giza buyabo. I will return…   Nala is a strong woman. She’s the one who comes in with the power,   and the strength, and the heart, and conviction to take care of her people.   Mufasa is Simba’s father and he is the king of the Pridelands. He cares about his subjects,   the other animals in the Pridelands, and he cares about his family as well.   Mufasa is very important to me because of what he represents.   He’s a good leader who is cut down in his prime and that’s something we’re all afraid of:   that we’ll have good leaders who won’t be there to guide us.   He is a nurturer, a caring man, he is a teacher, and he is the essence of a king.   In the scene under the stars, Mufasa talks to Simba about the fact that he won’t be around all of the time.   But the ancestors are all there watching over Simba, and helping him if he’s ever in trouble.   So in that sense there is a spirituality to Mufasa.   Well, Scar is the brother of the present king.   He feels that he’s been passed over; he feels that he deserves to be on the throne.   But now there’s a new child born into the Pridelands and Scar has a rival for that throne.   And that does not make him happy.   It builds such resentment in how he feels towards his brother that he becomes   the opposite of what his brother is. He takes all of this energy and uses it in bad ways.   Scar actually thinks that he should have been the first king, instead of Mufasa, way back when.   But if something happened to Mufasa, Scar assumes that he would be the next king.   He begins a series of dastardly events that end up getting him into a lot of trouble in the end.   The first character that we meet in the show is Rafiki.   And the first sound you hear is this cry across the savannah announcing that the king is born.   Nants’ ngonya…   When I compare the characters between the film and the stage show,   Rafiki is the one who emerges most because we get so much more time with Rafiki.   There was always this problem, really, because the first song in THE LION KING   is the “Circle of Life” and in the movie it’s a female voice.   So this made sense, because now we had Rafiki being the person who would sing that.   She really became an important person in expanding and bringing   something major to this piece that’s not in the animated cartoon.   He’s a very funny character, but he does not have the spirituality that Rafiki now has.   She is in South African terms what’s called a sangoma.   And a sangoma is able to interpret things from the past, and is able to see the future,   and is able to heal, and is able to guide spiritually for the community.   In the community they are the ones who help people to realize that   even when someone died in the family you don’t forget about that person.   You always remember that person, you can ask things and we believe that they will help us back.   I love Rafiki because she has a crazy wisdom.   We don’t always understand why she’s telling us what she’s telling us, but it does add up.   She helps Simba realize his role in the Pride Rock.   She’s the one that really opens his eyes as to what he needs to do to become the man he’s meant to be.   By having South African actresses play Rafiki, we get a much richer cultural view of the   African element coming in to the show and we get a sense of their culture and we hear their language.   Not only was a great role created for a woman, but a woman that’s both spiritual/soulful and humorous.   She needs to be there and she needs to be this spiritual woman, this sangoma, the real sangoma.   Zazu is the king Mufasa’s majordomo. He’s the assistant to the king.   His job is to keep the king informed of what’s going on in the kingdom and to make sure protocol is followed   from the elephants down to the moles and everything. He tries to keep everything in order.   He can make the king laugh, he can give the king great insight. And yet he’s this tiny, little bird.   He’s the one who’s able to give him advice on his son, and on how to handle situations that no one else can do.   When the kids are running around he’s supposed to take care of them and advise them   and show them how things are supposed to be done.   And since they’re kids they don’t really want to listen to an old bird trying to tell them what to do,   or what the good thing to do or the bad thing to do is.   And of course, he gets in trouble himself.   Timon seems like he has all the wits about him, but he really doesn’t and he actually relies a lot on Pumbaa.   Pumbaa’s a lot smarter than he thinks and what Timon gives him credit for.   He relies on Simba’s strength and Timon’s wits to get by,   but he serves a purpose as sort of the mediator between the two.   I think that Timon and Pumbaa come into Simba’s life at the perfect moment.   He’s lost his father, he’s lost his home, and he’s run, and run, and run until he’s exhausted.   You know, there’s a line that Timon says:   “When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.”   And I think they finally realize that that isn’t always the best philosophy.   They’ve turned their backs on their responsibilities; they’re just out for themselves.   And in watching Simba they realize they can be part of something too.  

100 Comments

  1. Being a teen/kid and not getting to know the children role's and who plays them sort of upsets me. They are equally import as Zazu or Scar…I think they should of had an interview that made it on this clip.

  2. @bunnehlover13 I agree 100%! The children are very important! Maybe they were at school, I guess they have to go when they're not performing in a huge musical 😉

  3. did u know this is actually the popular musical i know of and they travel across the world
    so its also for popular to the world

  4. the lion king is my favorite musical, and movie of all time! the costumes are AMAZING in this!! loved it when i saw it in new york. i hope everyone gets to have the experience of seing this!

  5. Когда вы покажите мюзикл в Россие,When you show a musical in Russia

  6. @DisneyOnBroadway  Nice character list but it's disapointing that Sarabi and Shenzi,Banzai, and Ed don't get their own character interviews. Yes I know they are more supporting characters but at least they have a purpose and have their own story. Sarabi's another strong female character and Simba's mother. While Shenzi, Banzai and Ed are Scar's minions who would later get betrayed and eat up their own leader Besides those 3 hyenas are my favorite characters besides Timon and Pumbaa. If you do a newer one PLEASE,,,,,Include them too!

  7. It is NOT a woman who sings circle of life in the animated film don't let this documentary confuse you about that part. It's a MAN NOT A WOMAN!

  8. Rafiki has ALWAYS been my favorite Lion King character. I love that Ben Vereen voiced him in the original film, and I <3 <3 <3 that Julie Taymor cast Rafiki as female in the stage version, and I love the spirituality and Shamanic wisdom of the character. Rafiki is really the story's narrator. So, for me, there would be no Lion King without Rafiki.

  9. my mom knows Jeff binder (zazu) and I got to see the lion King on broad way, meet the cast and got to see all the costumes. it was pretty cool

  10. what about sarabi?? i played her in lion king jr and i had to put forth my best acting efforts to portray the qualities of a leader that is a so regal yet built with so much fire within themselves! the scene where sarabi confronts scar is where i had to REALLY act and feel the tension!

  11. Not being mean but… The fact that the guy who plays Timon is "Chubby" and the guy who plays Pumbaa is thin makes me laugh

  12. K, wheres Shenzi, banzai, ed, zazu, and sarabi? I understand they arent as important but they should be included too.

  13. What about young nala? I’m her in my play and she’s important too. She used to be young, sassy and innocent until she had to grow up to early due to the death of her best friend and the king.

  14. Nola is my favorite. And I’m so lucky cause I get to play her. But I’m so scared to sing Shadowland. Wish me luck lol

  15. Rafiki was NOT a "funny" character first and foremost, he had more vitrue than anyone. He's EXACTLY how they described the stage version, they just want to believe that they changed something, but they want to believe that animation is an inferior medium. Horrible, ignorant interpretation of a wonderful character.
    Also, they could have easily made him a trans man rather than a woman to get a ""female"" voice.

  16. Did anyone notice that in the original lion king, Simba’s hair was red, but in the Disney Channel series, The Lion Guard, Kion has red hair too??? And Kion is Simba and Nala’s child!? Welp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *