Meet the Lion King Characters
Barbara Robertson
September 4, 2019

Meet the Lion King Characters

The revered characters starring in the 2019 version of The Lion King were voiced by some major star power as well.


The Crown Prince of Pride Lands. Donald Glover (adult lion), JD McCrary (young lion)

“Adam Valdez [visual effects supervisor] and his team at MPC did a spectacular job grooming young Simba’s fur,” says Andy Jones, animation supervisor. “And, animating the character was really fun. But his mouth is so small and furry, it was hard to sell that he was talking. It took a lot of back and forth. When I saw adult Simba, I thought, ‘Whoa!’ We’ve made such big steps in the groom quality, the render quality, and the performance of these animals.”


Simba’s father, the King of Pride Lands. James Earl Jones

“We did a lot with Mufasa’s head position,” says Jones. “He holds his head high. He walks with attitude to show Simba how to carry himself as king. We can’t change the mood with eyebrows – that would be too human. But we found head position conveys a lot of intention.”


Simba’s childhood friend and future love interest. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

“Nala as a cub had a design that was a little less realistic, which made it complicated to animator her,” says Jones. “Female and male cubs look similar, so we had to push her look. This was even tricky with the adult lionesses. It’s hard to tell one from the other, so it became about their voices. Adult Nala, though, is easy to tell apart.”


Mufasa’s friend, the mandrill shaman of Pride Lands. John Kani

“I think Rafiki was the most difficult,” says Jones. “We slowed him down, which gave him more scale. But it made him more human. So we struggled with that in the physical shots. What’s cool is that he was really well designed. I’m proud of what the animators did for his facial performance.”


A red-billed hornbill, majordomo to the king. John Oliver

“Jon thought he would be hard, but he ended up being a lot easier to animate,” says Jones. “John Oliver gave us a fun performance for this small but proud bird. And talking wasn’t tricky. We’ve seen birds talk. We had controls to have his feathers flare up and down to give him more of a performance.”


Simba’s treacherous uncle. Chiwetel Ejiofor

“Scar was everyone’s favorite,” says Jones. “Scar’s head is down when he’s gotten the short end of the stick. As soon as he gets power, we held his head up. But it’s not natural to him to be a leader. So, it was fun to put that into his scenes. Chiwetel Ejiofor has a subtle depth that fit the tone of our movie.”