The Lion King is slowly becoming the center of Disney’s marketing attention. With nearly 10 days to release, the Mouse House is sparing no expense throwing out TV Spots and dishing new footage a lot more frequently. It’s also gradually relaxing the embargoes it had issued on its cast and directors, the result of which is that we’re starting to see interviews pop up about the cast talking the film.
One of these interviews is with Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, who voice Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King respectively. Among the many things the duo talk about is their process of collaborating on the movie which, they explained, was different from others in that they were together for pretty much the entire time when voicing their characters. Usually, actors voice over characters in animated films separately, with the resultant editing making it sound like they were all in the same room. But the chemistry shared by Timon & Pumbaa demanded that the actors physically be in the same room to play off each other, something which they claim shows in their performance.
Rogen: We were actually together. That was really different, and you can tell when you watch the movie. Our rapport is incredibly naturalistic, and we really play off one another in a way that would have been impossible if we weren’t actually there in the room together. Weirdly it’s one of the most naturalistic performances I’ve ever given, and I play a warthog.
Eichner: [Laughs] It’s a beautiful transformation. Seth is absolutely right: Usually because of logistics or people’s schedules, you record your part separate from the other voice actors, and they just edit it together in post and make it sound like you were all in the same room. For this movie, we were always together. Even the scenes with Donald, we were all there for “Hakuna Matata.” It allowed us to really lean into our improv skills. I haven’t seen the final cut, but from the rough cut we’re overlapping with each other so you can just sense we’re in the room together. It makes all the difference in the world.
The meerkat and warthog’s pairing and impeccable comic timing was one of the chief reasons for the success of the 1992 original animated classic. As such, it’s great to see Rogen and Eichner have tried their best to reflect the duo’s chemistry and banter as naturally as possible, and that comes only from voicing them together. You can play off each other a lot more fluidly in this case as opposed to if you were voicing actors separately and I’m positive this will show in their respective performances.
Among the other interesting things they talked about were their memories about singing the original songs from the movie, especially the iconic Hakuna Matata which we got to hear briefly in Disney’s featurette. They described replicating them as being an intimidating process, largely because they’ve been fans of the movie since childhood and like countless others have it memorized. They tried capturing the original flavor of the songs while also trying to make them their own, as they explain in their respective quotes below:
Rogen: It’s fun because you grow up with them. There was a certain exercise in my head of not being too familiar with the original version. Your first instinct is, “I’ll go listen to the original version and remind myself of what it was like.” The instinct that served me better was to not do that specifically and really trust that Jon would guide me to do all the things that he thought were necessary in order to make the song hit.
Eichner: The songs were probably one of the more intimidating parts to record in terms of having to walk this fine line of nodding to the original and certain elements of the original performances that people just love and would be disappointed not to hear again, but also finding ways to make it our own. Especially “Hakuna Matata” — that song is ingrained in people’s heads. Once you get past the first few takes, you start to fall into your own rhythm. Eventually the anxiety wears off, but that’s a big one to take on.
To conclude, a segment in the interview indeed does discuss Disney’s strictly moderated press on the movie and its reluctance to show off more footage about the movie, an aspect that we’ve noticed time and again.
Be sure to check out the entire interview at Variety through the source link below. The Lion King releases in theaters on July 19, 2019.