Besides the fact that it was a remake of one of the most beloved children’s films ever, the biggest thing The Lion King had going for it was its cast. Donald Glover and Beyoncé as Simba and Nala. Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as Timon and Pumbaa. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. But with the possible exception of James Earl Jones—who had an unfair advantage in reprising his role as Mufasa—the best fit between actor and part had to be John Oliver as Zazu, the red-billed hornbill.
“He was born to play Zazu,” producer John Bartnicki succinctly puts it in a new behind-the-scenes clip about the film, posted ahead of its home video release.
And it’s not just because Zazu is kind of uptight and Oliver often makes fun of his own uptight Britishness. He has a real fondness for the character, as seen in a brief interview.
“I liked Zazu when I was a kid. I’ve always like a wisecracking bird and now I am that wisecracking bird,” Oliver said.
His transition from extremely well-researched absurdist late-night host to wisecracking bird was a close to seamless as possible. Perhaps making jokes at the expense of the Trump administration and anti-vaxxers made it easier for Oliver to joke around with lions.
He seems very at ease in the studio, literally red with laughter, something that definitely came out in his performance.
The Lion King is available to stream on October 11 and on Blu-ray on October 22.