Share this news

Following huge ratings for its precursor TV movie in November, Disney’s ”The Lion King Guard” series will premiere Friday morning, January 15, the cabler announced on Wednesday. Following the debut, the premiere episode will encore throughout the weekend on both the Disney Channel and Disney Junior. Meanwhile, one of The Lion King’s performers spoke with Zap2it about encountering and working with some household names. . . .

How is it for you, 21 years after the original release of “The Lion King,” to be voicing the character Pumbaa again in “The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar” — both the introductory movie (seen on Nov. 22nd), and the subsequent series?

Ernie Sabella: Well, to be Uncle Pumbaa now is fantastic! This is a whole new chapter, and I hope it continues. I mean, to be with Simba’s kids now, it’s just amazing.

Zap2it: Is it comforting to you that James Earl Jones also returns from the original film in the “Lion Guard” movie?

Ernie: It is. I saw Mr. Jones in a Broadway show, “You Can’t Take It With You,” and I went backstage and he said [emulating Jones’ deep voice]: “We are doing ‘The Lion Guard!’ ” He was so thrilled about it.

 Zap2it: At the beginning, did you have any notion that the “Lion King” franchise would turn out to be what it’s become?

Ernie: Oh, of course not. Nathan Lane [the original voice of ‘Timon’] and I were doing “Guys and Dolls” on Broadway in 1992, and we went to an audition for [the voices of] the hyenas. Two months later, he said, “Have you heard anything?” I said, “No” … and that night, my agent called and said, “OK, you’re playing Pumbaa, and Nathan is Timon.”

The next day, we were in the elevator of one of those great old New York buildings, going up to the floor where [“Lion King” composers] Tim Rice and Elton John and all these people were. The elevator opened up, and there they were, right in front of us. And as we were walking slowly toward them, we didn’t utter a sound, scared that we would lose the jobs because we couldn’t remember what we’d sounded like [at the audition]. I just said something and they laughed, and I thought, “OK. I’m on the right track.”