By Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Disney’s modern retelling of “The Lion King” roars into theaters this weekend looking a lot more real than ever.

The film, directed by Jon Favreau, journeys to the African Savanna where a future king is born.

Simba is destined to be a mighty king from the moment he’s born, but the over confident cub learns from his parents to respect the circle of life.

Playing the young Simba is 11-year-old singer and YouTube star JD McCrary who spoke to CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo along with his co-star Shahadi Wright Joseph, who plays the young Nala.

Shahadi also portrayed the young Nala in the Broadway production of “The Lion King,” who explained the difference between performing live on stage and this film.

“I think when you are voice acting you really have to bring the character through your voice, you don’t have your body to support you so it’s extra challenging,” said Shahadi.

This new Lion King is an evolution of storytelling technology that blends live-action filmmaking techniques with photo real computer-generated imagery. Environments were designed to create state-of-the-art virtual-reality or VR tools that allowed all involved to feel as they were actually standing in Africa.

“We saw the elephant graveyard, we saw the watering hole and we were just flying around like Xazu and other birds, it was the best experience,” Shahadi explained.

“It was pretty cool, the whole process. It was nice we are together acting out as a team!” said JD.

Both young actors were very excited over who played the older versions of their characters.

For Simba, it is actor and singer Donald Glover.  For Nala, it is the one and only Beyoncé.

“I think I definitely was really excited to meet her and take a picture with her and really talk to her and she is playing Nala and she inspires me every day,” said Shahadi.

The Lion King roars into theaters Friday, July 19. It’s rated PG.


Lisa Petrillo