It’s probably fair to say that Seth Rogen is better known for his comedic talents than musical ability. After being cast in 2019’s musical drama “The Lion King”, many wondered whether or not Rogen can actually sing.
Seth Rogen sings in “The Lion King“, part of his role as Pumbaa. While Rogen provides the character’s vocals for the film’s rendition of “Hakuna Matata”, he was a harsh critic of his own musical ability during recording, especially when compared to musician costars such as Beyonce and Donald Glover. He was kinder to himself after watching the movie.
For more about Seth Rogen’s role as Pumbaa and how he approached the required singing, read on.
The Lion King
Remaking 1994’s Disney classic “The Lion King” was always going to be a difficult task. The animated original is widely considered one of Disney’s finest movies.
That, coupled with the fact that many of the potential audience would be old enough to remember seeing the 1994 film in the theater, meant that reimagining the film would require great care.
The 2019 movie was a natural follow up from Disney’s 2016 version of “The Jungle Book”, which utilized almost photorealistic animal CGI to great effect. While that movie had the human presence of Neel Sethi as Mowgli, “The Lion King” would be entirely CGI.
Aside from animation style, one major area where the 2019 version would differ from the 1994 original was in its music. In the original the most intensive singing work, such as for the hit song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, professional singers were used in place of the film’s main voice cast.
In 2019, almost all of the musical’s vocals were provided by the voice cast themselves. While this included acclaimed musicians such as Beyonce and Donald Glover, it also meant that less frequent singers like Seth Rogen would need to perform on the movie’s soundtrack.
Rogen’s concerns about singing weren’t relieved by the fact that Pumbaa’s best friend, Timon, was voiced by Billy Eichner. Eichner, though he hasn’t put the talent to much use in his career, has a musical background, leaving Seth as the only rookie in a room full of musicians.
He apparently hoped that the movie would require less singing than the original, as in the “Jungle Book” remake, and exclaimed “I can’t sing” when told otherwise.
When the time came to record “Hakuna Matata”, Rogen spent many hours in the studio alongside Glover and Eichner, with the bulk of the time spent on re-recording his lines until they were considered good enough for inclusion in the movie.
Fortunately, Rogen says that both of his costars were understanding of his struggles and made jokes, maintaining a pleasant atmosphere in the studio.
Rogen’s first instinct was to listen to the 1994 version of the song and try to imitate it but he says he was better served by avoiding that urge and trusting in director Jon Favreau and composer Hans Zimmer to guide him.
Zimmer’s advice apparently included such guidance as singing “more in the tune of the song“. Rogen also received extensive coaching from Pharrell Williams, comparing the experience to being like hiring Evel Knievel to teach somebody how to ride a motorcycle.
Rogen’s suggestion that they simply autotune his parts of the songs were rejected by the film’s staff, who insisted that they wanted the actor to actually sing on the soundtrack.
Despite his difficulty in the learning and recording process, Rogen is very proud of the fact that he now shares a song credit with Beyonce.
He was also somewhat disturbed by the appearance of his photorealistic Pumbaa, stating that real warthogs are far less visually appealing than the 1994 version of “The Lion King” made them appear.
Seth Rogen can sing, with a lot of trial and error, but he might be hesitant to do it again.