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Beyoncé Steals The Show In Disney’s New Live-Action Lion King Movie

Big news: there’s a new Beyoncé song out. Also, a new live-action version of The Lion King featuring the singer in one of the central roles. The Queen Bey voices the Queen of the Jungle, Nala, the young lioness betrothed to would-be king, Simba. The movie is a beautifully made retelling of the 1994 animated-film-turned-highest-grossing-musical-of-all-time and it sticks close to the original story and the songs fans love, while incorporating the aforementioned Beyoncé track and tweaking the dialogue ever so slightly to update the script for a new century (making space for all-new Timon and Pumbaa zingers).

From the film’s opening moments (set to the Elton-John-composed ‘Circle of Life’) to the movie’s end, music remains a powerful tool for The Lion King. Highlights include that tear-jerker first number, Donald Glover (as Simba) skilfully riffing on ‘Hakuna Matata’, and… oh yes, did we mention that new Beyoncé song? It’s called ‘Spirit’ — give it a listen here.

Audiences have been primed for this remake since Disney released its live-action Jungle Book in 2016, debuting impressive new CGI technology that makes talking animals appear as life-like as the real thing. There are moments when their movements are so realistic — the way a patch of fur ripples, the way muscles flex — that it can distract from the story. But it’s such a gorgeous distraction that it doesn’t matter. Getting lost in the film’s lush beauty is part of the experience. The power of these images might even inspire moviegoers to think more and care more about wildlife conservation, something a cartoon would surely struggle to do.

But while the look of the movie is all new, the script is exceedingly familiar. Anyone who’s seen the original will already be able to quote their favourite lines and sing along with 99% of the songs. There are however, several small things that have wisely been left out: the goose-stepping hyena hordes are gone (any reference to Nazism tends to go over pretty badly these days), as is the exaggeratedly loony portrayal of the three main hyena characters. Thankfully, mental health is no longer a punchline. 

As the single returning cast member, James Earl Jones again voices Mufasa while John Oliver takes over the role of imperious royal advisor, Zazu. Seth Rogan appears born to play Pumbaa, Keegan Michael Key does hyena Kamari while Eric Andre is Azizi, and Chiwetel Ejiofor goes over to the dark side as Scar. An aside: we can only imagine the kind of baggage that comes with constantly being addressed by your one physical deformity. No wonder Scar is such an angry guy.

Director Jon Favreau’s updated Lion King roars into theatres on July 19. Check out the latest trailer below.