The Lion King TV spot

“The king has returned.” That’s one of Rafiki’s lines from the original Walt Disney Animation version of The Lion King, but I suspect many Beyonce fans will be lining up for Jon Favreau‘s not-quite-live-action, not-quite-animated remake to hear their queen lend her voice to Nala, the film’s female lead.

Beyonce has released a new TV spot for the movie through her YouTube channel, and in addition to showing off some new footage from the film (including the climactic fight), it’s also our first opportunity to hear her in-character as Nala.

The Lion King TV Spot

So far, Disney has gone out of its way to avoid showing the lions speaking for extended stretches in this movie’s marketing, instead only showing a fraction of lip movement and then cutting away to something else. That approach continues here, and I’m wondering if that’s an aspect of the movie that Favreau and his visual effects team are continuing to tweak as we approach the film’s release date. When the vistas and tableaus and African settings look this stunning, it’s hard to blame them. But they don’t seem to have much of a problem showing Timon and Pumbaa speaking and singing, and it sounds like Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen are having a lot of fun stepping into those roles.

It’s difficult to judge Beyonce’s vocal performance from two lines, but she seems to be giving Nala a very stately voice imbued with gravitas – which makes sense, considering how at that point in the story, she’s trying to convince Simba to stop goofing off with his pals and help save her pride from dying in a famine.

Perhaps more illuminating is the footage of the final fight between Simba (Donald Glover) and his devious uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) on Pride Rock as a fire burns around them. It’s one of the animated movie’s most memorable moments (the animated film adopted an exaggerated slow motion approach to heighten the importance of the battle), but many wondered if this remake – which seems to be valuing realism over almost all else – would recreate that scene exactly or take a different tack. “With live action, you have to be more decisive about things like humor and intensity and violence because it will get very extreme and not feel like part of the same film,” Favreau told me during my visit to the set. Now that question has been answered, and replaced with a new question: will this movie’s focus on realism ultimately result in some scenes that are too intense for the young audience it’s courting?

We’ll find out when The Lion King arrives in theaters on July 19, 2019.

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