Who rules the Pride Lands? Possibly Beyonce.
The R&B singer and diva extraordinaire may be heading to the big screen four years after her last stint with movies (voicing Tara in Epic), as Disney is reportedly eyeing her to play Nala in the upcoming remake of The Lion King.
The Lion King director Jon Favreau has reportedly listed Beyonce as his favorite to voice Nala, Simba’s childhood friend and love interest, in the CGI “reimagining” of the beloved 1994 animated film, according to Variety.
Insiders say that the Grammy winner has not yet reached a decision, as she is currently pregnant with twins — dropping out of her Coachella performance earlier this year for exactly that reason. However, since it’s a voice-acting role, sources say the studio and director will accommodate her schedule.
Disney has fast-tracked the movie, which will reportedly begin production in May of this year. Favreau is directing with Jeff Nathanson writing, with Donald Glover playing our titular Lion King, Simba. James Earl Jones will be reprising his role as Simba’s father, Mufasa.
The Lion King hauled in $968.5 million worldwide with its original animated release in 1994, becoming one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time and spawning a smash Broadway musical adaptation from acclaimed director Julie Taymor.
The critically lauded Broadway adaptation features real actors in costumes inspired by both the animated film and traditional African dress; paying homage to the setting with an all-black cast and the lyrics steeped in indigenous African languages such as Swahili, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Congolese and Xhosa.
But Favreau’s Lion King will be influenced by 2016’s The Jungle Book, also directed by Favreau (who is working on development of the sequel), which was Disney’s first foray into a primarily CGI live action film. The Lion King, however, will be completely CGI, with its characters and settings rendered solely by computer. The technology is there — as shown by The Jungle Book‘s success — but will it be able to succeed without a human grounding the action? Who knows, but I think it’s a mixed opportunity to do a live-action adaptation of the Broadway musical, which was so revolutionary in its casting and costuming choices.
The casting for upcoming The Lion King is at least up to par, with Glover becoming a prominent voice for African-American identity and art with his groundbreaking FX show Atlanta, and Beyonce being, well, Beyonce. Ever since the release of her 2016 album Lemonade, the singer has tapped into the phenomenon known as “Black Girl Magic,” the idea that black women are powerful, beautiful and resilient. She furthered that imagery with her performance at the 2017 Grammy Awards, with her ode to women and motherhood, dressed as an African, Hindu and Roman-inspired fertility goddess.
So it seems like the cast at least would understand the importance of The Lion King‘s roots in African culture — despite it being primarily sprung from the idea of “Hamlet in Africa.” Plus, with Glover and Beyonce (potentially) signed on, how great would the soundtrack be? Just think: “The Circle of Life” updated by Glover and Beyonce, with the traditional African instruments backing up Beyonce’s soaring vocals and Glover’s spitfire rapping. It would be, well, magical.