Disney’s latest live-action remake The Lion King hits most of the beats and jokes from the original 1994 movie, but there’s one big change that slides in a reference to another of the animation studio’s classic films.
A memorable comic moment has been sacrificed to make way for an extended joke referencing Beauty and the Beast in the star-studded new release.
The moment comes as Simba (Donald Glover) returns with Nala (Beyonce Knowles-Carter), Zazu (John Oliver), Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) to reclaim his rightful place as king.
The group are planning their plan of attack, hiding out of sight, when Simba suggests they distract the hyenas with bait – cue everyone staring at Pumbaa.
In the original, the team split up and Pumbaa and Timon try and draw the hyenas away sending them chasing after them. To do this they put on Hawaiian luau and sing a quick catchy tune. Timon points out how good Pumbaa would taste and, as predicted, the hyenas rush after them.
In the remake, Pumbaa lays down with Timon on his back then the meerkat sings “Be Out Guest…..” and breaks into his version of the famous Beauty and the Beast song in a Lumiere-style French accent, meaning over-the-top. The lyrics to the track – from the scene where Belle is served dinner from talking silverware – are still slightly changed to point out Pumbaa’s tasty wares just as the original film did, but the intention is clearly to pause things while director Jon Favreau winks knowingly at fans.
The switch out appears to have divided people, but it makes a lot of sense. The photo-realistic style of the live-action film does mean a few other key moments have also changed so they don’t look out of place – Mufasa in the stars for one – but last time we checked animals in the wild don’t have the ability to raid a fancy dress box for a Hawaiian skirt. Yes, we know they wouldn’t talk in real-life either. If Timon had just pulled a skirt from nowhere it would have jarred, but this way you get a proper laugh in keeping with the realistic look of the film.
This isn’t the first time Disney has referenced its other films or its properties in a film. The 1994 animation actually referenced the theme park ride ‘It’s a Small World’ when the caged Zazu begins to sing its famous tune only for Scar to tell him: “Anything but that!” Hercules also referenced The Lion King when the Greek hero throws on a lion rug at the end of the Zero to Hero song referencing Mufasa and Zazu’s joke that Scar would make a “very handsome rug.” Savage Disney, savage.
But one of the more popular, and obvious, references is in Aladdin, when the Genie pulls out Sebastian from a Royal Recipes book as the Under the Sea tune plays. The Genie also changes his head to Pinocchio complete with growing nose when the street rat promises he’ll set his friend free with his last wish, and, again in Aladdin, the Beast can be seen as one of the trinkets in the Sultan’s stack of animal toys before Jafar causes them to topple over. Of course references don’t always work. Avengers: Endgame included a nod to A Wrinkle in Time that was, well, odd.
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The Lion King is in cinemas now.