The New Lion King Has The Power To Make You (& Its Own Cast) Cry

Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
There are some moments you'll never forget: Your first kiss, the first time you ride a bike, and — 25-year-old spoiler warning — the first time you see Scar kill Mufasa in The Lion King. It was perhaps the most brutal parental death in Disney movie history when it happened in the original (even Bambi's mother was in the distance when she was killed), and it's one that every viewer headed into the new Lion King will be bracing themselves for.
But according to the cast, Mufasa's death is not the only Lion King scene that might make you cry. They got misty-eyed during quite a few other moments, too.
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"The thing that gets me every time is when is when Nala says, ‘I see a king in you,'" explains one-third of The Lion King's hyena trio, Keegan Michael Key, who says that when he saw the first movie, he was studying Shakespeare and too busy focusing on the Hamlet parallels. "This time, it was that Simba has an opportunity, and Nala represents the opportunity of being able to meet his highest self." The opportunity, as fans of the original know, is to take his place as a leader instead of running away from his problems.
In fact, growing up and truly understanding the themes of the movie seems to be an emotional hazard for everyone involved, especially because, as adults, everything Mufasa (James Earl Jones) preaches about growing up and true leadership could apply to pretty much anyone. His nuggets of wisdom like "understand that balance and respect all the creatures," or "there's more to being king than getting your way all the time" are pretty blanket metaphors for all adults. If those moments aren't making you think about your own life, you're probably not listening all that closely.
"To be honest, when I was younger I didn't really care about how deep the old Lion King is because I loved the music, and it was colorful. It was just a nice, entertaining movie," Florence Kasumba, who plays hyena leader Shenzi, tells Refinery29. "Now that I'm older and have more life experience, it starts really with everything that Mufasa says. I get goosebumps because it's so true when he talks about how everything that the light touches needs to be protected, and lines like, 'The true king searches for what he can give.'"
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For others, this new version — because it shifts from regular cartoon animation to photorealistic CGI — sends a clearer message about protecting the environment, which is a thing some people get emotional about, okay? When the hyenas talk about ravishing the pridelands, suddenly, destroying that very realistic landscape seems unimaginable, rather than a threat from a cartoon villain.
"What really hit home is how the movie is our relationship to nature, to the planet, and to each other, in a certain way because the animals and everything looks so real and so beautiful and the environment, the atmosphere just looks so glorious. It reminds you of how beautiful the world is and can be," Timón voice actor Billy Eichner tells Refinery29. "We're living in a very, very tense time. There's a lot of anxiety, and there's something about this movie which sort of brings you back in touch with what's important; just sort of some primal, basic elements of our lives that we really don't talk about very much in pop culture, like life and death," he adds with a laugh.
Of course, if all of this fails, and you're not moved by any of it, Eichner says the recreation of the classic Mufasa scene still got him, too.
"It was really emotional in spite of the fact that we all know it's about to happen," says Eichner. "I was kind of on the edge of my seat. I literally had this thought watching it, like, why am I in such suspense? I literally am in the movie. I know what's happening, and I've seen the original, but still."
Well, there you have it. You might want pick up a pack of tissues at CVS on the way to the movie theater.
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