As far as unnecessary remakes go, Jon Favreau’s upcoming take on The Lion King has been ostensibly shaping up nicely. The voice cast is superb: Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, and, reprising his role from the original, the incomparable James Earl Jones as Mufasa, to name just a few. Elton John and Tim Price are returning to do the music, and according to the former, Beyoncé will “hopefully” return to sing a new song for the end credits. But John also had this to tell the Sun:
There’s going to be four of our songs in the film, from the original: “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” “Hakuna Matata,” “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” and “Circle of Life.”
Wait. Did he miscount? Or is he forgetting something? Because one crucial track is missing from that list: “Be Prepared,” aka one of the best villain songs in the history of villain songs. As slinkily performed by Scar, it oozes greed, collusion, and pompousness through its delicious lyricism detailing his plans to murder his brother and nephew in order to rule Pride Rock. An outcast of the family, he’s taken to hanging out with the hyenas, whom he can easily control and manipulate into doing his bidding—they feed his ego and he presents himself as their savior. He promises them that “The future is littered with prizes/ And though I’m the main addressee/ The point that I must emphasize is/ You won’t get a sniff without me!” And he does all of this against a background of imagery evoking the Third Reich.
Ah, yes. The dark shadows cast upon the wall, the army of hyenas marching goose step in perfect formation as Scar looms over them, the cathedral of light—since it was first released, this scene has been aptly compared to Nazi propaganda films like Triumph of the Will many times. Now at a time when white supremacy and, specifically, neo-Nazi propaganda have risen again within the mainstream, it’s easy to imagine Disney’s fear of being too pointedly political in the Lion King remake. For all its progressiveness in recent years, the corporation still has a relatively wholesome image to maintain and a bottom line to care about.
Still, if that’s really the reason they’re opting out of the song this time around—and not because, say, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is voicing Scar, isn’t a singer—it’s an unfortunate cop-out. Scar lacks a moral compass, a spine, and regard for anyone but himself. He unabashedly exploits the hyenas’ ignorance and powerlessness for his own gain. He’s plagued by insecurities and delusional confidence. As “Be Prepared” roars to its exhilarating climax, he declares to his rapturous followers,
Decades of denial
Is simply why I’ll
Be king undisputed
And seen for the wonder I am.
Yes, my teeth and ambitions are bared
Really, this is a missed opportunity. Could there be a more perfect Disney villain song for our times?