The Lion King: Small Details You Missed In The Live-Action Movie

The 2019 remake of The Lion King may have drawn criticism from fans for being a less-inspired rehashing of the beloved animated Disney classic from 1994, but that didn't prevent the film from having a successful opening weekend. Weeks before the film was even released, The Lion King was already breaking Disney pre-sale records, so — mixed reviews aside — it's safe to call the film a smash hit.


The film is worth a watch, especially for those who want the healthy dose of nostalgia that comes with the photo-realistic adaptation. While the new version of The Lion King is very similar to the first, there are a few notable changes. The filmmakers remained truthful to the 1994 original while still managing to work in some subtle Easter eggs, some of which pay homage to other Disney-owned properties. Here are some of the small details you might not have noticed in The Lion King.

John Oliver delivers the morning report in The Lion King remake

The character of Zazu is much like he was in the original. Once again, the bird has a British accent, advises the king, and is a bit pompous. Just like in the 1994 version of The Lion King, Zazu delivers a pun-filled morning report to Mufasa. This time around, though, Zazu is portrayed by someone whose voice many people are used to hearing give the news: John Oliver.


You may recognize John Oliver from the HBO news show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. Casting the seasoned TV show host as Zazu is a cheeky reference to the actor's real-life job, and it's one that makes the movie even more fun. Just like Zazu, John Oliver puts a creative and often-sassy spin on the news (although he delivers the news at night instead of in the morning like Zazu). Oliver's version of Zazu plays up the comedy a bit more this time around than inthe character did in 1994, and he eagerly asks Mufasa if he gets his jokes, making it clear that he's not just a newsman but a funny one like Oliver himself.

This Lion King song finally got a longer version

One of the most memorable musical numbers of the 1994 version of The Lion King wasn't actually written for the film. Instead, it's a cover of a song called "Mbube" that was first recorded in 1939. The song has been adapted many times over the decades, even though it seems like it was tailor-made for The Lion King. In the animated film, Timon and Pumbaa break out into an all-too-short cover of The Tokens' version of the song, a rendition called "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Just a few lines in, Pumbaa wanders off and Timon calls out, "I can't hear you, buddy! Back me up!" Timon continues to sing, finally trailing off when he sees Pumbaa has disappeared. End scene.


In a small but delightful nod to the original film, Timon finally gets his backup, albeit a quarter of a century late. Not only do Timon and Pumbaa sing an expanded version of the song this time around, but other animals also slowly join in, providing not just the harmonies Timon was looking for but also a pretty impressive rhythm section.

Nods to The Lion King's Broadway show are sprinkled in everywhere

While the new The Lion King movie covers a lot of the same ground as the original, there are some notable differences. Many of them, however, aren't changes that were made for the movie but were rather details incorporated from the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King. Rafiki, for example, is no longer a lovably odd but wise loner like he was in the '90s. Instead, he is a serious and revered shaman-like being. He goes from being an important but comical character to the glue that holds the whole storyline together, much as the stage version of Rafiki does. One of the film's new songs, "He Lives in You" will also be familiar to those who know the Broadway adaptation's soundtrack. The song isn't just featured in the Broadway show but can also be heard in The Lion King 2connecting this remake to yet another Lion King story.


The links to the Broadway show don't end there. Shahadi Wright Joseph, who voices young Nala in the film, is actually a seasoned veteran when it comes to the character. Joseph played young Nala on Broadway in 2014.

The Lion King shares a tale as old as time

One of the best Easter eggs in The Lion King is a short but hilarious scene that references another beloved Disney classic. In the original film, Timon and Pumbaa provide a distraction to lure the hyenas away from Pride Rock by having Timon dress up in a grass skirt. Approaching the hyenas, Timon begins to hula dance and offers Pumbaa up as the main dish of a luau. The performance draws the attention of the hyenas and leads them away as they chase down what they hope will be their dinner.


In the remake, Timon and Pumbaa still act as live bait, but this time Timon puts on a French accent instead of a grass skirt and invites the hyenas to dine on Pumbaa in a not-so-subtle reference to the "Be Our Guest" number in Beauty and the Beast. Timon even manages to get out a couple of words of the song out before the hyenas give chase, bringing an end to both the number and the homage to the iconic film.

The Lion King's Shenzi is basically a member of the Dora Milaje

While two members of the main trio of hyenas, Kamari and Azizi, provide comedic relief in The Lion King, their leader, Shenzi (voiced by Florence Kasumba), is no longer a comedic villain but a serious and fierce warrior. Instead of the wisecracking, laughing hyena fans of the original version remember, the new Shenzi is much quieter and more calculating. She makes up part of the guard of hyenas protecting King Scar.


The new spin on Shenzi feels an awful lot like another character played by Kasumba: the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Ayo, albeit an Ayo who has aligned herself with the bad guys instead of the good guys. Much like Black Panther's Ayo, Shenzi is part of a legion of warriors who guard the king. She's smart, brave, and fearless. Swap out the hyena guard for the Dora Milaje and Shenzi could be Ayo's less-principled alter ego.

Now this could be a coincidence, but, considering that The Lion King's director, Jon Favreau, has also acted in, produced, and directed several films in the Disney-owned MCU, it's not unreasonable to think that Shenzi's new persona is a deliberate nod to Ayo.