When it comes to The Lion King, people remember two things: the opening strains of ‘Circle of Life’ and the sinister villain manifesto ‘Be Prepared’. And one of those songs has been cut from the live action remake.
I’m a grown up, or at least that’s what my passport says. I can weather a few pop culture disappointments.
Or so I thought until I learned that the forthcoming live action Lion King has made the egregious decision to cut one of the best songs from the movie. I’m talking about ‘Be Prepared’. The live action Lion King – which as far as I can tell is still animated photorealistic lions, it’s not like they trained lions to speak in this movie, even Disney has limits – will not feature a rendition of Scar’s villain manifesto ‘Be Prepared’.
Reader, the scream I uttered into the twittering void was so primal, you’d have thought I had been torn asunder. Not until I read the news did I realised that I cared so much about ‘Be Prepared’ and the function that it serves in The Lion King. You know what they say, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
Why is ‘Be Prepared’ so good? How long is a piece of string? The song stakes its claim early on in the film as a way of denoting the duplicitousness of Uncle Scar. In ‘Be Prepared’, all of Scar’s greed and delusions of power and grandeur are laid bare. (Like his teeth and ambitions, remember!) Written by Elton John and Tim Rice, it’s a slick, bass-thrumming slow-burn that builds to a thrilling crescendo, complete with marching hyenas and surprise volcano eruptions.
The whole thing is delightfully mad, a tongue-twister of a track that is, incidentally, also a fantastic karaoke track. And it perfectly sums up Scar’s deluded aspirations and his twisted desire to topple his brother Mufasa and install himself as the titular king of the lions.
“Prepare for the coup of the century,” Scar sings. (Jeremy Irons speaks the beginning of the song before Jim Cummings takes over for the singing portion.) “Be prepared for the murkiest scam. Meticulous planning, tenacity spanning, decades of denial, is simply why I’ll be king undisputed, respected, saluted and seen for the wonder I am!”
What other Disney song can mix tragedy with humour with such ease? What other Disney song is so twisted yet still delicious? What other Disney song can rhyme denial with ‘I’ll’?
I am very sorry to report that Disney has past form when it comes to ruthlessly cutting a beloved nostalgia property’s most cherished element.
Instead of leaving well enough alone, they added a flapping linen shirt to Aladdin’s iconic purple vest in the live action movie. For their 2020 live action Mulan, they have cut the original’s entire musical repertoire. No ‘A Girl Worth Fighting For’, no ‘Reflection’, no – deep breath – ‘I’ll Make A Man Out Of You’. Can I speak to the manager please? Because an otherwise very enjoyable visit to the cinema was ruined by the fact that I wasn’t able to sing “Let’s get down to business, to defeat the huns!” at the top of my lungs.
I’m mad. What is the Chiwetel Ejiofor-voiced Scar going to do in that pivotal scene in the live action movie? Have a polite conversation about his motives with the hyenas? Not exactly compelling drama, is it?
Reportedly, the song got axed in order to make way for brand news tracks to be sung by Beyoncé, who voices Nala in the live action. Fine. Fine! We’re fine with Beyoncé getting a lion-themed ballad of her own. But why do you need to cut ‘Be Prepared’ in order to include it? It’s 2019, everyone. Isn’t this why we have pluralism? We shouldn’t have to choose.
Bring back ‘Be Prepared’. Or, you know, be prepared to disappoint your fans, Disney!