WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Lion King, in theaters now.
Disney's live-action adaptation of The Lion King features most of the same iconic imagery and music from the 1994 original. But the new version also manages to throw in a reference to another film from that same era of Disney animation, swapping out a minor comedy beat in the third act for an extended reference to Beauty and the Beast.
Returning to Pride Rock after years of self-imposed exile, Simba (Donald Glover) looks out over his former kingdom. Alongside Nala (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) and Zazu (John Oliver), they try to come up with a plan of attack. They're soon joined by Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen). The pair join the others and try to come up with a way to distract the hyenas that litter the fields. Like in the original film, Simba eventually suggests using live bait -- namely, Timon and Pumbaa.
In the original film, Timon and Pumbaa put on a Hawaiian luau. Timon puts on a hulu skirt and sings a quick song, pointing out how delicious Pumbaa would be to eat. This does the job pretty well, sending the hungry hyenas after them.
In the new film, Timon instead sings the opening words of "Be Our Guest" in an over-the-top French accent. Timon changes some lyrics to make them draw attention to Pumbaa, but it's very much a riff on Beauty and the Beast.
The sequence does and should elicit a big laugh out of a Disney-savvy audience. It also substitutes a ridiculous comic moment from the original iteration that probably wouldn't have worked in the more dramatic, new version. Having Timon pull a hulu skirt out of nowhere would be an absurd tonal shift in the context of the quasi-realism of the rest of the film. Changing the joke but keeping the narrative reason in place as to why it's there makes sense.
It also continues a long-running tradition of Disney films referencing other Disney properties. The first Lion King even featured a memorable dig at the Disney theme park ride, "It's A Small World." So, having a shout-out to another major '90s Disney classic makes for a fun -- but not distracting -- moment of levity at the beginning of the climax.
Directed by Jon Favreau, The Lion King features the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and James Earl Jones.