Most of the new Lion King remake is a pretty faithful retelling of the original animated classic, but that doesn't mean there aren't some elements that are brand new. One of the most obvious is a fourth wall breaking joke where Timon and Pumbaa reference another Disney classic, which received its own live-action remake, Beauty and the Beast.
In the scene, when Timon and Pumbaa attempt to distract the hyenas near the end of the film, rather than doing the hula, as they do in the original version, they perform the opening sequence to Beauty and the Beasts's iconic song "Be Our Guest."
Jon Favreau recently revealed to Refinery 29 that the idea came from the Broadway version of The Lion King. The current version of that show includes a joke at the expense of another popular Disney film, and it inspired him to make a similar joke in the new movie. According to Favreau...
They threw a joke about Frozen in there. So we kind of toss the cap to another live action adaptation.
Finding inspiration in the Broadway show isn't too surprising. Before so many of Disney's animated hits became live-action movies (or whatever The Lion King is) many of them became Broadway shows. Aladdin is a movie that makes a lot of fourth wall breaking Disney jokes on stage, though certainly the character of the Genie is designed to make such references.
The Beauty and the Beast moment is either one of the best jokes in the film, or a somewhat jarring moment that is more shocking than hilarious. For a movie that keeps so faithful to the original Lion King, it's the single most obvious change.
Having said that, the movie was certainly going to have to do something differently. While watching Timon and Pumbaa dress in drag and do the hula worked in the animated film, one of the side effects of the photo realistic CGI is that we never see animals move in ways that we wouldn't expect out of real animals, so watching them dance around would have been just as surprising if not more so.
Of course, considering how unexpected this particular joke was, it's not surprising that even the cast wasn't 100% sure this would work. Billy Eichner, who voices Timon, admits that we was from sure the joke would land, though the film's premiere showed him he had nothing to worry about...
I looked at Jon and I said, 'That is either going to kill or you can't use it. They put it in and it killed last night during the [premiere] and I looked at Jon and was like, 'You know what you're doing, Jon Favreau.
There's little doubt that Jon Favreau knows what he's doing. Between his successful remakes of The Jungle Book and The Lion King, and his work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems that when Favreau and Disney come together, success is inevitable. We can only imagine what happens next when we finally get to see The Mandalorian.