Generally, when famous people start working with Disney a lot, it feels like they’re being absorbed into the Disney Content Machine so they can make things specifically for Disney and not necessarily for themselves (which is probably why a lot of big-name filmmakers have bounced off of Marvel and Star Wars movies). That’s not the case with Beyoncé, though. When she signed on to The Lion King, it seemed more like she was going down to Disney’s level and using it to further her own creative goals rather than being swallowed up, as further evidenced by the fact that she was able to put together her own soundtrack album to the movie in the form of The Lion King: The Gift. Now, Beyoncé is returning to Disney for Black Is King, a visual album based on The Gift that will stream on Disney+, and once again it feels like she’s doing a favor for the company and not the company using her to bolster its content library.
You can see a teaser for Black Is King (which Beyoncé wrote, directed, and executive produced) on her website, with a press release explaining that it “reimagines the lessons of The Lion King for today’s young kings and queens in search of their own crowns.” Black Is King doesn’t really lean on the Lion King angle at all, because this is a Beyoncé thing and not a Disney thing, but the press release does also reference how “the voyages of Black families” are reflected in “a tale about a young king’s transcendent journey through betrayal, love, and self-identity”—with The Lion King itself not even being named. If anyone else were doing this, it would be all “Disney presents a visual album inspired by Jon Favreau’s hit film The Lion King,” but because it’s Beyoncé, that connection almost seems incidental. It’s impressive.
Black Is King will be available on Disney+ on July 31.