On Friday, July 31st, Disney+ will debut the new visual album from Beyoncé, Black Is King.
The film is something of a reimagining of Disney’s live-action The Lion King remake, which was released in theaters a little over a year ago. Beyoncé starred in the film as the voice of Nala, in addition to providing original music for the companion album The Lion King: The Gift. It’s those songs that will make up the bulk of Black Is King’s soundtrack, while Bey and her accompanying cast play out the classic story in a whole new way.
So what else do we know about Black Is King, and how can you watch it? Read on for all the details and insights.
How Can I Watch Black Is King?
The movie will debut exclusively on Disney+. While the platform no longer offers free trials like its competitors, it’s relatively inexpensive. You can sign up now for $6.99 a month or just $69.99 for a year. Sign up here!
You can also package Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ for just $12.99 a month. If you already have one of those service and have been considering adding Disney+, now is the perfect time! Get the bundle deal now.
What’s more, Disney struck a deal with South African TV channel M-Net and Central/West African channel Canal+ Afrique to air the film across Sub-Saharan Africa. Countries getting the broadcast include South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Cameroon, Liberia, Burundi, Senegal, Togo, Somalia, Benin, Congo, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Gabon and Cape Verde. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa will be able to watch on OSN.
When Does Black Is King Premiere?
Black Is King will debut at precisely 12:00 a.m. PT/3:00 a.m. ET on July 31st. The Middle Eastern and African broadcasts will take place on August 1st.
What Is the Black Is King visual album?
As stated above, Black Is King is Beyoncé’s reimagining of The Lion King and its companion album, The Gift. In announcing the project, Beyoncé said that while the original idea was to have the film “celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry” via its ties to The Gift, the production grew to “serve a greater purpose” in the light of the reignited Black Lives Matter movement.
“With this visual album, I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy,” Beyoncé said in an Instagram post. “I spent a lot of time exploring and absorbing the lessons of past generations and the rich history of different African customs. While working on this film, there were moments where I’ve felt overwhelmed, like many others on my creative team, but it was important to create a film that instills pride and knowledge.”
Who Appears in Black Is King?
In addition to Beyoncé herself, her husband, JAY-Z, and their three children, Blue Ivy, Rumi and Sir, all appear in the movie. Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, also shows up, and some of her original artwork was used in the scene dressings. Former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, Pharrell Williams, Jessie Reyez, actress Lupita Nyong’o, and supermodel Naomi Campbell also have parts to play.
Other cast members include Aweng Ade-Chuol, Folajomi “FJ” Akinmurele, Adut Akech, Shatta Wale, Connie Chiume, Nandi Madida, Nyaniso Dzedze, Warren Masemola, and Moonchild Sanelly. JD McCrary and Chiwetel Ejiofor appear as Young Simba and Scar, respectively, thanks to archival footage from the live-action Lion King movie.
Is There Controversy Around the Film?
Some, yes. Beyoncé has emphasized the idea of “Black ancestry” and “African tradition” in promotion of Black Is King, even filming in places like Nigeria and Ghana and hiring local cast and crew members. However, some Africans have taken issue with what they saw represented in the Black Is King trailers. There seems to be a focus on images like white face and body paint, shirtless men, animal prints and fur, and colored grass huts. This, some say, is typical Western reductivism that fails to present the contemporary diversity of Africa’s numerous cultures, evidence that Bey may be missing the mark with her concept and reducing “Africanness” to “aesthetic.” Add in the fact that Beyoncé has only rarely performed on the continent (her most recent show there was apparently a charity event in 2018), and some are already skeptical about Black Is King’s representation.
Tina Knowles came to defense of her daughter’s vision in an Instagram post. In addition to pointing out a number of African collaborators who worked on Black Is King, Knowles noted Beyoncé “makes less with her Afrocentric content,” so arguing she was profiting on misrepresenting Africa may be misguided. “She’s actually taken to the time, studied African costumes and such and didn’t just throw this together,” Knowles stated. (Use of the word “costumes” may not have helped her case here…)
We’ll have to wait and see on July 31st how broad a cultural brush Beyoncé paints with on Black Is King.
What Else Is on Disney+?
Plenty! In addition to the majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Wars universe (including the excellent The Mandalorian!), and all your classic Disney favorites, there’s even more new content coming to Disney+ in August. There’s also the Hamilton movie, which debuted earlier in July.
The new show starring Jim Henson’s iconic puppets, Muppets Now debuts a number of new episodes, while movies like The Peanuts Movie, X-Men, Ant-Man and the Wasp, The Greatest Showman, Beauty and the Beast, Fantastic Four, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe all will premiere on the streamer.
Sign up for Disney+ now, or get the bundle with Hulu and ESPN+ for just $6 more.
Is There a Trailer for Black Is King?
Of course! Watch it below.