People are always talking about the Disney Princesses and their influence on society but people forget that a Disney Princess doesn’t necessarily have to be human. In Disney’s The Lion King, the character of Nala has a key role to play in Simba’s succession to the throne. Nala, like other Disney princesses at select moments, is a strong feminine character who has agency and plays a powerful role.
In the early moments of the movie when Simba and Nala are still children, Nala pins Simba to the ground by kicking a leg up and flipping him over when he tries to attack her. Nala’s flip move is a recurring part of The Lion King and is a mostly unnoticed key part of the story. When Simba and Nala are headed to the elephant graveyard they start wrestling, Nala pins Simba and says, “Pinned ya.” Simba tries to tackle Nala again and she does the same move followed by, “Pinned ya again.” Nala’s flip move comes back when Nala and Simba meet again after Simba’s time with Timon and Pumba. Simba and Nala fight and when Nala flips him Simba realizes who she is.
During the song “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” Nala and Simba both sing the chorus. Towards the end of the song they repeat the line, “I just can’t wait to be king” while moving up on a tower of animals. Nala and Simba and sitting side by side on the tower of animals belting out the chorus. Nala is placed in a position equal to Simba, giving her power and suggesting that even though she can’t be king she is his equal.
In the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Nala’s line is, “Why can’t he be the king I know he is, the king I see inside?” Nala is able to see Simba for who he is and works to bring him back to Pride Rock. Nala’s influence on Simba is the main reason he decides to go back to Pride Rock and become king. The argument can be made that Rafiki’s influence is what convinced Simba to go back but Simba only meets Rafiki when he runs away from Nala.
Simba and Nala have a fight about Simba’s past and Simba runs away to clear his head. Simba paces around in a clearing and looks at the stars to yell at his father. Simba finally confronts his past and cries briefly before Rafiki arrives. Nala’s influence is what allows Simba to finally confront his past and move on. Rafiki’s influence is only to convince Simba that he can become his father and take his place; Nala’s is what allows him to be open to that change.
Simba’s final match with Scar is the most subtle and most important part of Nala’s influence. Simba and Scar have their big duel with some cool lion fighting but Scar throws Simba through some flames to land on his back. Anyone who watched The Lion King knows what happens next; Simba flips Scar off the cliff and he is killed by the hyenas. The subtlety of this move is that as Scar leaps at Simba, the camera cuts to a shot of just Simba’s leg popping up to flip Scar. To become a man and assume the throne of Pride Rock, Simba uses the move he learned from Nala that she frequently used on him. To achieve manhood and become who he needed to be, Simba emotionally and physically required the help of a powerful lioness.