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What Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ means for Disney Plus – NBC News

What happens when Hollywood’s intellectual property king meets Queen Bey?

That’s the question worldwide fans and Hollywood insiders are mulling with anticipation, as Beyoncé’s latest visual album, “Black Is King,” prepares to debut July 31 on Disney Plus. The top-secret project from the superstar entertainer was announced less than a month ago, and promises to be a bold visual celebration of Black culture through the ages, as well as a splashy streaming event amid a drought of content caused by coronavirus lockdowns.

“Black Is King” is a feature film composed of music videos for songs from “The Gift,” an album Beyoncé executive produced as a companion to the 2019 live-action remake of “The Lion King,” for which she voiced the lead female role. It’s an adaptive process she knows well, having delivered the Peabody Award-winning 2017 album “Lemonade” as both a record and a stacked video compilation, strung together by her own narration. With “Black Is King,” however, Beyoncé is not only drawing from her experience as an established artist and a woman of color. She’s putting her own spin on the billion-dollar IP behind “The Lion King.”

That Disney Plus would be home to such a broad interpretation of its wares isn’t surprising. Yet, if teaser trailers and promotional images are any indication, Beyoncé is pushing the boundaries of what many have come to expect from the Disney machine.

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“Beyoncé is a great get for anyone, but this signals to me that they are going to get more elastic on what belongs on Disney Plus versus what belongs on Hulu,” one top film executive at a rival studio, speaking on the condition of anonymity, tells Variety.

Disney acquired Hulu when it bought out fellow stakeholders Fox and Comcast in 2019, and the adult-skewed platform is largely considered a counterprogrammer to Disney Plus, whose firehose of premium content comes from Disney-owned labels including Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Animation and National Geographic. While all stylistically different and innovative, content from these engines falls in line with the safety the Disney brand is renowned for — one in which heavy social themes are delivered with healthy doses of sunshine.

“Black Is King” takes the story of “Lion King” protagonist Simba and layers him on a young Black man who is cast out from his family and forced to find himself in an unforgiving world. Themes of suppression and the horrors of colonialism, as well as the consistent message of Black pride, are front and center. As with any Beyoncé project, portrayals of gender equity and celebration of the female form and sexual power are also evident. The film will be the most direct confrontation of a timely societal discussion around racism that Disney Plus has seen in its young life, especially for a corporate owner that has only recently taken steps to rectify transgressions like insensitive theme park rides (Splash Mountain at Disneyland, based on the problematic animated film “Song of the South”) and warn viewers of “outdated cultural depictions” in content from its streaming library.

“The importance of doing “Black Is King” as a brand statement outweighs any risk to perceptions about their customers,” says the executive. “Disney Plus is also reaching a ceiling in terms of subscriptions with the content they have. They’ve got to be asking how they can keep adults around, and how to show originality when we can’t shoot anything.”

Jacqueline Coley, an editor at meta-critic site Rotten Tomatoes, says, “For Black women like myself, there’s nothing bigger than Beyoncé, and what she does is partner with power. For someone like her, there are very few brands that can reach the level of power she brings by walking into a room. Disney recognizes that.”

Coley points to the recent acquisition and accelerated streaming of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking Broadway show “Hamilton,” a production that she says also took some navigation on Disney’s part.

“When you look at things like ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Black Is King,’ they are bridges into content that has not been part of Disney’s long history,” she says. “But as they look forward to being a moral global entertainment brand, it’s less about work that fits into a model and more about how they can serve a brand that’s 50 million subscribers strong.”

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Beyoncé Visual Album ‘Black Is King’ Coming to Disney Plus – Variety

In a surprise, Disney Plus announced a new visual album from Beyoncé — “Black Is King,” inspired by “The Lion King” — is coming to the streaming service next month.

“Black Is King,” written, directed and executive produced by Beyoncé, will premiere globally on Disney Plus on July 31, 2020. That’s just after the one-year anniversary of the theatrical release of Disney’s “The Lion King” remake, for which Queen Bey voiced Nala (and which launched on Disney Plus in January).

A one-minute teaser trailer for “Black Is King” dropped Saturday night on beyonce.com.

The film is based on the music of “The Lion King: The Gift,” released last year in conjunction with the Disney pic, and stars the album’s featured artists and some special guest appearances. The Beyoncé-produced album features Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, 070 Shake, Tierra Whack, Jay-Z, Blue Ivy Carter and Jessie Reyez, as well as African artists including Wizkid, Shatta Wale, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Tiwa Savage, Tekno, Yemi Alade, Busiswa and Salatiel.

“‘Black Is King’ is a celebratory memoir for the world on the Black experience,” Disney and Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment said in announcing the visual album. “The film is a story for the ages that informs and rebuilds the present. A reunion of cultures and shared generational beliefs. A story of how the people left most broken have an extraordinary gift and a purposeful future.”

According to the companies, Beyoncé’s visual album reimagines lessons of “The Lion King” for “today’s young kings and queens in search of their own crowns.” The film was in production for one year with a cast and crew that represent “diversity and connectivity.”

“Black Is King” pays tribute to voyages of Black families throughout time. The visual album tells the story of a young king’s “transcendent journey through betrayal, love and self-identity.” His ancestors help guide him toward his destiny, and with his father’s teachings and guidance from his childhood love, he earns the virtues needed to reclaim his home and throne.

“These timeless lessons are revealed and reflected through Black voices of today, now sitting in their own power,” according to the announcement. “‘Black Is King’ is an affirmation of a grand purpose, with lush visuals that celebrate Black resilience and culture. The film highlights the beauty of tradition and Black excellence.”

On Juneteenth, Beyoncé surprise-dropped “Black Parade,” co-written with her husband Jay-Z, focused on Black empowerment and centered on the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd by police.

Disney Plus recently stopped offering its free seven-day trial offer, a move coming ahead of the service’s July 3 premiere of the movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.”

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Beyoncé Drops Surprise New Single “Black Parade” For Juneteenth – BuzzFeed News

Beyoncé dropped a surprise single to celebrate Juneteenth on Friday that will benefit a new initiative she has started to support Black-owned businesses.

The singer announced on Instagram that her new single, “Black Parade,” “celebrates you, your voice and your joy and will benefit Black-owned small businesses.”

“Happy Juneteenth Weekend!” she wrote. “I hope we continue to share joy and celebrate each other, even in the midst of struggle. Please continue to remember our beauty, strength and power.”

The singer directed people to her website, where she outlined how the song will benefit the BeyGOOD Black Business Impact Fund. The fund, she said, will be “administered by the National Urban League to support Black-owned small businesses in need.”

“Being Black is your activism,” Beyoncé wrote on the website. “Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.”

The website also features a directory of Black-owned businesses across industries, from art, to beauty, to restaurants and bars. The directory was created and curated by Zerina Akers, an LA-based stylist who created “Black Owned Everything,” an online directory of Black-owned businesses.

Akers also happens to be Beyoncé’s personal stylist and wardrobe curator, a role she has held since 2014.

Fans are already loving the new song, especially its lyrics celebrating Black history and culture.

“Black Parade about to be on repeat all damn day. Black pride is so empowering and I needed that.”

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