- “Timon, this is Nala! She's my best friend!”
Nala is the deuteragonist of Disney's 1994 animated feature film, The Lion King. She is the lifelong best friend of Simba, prince of the Pride Lands. When the kingdom is taken over by Scar and his hyena henchmen, Nala rebels against their reign by assisting Simba in reclaiming the throne. She would later become Simba's queen and the mother of two cubs: Kiara and Kion.
Nala's main animators were Bob Bryan and Gilda Palinginia and her supervising animators were Aaron Blaise (cub) and Anthony de Rosa (adult).
During early production, Nala was given a younger brother named Mheetu. He is mentioned in the book The Art of The Lion King where he is referred to as "Mee-Too". He was designed by Thom Enriquez.
In an earlier draft of the film, there was to be a scene where Scar felt that to be a beloved ruler and continue his monarchical legacy, he will need a queen to ensure that children will be born. Just then, Nala arrived to complain about the Pride Lands' wasteland appeal. Scar then demands Nala to be his queen, which she refuses. He then summons the hyenas and banishes her as punishment for rejecting him. This scene is largely included in the musical version, minus Scar banishing Nala.
As a child, Nala is known to be sassy, being defensive of her own accomplishments and giving her best friend cheek when prompted. Though Simba sometimes tries to claim her ideas as his own, Nala will not stand for being overlooked and is clever and strong enough to do something about it. Despite this, Nala is an encouraging friend, kind to Simba even when he makes an error, no matter what he says or does, she maintains the friendship, grieving heavily when he supposedly dies.
Once adulthood came, Nala grew more mature, practically built on persistence and responsibility. Scar's poor reign has made her realize the importance of accountability, as she has seen firsthand what Simba's lack of interest in the Pride Lands has caused. She often tries to speak sense to Simba, standing as his voice of reason, firm, and resolute in her beliefs with a cutting edge to her argument. Nala is not one to be stamped down with words, as she can hold her own in a verbal battle, parrying each of Simba's defenses with offenses of her own. No amount of yelling and accusations can beat down Nala.
Nala was the lioness who brought Simba back to Pride Rock, to save them from Scar's tyranny.
Once Nala becomes a queen, she grows much more reserved and wise, no longer as spunky as she used to be. Unlike Simba, she is very relaxed in her dealings with Kiara, trusting her daughter to take care of herself. Her gentle words and sound advice serve as a softener to Simba's hard edge.
Nala is one of a few who is able to see past Kovu's rough exterior to the hero who is longing to claw out, and she is not one to judge him for his past. She supports Simba in his decisions, always standing by his side no matter what the consequences.
Nala is also supportive of Kion, as unlike Simba at first, Nala knew that her son was ready to take on responsibilities as the leader of the Lion Guard.
Nala appears as a slender cream-colored lioness with teal eyes. As a cub, she had a pink nose, but as an adult, her nose is brown. Both the inside of her ears and the small tuft of fur on her tail are tan.
In the remake version, Nala resembles the real-life lionesses and has green eyes. As a cub, she resembles the real-life female lion cub and appears to be cream-colored like her animation counterpart.
Simba, who has been tricked by Scar into visiting the Elephant Graveyard, asks her to accompany him to a great place. Initially, told the trip was to the watering hole, she is allowed to go on the condition that Zazu accompanies them, after which Simba reveals the true destination.
As they travel, it's revealed by Zazu that Nala and Simba are not only best friends but were betrothed at a young age by their parents. As a result, they're expected to marry in the future, a revelation that scares and disgusts both of them. Simba and Nala come up with a plan to lose Zazu along the way by traveling through many different animal herds (the "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" sequence), which succeeds. Simba and Nala journey to the Elephant Graveyard where they encounter Scar's hyena minions Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. Nala attempts to escape alongside Simba, but the two are chased by the hyenas. After trapping the cubs, the three hyenas are attacked and scared off by Mufasa, who has come to rescue the cubs after being warned by Zazu, whom the hyenas had sent soaring off earlier with a geyser. Afterward, while Mufasa reprimands Simba and lectures him, Zazu is tasked with taking Nala home, not to see her friend again for a long time.
The following night, after Scar informs the pride of Mufasa's and Simba's deaths in a stampede in the gorge, she is seen mourning with the other lionesses, and later is in shock at the hyenas' takeover of Pride Rock as Scar takes over as King due to being Mufasa's brother and next in line after Simba.
Years later, as a young adult, she tries to hunt Pumbaa. However, she becomes entangled in a fight with a young adult lion. She manages to pin the lion using a trademark move in which she flips him on his back, but she does not recognize him as her friend Simba until he introduces himself; Simba recognizes her by the flip move, which she had often performed on him as a cub. She is ecstatic to learn Simba is alive since it means he is the rightful king of the Pride Lands. All the while, Timon and Pumbaa fear they might lose Simba to Nala, through "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."
After being alone with Simba, she falls in love with him but becomes angry when Simba refuses to return to Pride Rock to put an end to Scar's reign, still feeling at fault for his father's death. At this point, she reveals that she left Pride Rock in an attempt to find help since Scar had become a tyrant and the pride was suffering due to drought and the lack of both food and water as well from the hyenas overrunning the Pride Lands. The two argue and storm off in separate directions.
She is seen the next morning with Timon and Pumbaa looking for Simba, and they discover from Rafiki that Simba has returned to the Pride Lands. She, along with Timon and Pumbaa, follow Simba and offer to help him reclaim his kingdom. While Timon and Pumbaa distract the hyenas, Simba sends Nala to look for his mother and rally the rest of the pride. She does so and later appears with them, as Simba confronts Scar. Like the other lionesses, she is shocked when Scar forces Simba to admit his guilt in Mufasa's death, but she is one of the first lionesses to join in the battle after Scar reveals his identity as the true murderer of Mufasa. When the hyenas attack Simba, she and the rest of the pride attack them furiously and rage together with Timon, Pumbaa, and Rafiki to avenge the fallen Mufasa.
After Simba emerges victoriously from his battle with Scar, Nala comes forward to embrace him before he takes his rightful place as king. Nala and the other lionesses watch with joy and relief as Simba ascends Pride Rock and roars across his reclaimed kingdom with the lionesses roaring back in reply.
Sometime later, after the Pride Lands flourish once again, Nala stands atop Pride Rock alongside Simba as his mate and queen as they proudly watch the assembly of the animals below. Then Rafiki arrives, cradling their newborn cub, and Simba and Nala happily watch as Rafiki presents the next in line to the throne to the gathered animals.
In this film, Nala is both Simba's mate and Kiara's mother. She seems to have aged and has a more built frame. Her eyes also appear to be bluer in color. She is first seen at Kiara's presentation, looking on proudly.
She next appears a few months later as Kiara is going out to play, reminding Kiara to mind her father, and reassuring Simba that she will be fine. Nala, Timon, Pumbaa, and two lionesses later accompany Simba as he goes to retrieve Kiara when she wanders off and confronts Zira when the exiled lioness is discovered in the Pride Lands with her son Kovu, whom Kiara befriended. Nala returns to Pride Rock with the others whilst Simba stays behind to scold Kiara.
Nala next appears when Kiara, now an adolescent, is planning her first hunt and Nala subtly encourages Simba to allow Kiara to hunt on her own. She later argues on Kovu's behalf to allow him in the Pride Lands. Since Kovu saved Kiara's life, Simba owes him a debt and so must grant Kovu's request to join the pride. The following night, she encourages Simba to give Kovu a chance, pointing out that Kovu may not want to follow the path expected of him. Later, the next day, when Simba is injured after being ambushed by the Outsiders, she nuzzles him, but then, like Kiara, she also seems shocked at Simba's decision to banish Kovu, even though she isn't at all vocal about it, perhaps believing that, like previously, Simba wouldn't listen to her if she tried to say anything. When Kiara tells Simba that he will never be his late father, she is not shown, presumably because she went back into Pride Rock believing it was not her place to get involved, while the rest of the Pride now realize that Simba has broken the Circle of Life and failed to follow in Mufasa's paw prints. It is presumed that Nala was shocked and saddened when Kiara fled Pride Rock to look for Kovu.
During the battle between the Pridelanders and the Outsiders, she is seen leading the lionesses, and briefly, fights Vitani, who taunts her over Kiara's disappearance. After Kiara convinces Vitani and the other Outsiders into rejoining the Pridelanders, Nala watches on in horror as her daughter falls down the gorge, after preventing Zira from attacking Simba. She later directs Simba as he attempts to rescue Kiara, warning him about the river dam breaking up. Finally, she is seen roaring with Simba after Kiara and Kovu are united in marriage.
Nala plays a minor role in this midquel. She only makes an appearance near the latter half of the film (aside from archive footage from "I Just Can't Wait to Be King").
She is seen during the Can You Feel the Love Tonight sequence and in an extension of the scene in the original film where she explains to Timon and Pumbaa about Simba's whereabouts. After several failed attempts, she rushes off to help Simba.
Though Nala played a minor role in the film, she was still voiced by Moira Kelly.
Nala appears in the animated series The Lion Guard that follows. In this storyline (set in the middle of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride), she and Simba have a second cub, a son, named Kion, who serves as the protagonist.
In The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, Nala is present when Kion's "Roar of the Elders" ability has been revealed, indicating that it is his time to become the new leader of a group known as the Lion Guard. Though Simba feels Kion is not yet ready for such responsibility and requests more time to prepare him, Nala shows confidence in Kion's newfound role within the Circle of Life and advises Simba to listen to Rafiki and immediately teach Kion the ways of the Lion Guard. During the climax, Nala returns and witnesses Kion's unconventional team save the Pride Lands from Janja's pack of hyenas. She is also present when Kiara becomes endangered due to a gazelle stampede (caused by Janja and his clan), though she is rescued by the Lion Guard; much to Nala's relief. In the end, after Kion has successfully proved his worth, Nala and Rafiki show unsurprised pride, while a developed Simba follows suit. In the series, she is shown to be a wise and good mother to both her cubs.
In the episode "Can't Wait to be Queen", Nala accompanies Simba and Zazu in attending Amanifu's funeral, leaving Kiara in charge of the Pride Lands. Simba expresses concern about Kiara, but Nala believes that he is actually worried about his tribute to Amanifu, as he has to say a line in elephantese. Upon arriving at the funeral, Nala and Zazu express worry when Simba accidentally says "he had poop on him" instead of "he had good on him" in elephantese, luckily Amanifu's daughter Ma Tembo the other elephants see the funny side. Afterward, Nala, Simba, and Zazu return to Pride Rock.
In "Fuli's New Family", Nala teaches Kiara, Tiifu, and Zuri how to track gazelles.
In "Paintings and Predictions", it is revealed that Nala's father as a cub fell from a tree branch, but was saved by The Lion Guard of his day.
In "Bunga and the King", Nala, Simba, Kiara, and Kion prepare to go to Mizimu Grove to attend a concert performed by Ma Tembo's herd. However, Kion has to leave after been informed by Ono of antelope being stuck in the mud. Kiara runs on ahead but a sinkhole appears, but Simba is able to throw her over to Nala, before falling into the sinkhole. Kion and the Lion Guard arrive at the scene and try to help Simba, who sends Nala and Kiara to go to the concert as it is traditional for the royal family to attend.
Nala and Kiara watch the concert, just before Simba, Kion, Bunga, the Guard, Timon, and Pumbaa arrive. Nala joins in with her family, Timon, Pumbaa, and the Guard in singing "Hakuna Matata".
In "Never Roar Again", Nala confronts Janja and her hyenas who fooled the guard by telling them that they were abandoned to return directly to Pridelands. She tells them to return to the Outlands but Janja refuses and attacks Nala who dodges the attack but finds it soon enshrined by the other hyenas. Kion arrives and when he sees his mother in danger, he utters a powerful roar that chases the hyenas but causes many ravages and almost hurts Nala. Kion was very reluctant to stop using the Roar and then went to ask her mother's forgiveness, but she tells him as she ruffles his mane that there’s nothing to forgive, for he saved her life. Kion continues to express his fears on the Roar but Nala lifts his chin and nuzzles him while telling him that she will always trust him.
In "The Trail to Udugu", Nala takes Kiara and Kion on a journey to help them learn "kinship".
In "Return to the Pride Lands", which takes place after The Lion King II, Nala and Simba are watching from Pride Rock and are happily reunited with Kion, returned from his trip to the Tree of Life after hearing that Zira was back. The next day, Nala, the royal family, and the rest of the Pridelanders observe the trials between the Kion's Guard and Vitani's Guard which ends with Kion deciding to confer the title of the head of the Guard to Vitani to return to The Tree of Life. Later, Nala is one of the guests at Tree of Life for the Wedding / Coronation of Kion and Rani.
Nala is still the deuteragonist in the 2019 remake voiced by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as an adult and Shahadi Wright Joseph as a cub, this time with a very important role. A noticeable difference from the original is that the moment Nala left Pride Rock is seen and she seems to have a deep rivalry with Shenzi due to their first encounter; this scene was not in the original animated version.
When Simba learns that the Elephant Graveyard can only be entered by adult lions, he meets Nala for the first time where her mother Sarafina gives her a bath. During bathtime, Simba asks Nala to take her to the water hole to which Sarabi agrees as it is a safe place for cubs but only if the two have Zazu to protect them. As Zazu takes the cubs to the water hole, he reveals that the two will soon be married to which Simba and Nala become disgusted, but their advisor explains that a marriage cannot be broken as it is a tradition. The two manage to lose Zazu when they race among a large herd of animals as the two end up in the Elephant Graveyard. When Simba takes risk of himself being a brave lion by exploring the area, Nala then suggests that they should return home before Mufasa arrives.
Meanwhile, in the Elephant Graveyard, Nala feels concerned about Simba because entering one of the areas in the wasteland could be a trap instead of feeling curious to know what's inside in the animated version. Nala and Simba encounter Shenzi and her clan who prepare to eat the two cubs as they escape through many tunnels in which the whole hyena clan surrounds them. Mufasa then arrives to rescue Simba and his best friend Nala by fighting off the whole clan as Mufasa takes the two cubs home.
After Simba gets banished from the Pride Lands after Mufasa's death, Nala and the other lionesses are seen grieving over the loss of Mufasa and Simba as Scar allows the hyenas to enter Pride Rock while Sarafina tells her daughter to stay safe from the hyenas. Years later, Scar becomes the new king of the Pride Lands as the area becomes deserted due to his tyranny; impatient and restless, Nala plans to leave the deserted kingdom but Sarabi tells her to defend the kingdom as well as get used to Pride Rock with Scar as the new king. Shenzi then arrives at the conversation and takes Sarabi to talk to Scar to which Sarabi is not afraid to talk to him much to Nala's worry; Sarabi discovers that Scar is overhunting and destroying the Circle of Life just as Sarabi rejects his offer to become his queen while Scar gives a new plan that the hyenas eat first before the lions. That night, Nala plans to escape Pride Rock without getting caught by Scar just as Zazu warns Nala to stay at Pride Rock before her mother Sarabi gets upset for disobeying her. Nala then spots Scar who notices Nala leaving Pride Rock just as he commands the hyenas to search for Nala or any other lion who attempts to leave Pride Rock under his rule. Zazu distracts Scar and the hyenas to help Nala to leave the Pride Lands just as Sarabi worriedly watches Nala leave their home, thinking Nala is leaving Pride Rock to abandon the lions' home just as Nala leaves Pride Rock and ends up in the jungle.
Unlike the original, she has no direct interaction with Timon and Pumbaa except when she tries to eat them before being stopped by Simba in which she and Simba fall in love together, making Timon and Pumbaa very sad that Simba spends more time with Nala instead of the duo. Afterward, Nala urges Simba to return to the Pride Lands because Scar is ruling over it to which Simba refuses and during an argument, she decides to go back to Pride Rock by herself because Simba would not listen to her. Afterward, Simba feels upset about himself after arguing with Nala.
Instead of following Simba with Timon and Pumbaa to Pride Lands (the scene where Nala tells Timon and Pumbaa about Simba's return to the Pride Lands explained by Rafiki in the original version was also omitted), she chose to leave the oasis when Simba first refused to return all alone. However, when Simba changed his mind because of Mufasa's advice, he joined her when she already came out of the jungle and the two are going back together. Nala and the other Pridelanders are then seen during the final battle where she leads the lionesses to prepare for battle. Nala has more lines during the final battle in this remake, whereas in this original film, her last words were "Simba!" when she notices Simba about to fall into a pool of fire. When Scar tells the Pridelanders that Simba wants to kill Scar as he thinks Simba is evil, Nala and the other Pridelanders overhear this as Scar summons the hyenas to kill Simba and all the other Pridelanders. The hyenas plan on attacking him as Nala commands the other lionesses to attack and save Simba.
During the final battle against Scar and the hyenas, she spots Shenzi (a scene not in the animated version). Remembering how Shenzi almost ate her and Simba in their first encounter, Nala accepts Shenzi's challenge as she exclaims that she's not a cub anymore. Despite Shenzi being helped by some of her clan members, Nala is able to overpower all of them. Afterward, the battle against Scar was successful as Scar gets eaten alive, ending his tyranny.
With Scar gone, Nala and the other Pridelanders are proud that Simba's battle against Scar was successful as Simba becomes the new king. Sometime later, Simba and Nala give birth to a new cub where Rafiki shows the newborn lion to all the animals.
Nala makes cameo appearances usually as a cub in the series House of Mouse. She was always seen aside from the cub Simba. She also makes an appearance in the opening of Mickey's House of Villains, where she and Simba's dinner was stolen by Ed. She was seen as an adult in the episode "Timon and Pumbaa" and Mickey's Magical Christmas.
Nala also appears in the animated blooper reel featured in The Lion King: Diamond Edition special features. Her outtake featured the lioness flubbing her line during the final confrontation with Scar, during the film's climax.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Nala was seen as a resident of the Pride Lands, with a similar role to the film. She was a noble lioness and met Sora, Donald, and Goofy when they saved her from a group of Heartless, mostly a pair of the dangerous Living Bone Emblem Heartless. She requested their help in overthrowing Scar, although this request was later rebuked due to Rafiki's advice. She and the group find Simba at the oasis and convince him to return to Pride Rock to defeat Scar, which ended with Scar's death and Simba becoming king. Nala later became Simba's mate and to-be mother of their daughter, Kiara. Scar's ghost returned to haunt the land, causing everyone to flee, however, Nala stayed behind under Pumbaa's protection until Simba returned to face his fear.
After the defeat of Xemnas, Nala is seen with Simba while Rafiki holds Kiara high above the restored Pride Rock so all the animals can observe their new princess.
In the musical based on the film, Nala's role is considerably expanded, with the events leading up to Nala leaving the Pride Lands under Scar's tyranny depicted in detail.
Nala first appears in the musical as she is hunting with the other lionesses, replacing the scene from the film where she is being bathed by her mother Sarafina. Later, during the song "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", she sings quite a few extra lines that do not appear in the film version.
In the scene "The Madness of King Scar", the lonely, mentally ill Scar decides to take Nala as his wife and queen consort, despite the fact that she is angrily opposed to the idea and that she is much too young for him. This leads to the song scene "Shadowland" where Nala's character sings the lead about her need to leave the Pride Lands and find help. The other lionesses sing supporting choir and Rafiki sings a blessing. At the end of the song, Nala bids her pride a sad farewell and leaves.
Tony Award-winning actress Heather Headley portrayed her in the original Broadway cast. In the London West End production, she was originally portrayed by Paulette Ivory.
The song "Shadowland" was based on the song "Lea Halalela (Holy Land)" from the Rhythm of the Pride Lands CD.
Nala is also prominently featured at Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
- Her name is Tanzanian, meaning "luck," and in African, it means "successful," and in Swahili, it means "gift."
- Although when Zazu informed Simba and Nala that they'll marry one day, they both stuck up with the thing that they should forever remain best friends. However, when Scar informed that Simba was killed alongside his father in the stampede, Nala was totally devastated, this hints that she had a big hidden crush on Simba when they were kids, but she was too shy to confess that she was having romantic feelings for him back then.
- In an earlier draft, Nala was supposed to be banished from Pride Rock after she rejected Scar's proposal to be his queen. However, this is incorporated into the Broadway play The Lion King instead.
- Originally, Nala had a younger brother named Mheetu, but his character had to be dropped because of time constraints.
- Anna Chlumsky was considered to voice Young Nala.
- Nala's fur seems to be brighter in the sequel than it was in the original film.
- Although she is the deuteragonist, Nala has little screen time, as a majority of the film focuses on Simba's scenes with either Mufasa, Timon, or Pumbaa.
- Nala isn't included in the Disney Princesses line-up due to the fact that she's a lion (Ariel was a mermaid but has the more humanoid appearance and she eventually became human) as well as the fact that she wouldn't marry Simba until after he became King of the Pridelands.