On July 19, the new version of The Lion King, featuring real-looking (but CGI-animated) animals of the Pride Lands, hits theaters. Disney doesn't make a lot of changes to the original story — why would they? But The Lion King does include a new Elton John song called "Never Too Late." It's only right that John and lyricist Tim Rice would have a new song in the movie, since those timeless songs that made the original a classic — including "Circle of Life," "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," "Be Prepared," "Hakuna Matata," and, of course, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" — were written by the two of them.
"Never Too Late" is sung by John, not by any of the characters. It plays at the end, as the credits roll, and is also available on the soundtrack, which is streaming now. The message of "Never Too Late" fits right in with Simba's (JD McCrary/Donald Glover) journey to mourn his father and rediscover his purpose as the King of the Pride Lands.
The lyrics say, "It's never too late to get back on track/To get at least some, if not all of it back." Later on in the song, John sings, "I used to say I don't have time, I'm sleepin' tonight/A day doin' nothin' is doin' it right."
Of course, those later lines refer to Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa's (Seth Rogen) laid back lifestyle, which Simba adopts after he runs away from home and eventually learns only distracts him from his true destiny as a leader. The lyrics also reference the meerkat and warthog besties crooning "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which is also on The Lion King soundtrack.
While most of John and Rice's original Lion King songs are relatively untouched in the new film, "Be Prepared" receives the most most drastic update. In the new film, "Be Prepared," the song in which Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) shares his evil plan with his hyena minions, is chopped down to just over two minutes from the original's three minutes and 40 seconds.
The new Lion King's soundtrack was released on July 11 for streaming and purchase, and in addition to "Never Too Late," the 2019 album also includes a new song by Beyoncé, who voices the grownup Nala, called "Spirit." The singer also masterfully duets with Glover on "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," which soundtracks the scene where Simba and Nala reconnect, just as it does in the animated film.
You probably shouldn't expect to hear any Elton John songs included on Beyoncé's upcoming Lion King-inspired album, The Lion King: The Gift, because a press release reports that it will feature African artists as a celebration of the African diaspora. Elton John's music will always be a special part of The Lion King, though. The 1994 Lion King soundtrack even includes John's solo versions of "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," "Circle of Life," and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."
The Lion King will likely always be important to John, too. The "Rocketman" singer even said that it helped his career flourish in new ways in a 2004 interview with Billboard. "The Lion King opened so many doors for me in the '90s. Up to that point I was just making albums and touring and promoting them, which was OK, but The Lion King obviously enabled me to write for animation. Consequently, it went to the stage then I wrote for Aida, I've written another two musicals, two film scores," he explained.
Just as The Lion King showed John that it's never to late to try something new, his contribution to the new movie may remind audiences that it's always possible for them to make a change too.