Disney’s The Lion King roared into the Chinese box office this past weekend, raking in 53.8 million USD in its opening three days as the country’s usually busy summer holiday cinema season witnessed something of a slump amid heavy censorship.
Helping it on its way to box office primacy was a special bilingual duet featuring Beyoncé and Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung. The English and Chinese version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is the only official international reworking any of the songs from this latest iteration of The Lion King.
The track has been branded as a “dream duet” by fans in China, though the top-rated comment under Disney Movie’s official Weibo account right now reads “Huh… this big deal collaboration is pretty boring”.
You can listen to the Beyoncé and Jacky Cheung version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” on QQ Music here or on YouTube from a Jacky Cheung fan club, while it lasts there:
And here’s the English version with Donald Glover for comparison:
Disney’s promo campaign for the new film has not been without problems in China. The choice of pop star Cai Xukun of boyband Nine Percent as “ambassador” for the movie has proven divisive, with an open letter criticizing the decision going viral on microblogging site Weibo. “Cai stands for everything Simba does not,” the letter argues, going on to detail accusations against him and his studio of fabricating fan data.
“I have no personal grudge against Cai Xukun. I hardly know the star or listen to his music,” the post reads. “But I do have deep feelings for Simba, a childhood hero for me who can still evoke memories of great fondness, joy and thrill in me. I’m disheartened to see Cai representing Simba.”
Cai was also an unpopular choice among Chinese NBA fans when he was named as the league’s “Chinese New Year Celebration Brand Ambassador” in February. In that case, his “feminine appearance” was criticized. Cai is one of China’s most valuable stars, yet he has been publicly called out by State media for purchasing fake fan accounts to boost his numbers.
Here are China’s 10 Most Valuable Stars
But as an increasing number of domestic productions get hit by tightening censorship oversight of the Chinese box office, the controversy may not be enough to stop The Lion King leading the pack in revenue terms in China this summer.
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