Note from BW of Brazil: Well now, as the industry of overdubbing media productions, mostly from the United States, is big business in Brazil, there are endless stream of stories that I could report on that feature Brazilians lending their voices to American actors on the big or small screen. But as this blog focuses specifically on Brazilians of visible African ancestry, and most of the Brazilian voice actors I’ve seen fit more under the European standard, I don’t cover this topic nearly as much as other subjects. But today’s story is kinda, sorta big news, so let’s get to it.
As The Lion King was an international smash, there’s nothing surprising that anything associated with the film makes headlines in Brazil. Readers who have followed this blog for more than a few years may remember a previous post on the Brazilian stage production of The Lion King (known as O Rei Leão) musical. Well, The Lion King brand is back once again! This time, with actor/singer Ícaro Silva and singer Iza assuming the roles filled by the American duo of actor/rapper Donald Glover and pop superstar Beyoncé in voicing the characters of Simba and Nala. As I like to keep my audience up-to-date on the goings on with people I feature on the blog, let me catch you up on Ícaro and Iza, who both already have a “Beyoncé connection”. How? I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, let me discuss the talented Ícaro Silva. His name has popped up on the blog a few times with the most recent appearance in a story about his participation in the original Brazilian Netflix series Coisa Mais Linda. But to be truthful, there are other little tidbits about Silva that also deserve attention as frequently discussed topics here at BW of Brazil.
First, in line with my frequent coverage of the “Wild Wild West” “shoot ‘em up and ask questions later” tactics of Rio’s murderous Military Police, in September of last year, Ícaro and the Nissan Kicks he was driving was struck by police shots as he exited the Túnel Zuzu Angel tunnel in south zone Rio early in the morning hours of Wednesday, September 5, 2018.
According to the actor, he heard screams and then shots fired. When a car ahead of his decreased its speed, the actor sped up and passed the vehicle, but in doing so, ended up pulling up on a Military Police vehicle. Not knowing if the police were telling him to stop or keep going, he sped up and then heard shots fired that struck his vehicle as well as his left arm. Even having been struck, the actor managed to drive himself to the Hospital Barra D’Or where he was treated and released a few hours later. The 31-year old actor revealed that he was thankful to be alive. With the hundreds of people that drop dead due to stray and targeted police bullets flying in Rio, he clearly had reason to be thankful.
The second common BW of Brazil topic that applies to Ícaro is the media’s constant setting of black characters/actors in romantic or sexual settings with white characters/actors. Silva defines himself as “sexually free” and being a part of the LGBTIQ cause, he identifies himself as an “Ícarosexual”. As such, it should come as no surprise that he’s been paired with both men and women in romantic settings in film and TV. In the film 45 dias sem você, we see Silva in bed with actor Rafael De Bona, while he shares another bedroom scene with actress Danni Carlos in the current novela Verão 90.
The third topic I’ve discussed here applies to the theme of black men in dresses, which is simultaneously Ícaro’s Beyoncé connection.
Fans of the Sunday evening Globo TV variety show Domingão do Faustão will remember very well Silva’s point on imitation of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” video complete with shoes, shimmies, struts, sashays and shiny dress. RuPaul and Beyoncé herself would have been proud. Ícaro also turned heads with his Michael Jackson impersonation on the same program.
Another of the multi-talented artist’s attractions is the Ícaro and the Black Stars show, in which he, and vocalists Ananza and Luci Salutes sing the songs of legendary icons of Black Music. In the show’s repertoire are songs by the likes of Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Tim Maia, Bob Marley, Wilson Simonal, James Brown and others. The Black Stars not only perform the hits by these legends, they also tell their stories of the artists who they honor with their tribute. Engaged in the racial question, Ícaro still realizes that there is no car, clothes or social status that will remove Brazil’s black population from their situation as African descendants in Brazil.
Ícaro’s partner, Iza, has also made her mark in the world of Brazilian music. After earning a reputation through her interpretations of top American hits, Iza has been praised as a diva of Brazilian music, earning the praise of one of Brazil’s top interpreters of Samba, Alcione, been featured on numerous magazine covers and recently became a judge on the Brazilian edition of The Voice talent show, replacing long-time judge and internationally known musician Carlinhos Brown.
The singer also made headlines with her lavish wedding to producer Sérgio Santos. Iza, like Ícaro, also made a name for herself singing music by Queen Bey, showing off her vocal chops singing songs made famous by Mrs. Knowles-Carter such as “Flawless”, “Crazy in Love” and “Xo”.
The Lion King: Iza will dub Nala, and Ícaro Silva will be Simba in Brazilian version
By Rodolfo Vicentini
Disney chose the duo that will give voice to the protagonists of The Lion King (released as O Rei Leão in Brazil)in the dubbed version: the actor Ícaro Silva will be Simba, while the singer Iza will play Nala. In the original version, Donald Glover gives voice to the iconic lion while the pop star Beyoncé plays his romantic pair. The film hits theaters on July 18.
“A friend was with me on the recording and she put on the Beyoncé version. I was really excited because I was listening to the song of a very special movie for me, excited because Disney was making a new version and because it was the voice of Beyoncé,” said Iza in an interview with UOL.
Like Iza, Ícaro admits that he felt a certain amount of pressure but that he was honored by the invitation and “replacing” important names in American pop culture.
“It provokes a fear,” says the actor. “There’s a pressure involved, but at the same time I feel very validated as an actor, as an artist. Precisely because they are Beyoncé and Donald Glover, who are very special artists, not only of size and fame, but what they propose to do – ownership, multimedia, efervescência negra (black effervescence) and affirmation of this culture. “
“[It’s very important] Also be here with Iza, because she occupies a very interesting and beautiful place in the market. She is a talented popstar and black, that represents me a lot, ranging from cool pop to pop gospel. So I’m very proud to be with her.”
Importance of The Lion King
Iza was about to turn four when she saw the Disney animation. “The Lion King was the first movie I saw in the movies, the first time I was there with a screen, all dark. It’s very exciting, until coming to Timão e Pumba (Timon and Pumbaa), wow, was very painful,” she amuses the singer.
“Then I watched again, and as time went by, the Mufasa scene affected me differently. It is as if I was evolving along with The Lion King. And I’m very much a Disney fan, I’m just too happy to be a part of the movie. I’m finding it surreal,” she adds.
Ícaro is a little older than Iza, but like the children who grew up in the 1990s, he holds a special memory of Simba. “What is very strong for me in The Lion King is when he meets Timon and Pumbaa. It’s the most special moment.”
“The feeling I have today is that I really appreciated the diversity of these friends of his. He is a lion whose father says to be dominant, but finds friendship and family in a meerkat and a wild boar, and then the Nala still arrives. It’s a very unlikely friendship and at the same time very beautiful, because that’s what makes him believe in it and forget the trauma [of the father’s death]. “
Inexperience and soundtrack
Both Iza and Ícaro had never set foot in a dubbing studio. What’s more, Disney didn’t reveal which character they would audition for, so all the surprises happened at the time of the recording.
“You’re in an enclosed room and even though I’m an actor, I wasn’t specifically co-starring with anyone. I had a phone, a lot of text in front of me and a screen with the time when the character’s speech would come in,” recalls Ícaro.
Iza completes: “Music talks with art, with performance. But for me it is a much safer field than you interpreting. And more than that, you have to lend your expressions without your face being there. It’s a big challenge because people have to connect with Iza to Nala, connect Iza to Beyoncé, and they have to buy the dialogue. They are animals talking, so if it’s not good, imagine… “
This was exactly the process to interpreting the classic “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, that in Brazil became “Nesta Noite o Amor Chegou”. “I’ll tell you what I thought was going to happen: I’m going to have a meeting with Ícaro and Disney, we’ll sit down, go through the text together, talk about life and sing the song. But none of that,” says the singer, enthusiastic.
Both had to listen to the original version of the remake and imitated the vocal styles of Beyoncé and Donald Glover. “I had to imitate the same vocal lines, listening and singing. It’s very hard work,” says Ícaro. “They only give you their texts. In this case, Simba has more lines than Nala, so you listen and record. And the song was that too. I had to listen to Beyoncé and imitate the melismas and the way to sing it,” adds the pop star.
An excerpt from the new version of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, a classic of the soundtrack of the original animation, was unveiled by Disney, featuring the duet by Glover and Beyoncé for the first time. The remake of The Lion King is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book – Mogli: O Menino Lobo in Brazil), and will include the names Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), James Earl Jones (returning as Mufasa) and Seth Rogen (Pumba) in the cast of voices.