As a cub, Nala is playful, spirited, and spunky. She and Simba are best friends. As cubs, the two were nearly inseparable. Unknown to them, they were betrothed at an early age, and both agreed that friends marrying each other was too weird once they discovered this fact. They got into many adventures, but when they were being chased by the hyenas, Shenzi was about to kill Nala when Simba saved her. Simba and Nala nearly died when the hyenas trapped them,but were saved by Mufasa. Nala was heartbroken when Scar claimed that Simba died with Mufasa in the wildebeest stampede. As young adults, Nala was the lioness who brought Simba back to Pride Rock, to save them from Scar's tyranny. In the midst of all this, they finally realized their friendship had grown into a relationship, and eventually marriage as originally intended. As Queen of Pride Rock, Nala often acts as a voice of reason for Simba, trying to get him to see the light when his protective judgment gets the best of him.
In the sequel, Nala has become much more mild-mannered and motherly. She acts as the voice of reason to Simba, who is now being very protective of Kiara, and reminds him that their daughter Kiara would be fine. She also seems to be less judgmental than Simba. When Simba refused to trust Kovu simply because of his outsider status, Nala and Rafiki are able to change his decision and Simba reserves his judgment to see if Kovu could be trusted.
Nala appears as a slender cream colored lioness with teal eyes (though her eyes are a much bluer color in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and green in The Lion King 1 1/2). As a cub, she had a pink nose, however as an adult, her nose is brown. Both the inside of her ears and the small tuft of fur on her tail are tan.
Nala's main animators were Bob Bryan and Gilda Palinginis, 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 Land's 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.
Nala is first seen as a cub, fast asleep in her mother Sarafina's arms when Simba goes to wake up Mufasa. She is then seen later that day being bathed by her mother. 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 accompany 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 which scares both of them. Nala was at first disgusted but later gets a crush on Simba. 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. Afterwards, while Mufasa lectures Simba, Zazu is tasked with taking Nala home, not to see her friend again for a long time.
Later, after Scar informs the pride of Mufasa's and Simba's deaths, she is seen mourning with the other lionesses and later seen shocked at the hyenas' takeover of Pride Rock.
Years later, as a young adult, she attempts to hunt Pumbaa. However, she becomes entangled in a fight with a young adult lion, who is actually the grown up Simba. She manages to pin the lion using a trademark move in which she flips the lion onto his back. But she doesn't 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, as it means he is the rightful king of the Pride Lands. After being alone with Simba, she falls in love with him, but grows angry when Simba refuses to return to Pride Rock to put an end to Scar's reign. At this point, she reveals that she left Pride Rock in an attempt to find help, as Scar had become a tyrant and the pride was suffering due to a drought, and the lack of both food and water as well as 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, Sarabi, Sarafina and the rest of the pride attack them together with Timon, Pumbaa and Rafiki. After the battle, she is seen looking on as Simba reclaims his throne, and becomes Simba's wife and had a cub with him.
In this film, Nala is both Simba's wife and Kiara's mother. She seems to have aged and has a more built frame. Her eyes also appear to be more blue in color. She is first seen at Kiara's presentation, looking on proudly. She later appears as Kiara is going out to play, reminding Kiara to mind her father, and reassuring Simba that she will be fine. She accompanies Simba as he goes to retrieve Kiara when she wanders off, and confronts Zira when the exiled lioness is discovered in the Pride Lands.
Nala next appears as Kiara 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. She later 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. 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 interfer, while the rest of the Pride now realize that Simba has broke the Circle of Life and failed to follow Mufasa's paw prints
During the battle between the Pridelanders and the Outsiders, she is seen leading the lionesses, and briefly fights Vitani. 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. Unlike the previous movies, she has green eyes in the film instead of blue. 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. Although Nala played a minor role in the film, she was still voiced by Moira Kelly.
Nala makes cameo appearances usually as a cub in the series. She was always seen aside 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.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Nala was seen as a resident of 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. 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.
The Lion King musical
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 can be found in a few places in the Disney theme parks around the world. Along with many other characters from the film, Nala made an appearance as an animatronic puppet in former Magic Kingdom show, The Legend of the Lion King. In Disney's Hollywood Studios' version of Fantasmic!, Nala can be seen with Simba and Zazu during the bubble montage. in Disneyland, Nala was seen on The Lion King's float in Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams. Nala and Simba are also featured in The Golden Mickeys. In Walt Disney World, Nala, and other characters from the film, are prominently featured at Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
Simba was Nala's best friend when they were cubs and she even joined him on his visit to the Elephant Graveyard where they were attacked by Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed but were saved just in time by Simba's father Mufasa. She was deeply saddened when she thought Simba had died along with Mufasa in the stampede, but was overjoyed years later when she found him living in the jungle where she developed romantic feelings for him. She later aided him in the fight with Scar and the hyenas and eventually married him and had a daughter with him named Kiara.
Not much of Nala's relationship with her daughter is shown, as the film focuses mainly on Kiara's relationships with Simba and Kovu, but from what is shown it seems that Nala has a good relationship with Kiara. Unlike Simba, Nala isn't overprotective of Kiara and seems to approve of her relationship with Kovu and along with Kiara appears not to approve of Simba's decision to banish him. She is also seen to be happy when Kiara marries Kovu.
Though they don't interact with each other it seems that unlike Simba, Nala trusts Kovu and advices Simba to get to know him. She is shown to upset when Simba banishes him for supposedly causing the Outsiders ambush and is the only lioness beside Kiara to believe that the ambush wasn't his fault. At the end of the film Nala is seen happily watching Kiara and Kovu's wedding and is seen roaring alongside him, Kiara and Simba.
Songs sung by Nala
- I Just Can't Wait to Be King
- Can You Feel the Love Tonight
- The Madness of King Scar (Musical version only)
- Shadowland (Musical version only)
- Her name is of Tanzanian origin and means 'luck' and in African, means 'successful'. In Swahili, (an African language), it means "gift".
- In the scene where Simba jumps over the lionesses to wake up his father, there is a cub that may be Nala and her mother, Sarafina.
- Despite being Simba's bride and later his queen, she is not considered a Disney Princess; instead, she is an Unofficial Princess. This is most likely because she is an animal, while all of the other Disney Princesses are human or humanlike. Of course, it could also be because her love interest was a King, making her a Queen.
- Nala is the third Disney Heroine to have first known the main protagonist in childhood, separated for long, and reunited and married to the protagonist in adulthood, the first two being Faline from Bambi and Maid Marian from Robin Hood, but the second to have actually been seen that way, the first again being Faline, as Maid Marian only mentioned it, and later, so did Robin Hood. Interestingly, all three of them are animals.
- 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 was dropped because of time constraints.
- Nala's fur seems to be brighter in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride than it was in the previous film.