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 Simba let out a roar. Simba and Nala 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 there friendship had grown into love, and eventually married 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 is able to see that Kovu is unwilling to follow his destiny as Scar's heir, and thus is more trusting than Simba is.
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, being bathed by her mother Sarafina. 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.
Years later, as an 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. 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. 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 to disapprove of Kovu's banishment, even though she isn't at all vocal about it.
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.
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.
- 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.
- It is greatly debated as to who Nala's father is. Many fans say her father is Scar, although such a relation would mean that Nala is also Simba's paternal cousin.
- Plus, a forgotten concept was that Scar tries to seduce Nala to be his queen, and if she was his daughter this idea would be impossible and flat-out disgusting.
- 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 is somewhat similar to Beatrice Carbone from A View From the Bridge as they are both more motherly towards their children (Nala, Kiara and Beatrice, Catherine) when she tells her to take a job at the beginning of the play)