- “Life's greatest adventure is finding your place in the Circle of Life.”
The Lion King is a 1994 American animated feature produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. It was released in theaters on June 15, 1994 by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 32nd film in the Disney Animated Canon. The story, which was generally influenced by African animal behavior, takes place in a kingdom of animals in Africa. The film was the highest-grossing animated film of all time until the release of Finding Nemo (a Disney/Pixar computer-animated film). The Lion King still holds the record as the highest-grossing traditionally animated film in history, is the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time, and belongs to an era known as the Disney Renaissance.
The Lion King is the highest-grossing 2D animated film of all time in the United States, and received universal acclaim from critics, who praised the film for its music and story. During its release in 1994, the film grossed more than $783 million worldwide, becoming the most successful film released that year.
A musical film, The Lion King garnered two Academy Awards for its achievement in music and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Songs were written by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, with an original score by Hans Zimmer. Disney later produced two related movies: a sequel, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride; and a part prequel-part parallel, The Lion King 1½. This film also resulted in a spin-off television series called Timon and Pumbaa, starring the comic relief characters of the same name.
The story of The Lion King takes place in the Pride Lands, where a lion rules over the other animals as king.
At the beginning of the film, Rafiki (Robert Guillame), a mandrill shaman, anoints Simba, the newborn cub of King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Queen Sarabi (Madge Sinclair), and presents him to a gathering of animals at Pride Rock ("The Circle of Life"). Meanwhile, Mufasa's younger brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), realizes that he is no longer the heir to the throne and plots to kill Simba.
Months later, Mufasa takes Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) around the Pride Lands, teaching him about the "Circle of Life", the delicate balance affecting all living things. Later, Scar tells Simba about the elephant graveyard, a place where Mufasa has warned him not to go. Simba asks his mother if he can go to the water-hole with his best friend, Nala (Niketa Calame). Sarabi and Nala's mother Sarafina (Zoe Leader) agree, but only if Mufasa's majordomo, the hornbill Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), goes with them. Simba and Nala elude Zazu's supervision ("I Just Can't Wait to Be King") and go to the graveyard instead. There, the cubs are chased by Shenzi, Banzai and Ed (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Martin and Jim Cummings), Scar's spotted hyena henchman who try to kill them, but are rescued by Mufasa, who was summoned by Zazu.
Later that night, Scar gains the loyalty of the hyenas by claiming that if he becomes king, they will "never go hungry again." Plotting further, Scar gathers more hyenas ("Be Prepared") forming an army. Some time later, Scar lures Simba into a gorge for a "surprise from his father" then signals the hyenas create a wildebeest stampede down into the gorge where Simba is. Alerted by an insincerely dramatic Scar, Mufasa races to rescue Simba from the stampede. He saves his son but is left clinging to the edge of a cliff, which results in Scar flinging him into the stampede below, where he is buried into the some of the wildebeests' horns, hit the ground with extreme force, and finally trampled to death by the wildebeest. Scar convinces Simba that he was responsible for his own father's death, and recommends that he flees the Pride Lands, never to return. To compound this, Scar once again sends the hyenas to kill Simba, but as Simba reaches a thorny embankment, they let him escape, hurling threats that he will be killed if ever seen again. That night back at Pride Rock, Scar informs the pride that both Mufasa and Simba were killed in the stampede, and that he is assuming the throne as the closest of king. After becoming king, Scar fulfils his promise to the hyenas and allows them to come into The Pride Lands.
Simba collapses in a distant desert where he is found unconscious by Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella), a meerkat-warthog duo who raise Simba under their carefree "Hakuna Matata" lifestyle ("Hakuna Matata"). When Simba has grown into a young adult (Matthew Broderick) he saves them from a hungry lioness who is revealed to be Nala (Moira Kelly). Simba shows Nala around his home and the two begin to fall in love ("Can You Feel the Love Tonight"). Nala then tells him that Scar's tyrannical reign has turned the Pride Lands into a barren wasteland; she demands that Simba must return and take his rightful place as king, but Simba refuses, still guilty about supposedly causing his father's death. Rafiki arrives and persuades Simba to return to the Pride Lands, aided by Mufasa's presence in the stars. After some advance from Rafiki and the ghost of his father, Simba, followed by Nala, Timon and Pumbaa, returns home.
Once back at Pride Rock, Simba (with Timon, Pumbaa and Nala) is horrified to see the condition of the Pride Lands. After seeing Scar strike his mother, Simba announces his return. In response, Simba confronts Scar and the truth about Mufasa's death which is revealed by an overly confident Scar who forces Simba over the edge of Pride Rock, just as a lighting bolt starts a fire below. As Simba dangles over the edge of Pride Rock, Scar whispers to Simba that he killed Mufasa. Enraged, Simba leaps up and pins Scar to the ground, forcing him to admit the truth to the pride. A raging battle then ensues between the hyenas and the lionesses, Timon, and Pumbaa which results in Simba cornering Scar. In the midst of their fight, Scar tries to surreptitiously blame everything on the hyenas, but the hyenas overhear his conversation with Simba. Simba orders Scar to flee the Pride Lands. Scar pretends to leave but turns to attack Simba, resulting in a final duel. Simba eventually triumphs over his uncle by flipping him and kicks him over a low cliff. Scar survives the fall but finds himself surrounded by the now resentful hyenas. The hyenas surround their traitorous fallen leader, and attack him and maul him to death, as flames rise around them.
With Scar and the hyenas gone, and with the rightful king in place, the Pride Lands are restored which is turning green with life again. The film concludes with Rafiki presenting Simba and Nala's newborn cub into the air, thus continuing the Circle of Life.
Unlike many previous Disney animated films that featured only a select few famous voice actors alongside lesser-known performers, nearly all of the voice acting work for The Lion King was done by well-known actors.
- Simba (voiced by Matthew Broderick and by Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a cub) is the main protagonist of the film and the son of Mufasa and Sarabi. After defeating his uncle Scar, he becomes the new king of the Pride Lands.
- Nala (voiced by Moira Kelly and by Niketa Calame as a cub) is Simba's childhood friend and intended wife. She eventually becomes Simba's wife. She is the deuteragonist of the film.
- Scar (voiced by Jeremy Irons), the film's main antagonist, is Mufasa's jealous and scheming younger brother and Simba's uncle who desires the throne and obtains it by killing Mufasa and exiling Simba. After being overthrown by Simba (literally), he gets eaten alive by the hyenas.
- Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) is the King of the Pride Lands, Sarabi's husband and Simba's father. Eventually, he gets killed by his younger brother Scar by being thrown off a cliff and getting trampled by a wildebeest stampede. Later, he is reincarnated as a ghost and still watches over Simba.
- Timon and Pumbaa (voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella respectively) are the comical meerkat and warthog duo who live under the philosophy of "Hakuna Matata". They become Simba's provisional guardians during his exile. They are the tritagonists and comic relief of the film.
- Rafiki (voiced by Robert Guillaume) is a wise mandrill who is responsible for presenting the newborn prince of the lions at Pride Rock for all to see and act like a "shaman" for the pride.
- Zazu (voiced by Rowan Atkinson) is a loyal hornbill who serves as Mufasa's majordomo.
- Shenzi, Banzai and Ed (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings respectively) are a trio of villainous spotted hyenas who are Scar's henchmen. They serve as the secondary antagonists of the film. At the end of the film they kill Scar after he betrays them.
- Sarabi (voiced by Madge Sinclair) is Mufasa's wife, Simba's mother and the leader of the lionesses.
- Sarafina (voiced by Zoe Leader) is Nala's mother. Her name is given only in the end credits of the film.
The idea for The Lion King was conceived in late 1988 during a conversation between Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy E. Disney and Peter Schneider on a plane to Europe to promote Oliver & Company. During the conversation, the topic of a story set in Africa came up, and Katzenberg immediately jumped at the idea. Producer Thomas Schumacher, who had just completed The Rescuers Down Under, decided to attach himself to the project "because lions are cool". The idea was then developed by Walt Disney Feature Animation's vice president for creative affairs Charlie Fink. Katzenberg decided to add elements involving coming of age and death, and ideas from personal life experiences, such as some of his trials in his bumpy road in politics, saying about the film, "It is a little bit about myself." In November of that year Thomas Disch (author of The Brave Little Toaster) wrote a treatment entitled King of the Kalahari, and afterwards Linda Woolverton spent a year writing drafts of the script, which was titled King of the Beasts and then King of the Jungle. The original version of the film was very different from the final film. The plot was centered in a battle being between lions and baboons with Scar being the leader of the baboons, Rafiki being a cheetah, and Timon and Pumbaa being Simba's childhood friends. Simba would also not leave the kingdom, but become a "lazy, slovenly, horrible character" due to manipulations from Scar, so Simba could be overthrown after coming of age.
Oliver & Company director George Scribner was the initial director of the film, being later joined by Roger Allers, who was the lead story man on Beauty and the Beast in October 1991. Allers brought with him Brenda Chapman, who would become the head of story. Afterwards, several of the lead crew members, including Allers, Scribner, Hahn, Chapman, and production designer Chris Sanders, took a trip to Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya, in order to study and gain an appreciation of the environment for the film. After six months of story development work Scribner decided to leave the project, as he clashed with Allers and the producers on their decision to turn the film into a musical, as Scribner's intention was of making a documentary-like film more focused on natural aspects. Rob Minkoff replaced Scribner, and producer Don Hahn joined the production. Hahn found the script unfocused and lacking a clear theme, and after establishing the main theme as "leaving childhood and facing up to the realities of the world", asked for a final retool. Allers, Minkoff, Chapman and Hahn then rewrote the story across two weeks of meetings with directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, who had just finished Beauty and the Beast. The script also had its title changed from King of the Jungle to The Lion King, as the setting was not the jungle but the savannah.
The Lion King was the first Disney animated feature to be an original story, rather than being based on an already-existing work. The filmmakers have said that the story of The Lion King was inspired by the Joseph and Moses stories from the Bible and William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Despite these claims, the story was not based on the aforementioned works, having actually taken more inspiration from actual animal behavior. During the summer of 1992, the team was joined by screenwriter Irene Mecchi, with a second screenwriter, Jonathan Roberts, joining a few months later. Mecchi and Roberts took charge of the revision process, fixing unresolved emotional issues in the script and adding comic business for Pumbaa, Timon and the hyenas. Lyricist Tim Rice worked closely with the writing team, flying to California at least once a month, as his songs needed to work in the narrative continuity. Rice's lyrics – which were reworked up to the production's end – were even pinned to the storyboards during development. Rewrites were frequent, with animator Andreas Deja saying that completed scenes would be delivered only for the response to be that parts needed to be reanimated due to dialog changes.
The voice actors were chosen for how they fit and could add to the characters – for instance, James Earl Jones was cast because the directors found his voice "powerful" and similar to a lion's roar. Nathan Lane originally auditioned for Zazu, and Ernie Sabella for one of the hyenas. Upon meeting each other at the recording studio, the actors, who at the time both co-starred in Guys and Dolls, were asked to record together as hyenas. The directors laughed at their performance and decided to cast them as Timon and Pumbaa. For the hyenas, the original intention was to reunite Cheech & Chong, but while Cheech Marin accepted to play Banzai, Tommy Chong was unavailable. Thus his role was changed into a female hyena, Shenzi, who was voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.
The development of The Lion King started concurrently with Pocahontas, which most of the animators of Walt Disney Feature Animation decided to work on instead, believing it would be the more prestigious and successful of the two. The story artists also did not have much faith in the project, with Brenda Chapman declaring she was reluctant to accept the job "because the story wasn't very good", and writer Burny Mattinson saying to co-worker Joe Ranft about the film that "I don't know who is going to want to watch that one." Most of the leading animators were either doing their first major work supervising a character, or had much interest in animating an animal. Thirteen of these supervising animators, both in California and Florida, were responsible for establishing the personalities and setting the tone for the film's main characters. The animation leads for the main characters included Mark Henn on young Simba, Ruben A. Aquino on adult Simba, Andreas Deja on Scar, Aaron Blaise on young Nala, Anthony DeRosa on adult Nala, and Tony Fucile on Mufasa. Nearly 20 minutes of the film, including the "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" sequence, were animated at the Disney-MGM Studios facility. Ultimately, more than 600 artists, animators and technicians contributed to The Lion King over the course of its production. Weeks before the film was to be released, production was affected by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which shut off the studio and required the animators to finish their work from home.
The character animators studied real-life animals for reference, as was done for the 1942 Disney film Bambi. Jim Fowler, renowned wildlife expert, visited the studios on several occasions with an assortment of lions and other savannah inhabitants to discuss behavior and help the animators give their drawings an authentic feel. The Pride Lands are modeled on the Kenyan national park visited by the crew. Varied focal lengths and lenses were employed to differ from the habitual portrayal of Africa in documentaries – which employ telephoto lenses to shoot the wildlife from a distance. The epic feel drew inspiration from concept studies by artist Hans Bacher – which, following Scribner's request for realism, tried to depict effects such as lens flare – and the works of painters Charles Marion Russell, Frederic Remington and Maxfield Parrish. Since the characters were not anthropomorphized in terms of posture, all the animators had to learn to draw four-legged animals, and the story and character development was done through usage of longer shots following the characters.
The use of computers helped the filmmakers present their vision in new ways. The most notable use of computer animation is in the "wildebeest stampede" sequence. Several distinct wildebeest characters were created in a 3D computer program, multiplied into hundreds, cel shaded to look like drawn animation, and given randomized paths down a mountainside to simulate the real, unpredictable movement of a herd. Five specially trained animators and technicians spent more than two years creating the two-and-a-half minute stampede sequence. Other usages of computer animation were done through CAPS, which helped simulate camera movements such as tracking shots, and was employed on the coloring, lighting and particle effects.
The enthusiastic audience reception to an early Lion King film trailer, which consisted solely of the opening sequence with the song "Circle of Life", suggested that the film would be very successful. While both The Lion King and Pocahontas were commercial successes, The Lion King received more positive feedback and earned larger grosses than did Pocahontas, released one year later.
The complex wildebeest stampede scene took nearly three years to animate.
Elton John and Tim Rice wrote five original songs for this film, with Elton John performing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" during the end credits. The film's score was composed by Hans Zimmer and supplemented with traditional African music and choir elements arranged by Lebo M.
Here are the musical numbers in the original theatrical film, listed in the order of their occurrence:
- "Circle of Life" is sung by an off-screen character voiced by Carmen Twillie, with African vocals by Lebo M and his African choir. This song is played during the ceremony where the newborn Simba is presented to the animals of the Pride Lands. The song is reprised at the end of the film, during the presentation of Simba and Nala's newborn cub.
- "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" is sung by young Simba (Jason Weaver), young Nala (Laura Williams), and Zazu (Rowan Atkinson). Simba uses this musical number in the film to distract Zazu so that he and Nala can sneak off to the elephant graveyard, at the same time expressing his wish to be king as soon as possible.
- "Be Prepared" is sung by Scar (Jeremy Irons/Jim Cummings), Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (Cheech Marin) and Ed (Jim Cummings). In this song, Scar reveals his plot to kill Mufasa and Simba to his hyena minions.
- "Hakuna Matata" is sung by Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) and Simba (Jason Weaver as a cub and Joseph Williams as an adult). Timon and Pumbaa use this song as a warm welcome to Simba as he arrives at their jungle home, and to explain their "no worries" lifestyle. The sequence also contains a montage sequence in which Simba grows into a young adult, indicating the passage of time in Simba's life in the jungle. The American Film Institute released its AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs list in 2004 and "Hakuna Matata" was listed at number 99.
- "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is a love song sung mainly by an off-screen character voiced by Kristle Edwards, along with Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), adult Simba (Joseph Williams) and adult Nala (Sally Dworsky). This musical sequence shows Timon and Pumbaa's frustration at seeing Simba fall in love, and the development of Simba and Nala's romantic relationship. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song during the 67th Academy Awards.
Additionally, a song which was not present in the original theatrical film, was later added to the digitally enhanced IMAX re-release version in the form of "Special Edition", but for the Platinum Edition release:
- "The Morning Report" was originally a scene planned for the theatrical film but never made it past the storyboard stage. It was later cut and the song lyrics were written to be used for the live musical version of The Lion King instead. It was later added, with an accompanying animated sequence, to the 2002 IMAX rerelease. Sung by Zazu (Jeff Bennett), Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and young Simba (Evan Saucedo), the song is an extension of the scene in the original film where Zazu delivers a morning report to Mufasa, and later gets pounced on by Simba.
Soundtrack and other albums
- Main article: The Lion King (soundtrack)
The film's original motion picture soundtrack was released on July 13, 1994. It was the fourth best-selling album of the year on the Billboard 200 and the top-selling soundtrack.
On February 28, 1995, Disney released an album entitled Rhythm of the Pride Lands, which featured songs and performances inspired by, but not featured in, the film. Focusing on the African influences in the film's original music, most of the tracks were by African composer Lebo M, sung either partially or entirely in various African languages. Several songs included on the album would be used in other The Lion King-related projects, such as the stage musical and the direct-to-video sequels (e.g., "He Lives In You" was used as the opening song for The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, and a reincarnation of "Warthog Rhapsody", called "That's All I Need", in The Lion King 1½). Rhythm of the Pride Lands was initially issued in a very limited quantity, but there was a 2003 re-release included in some international versions of The Lion King's special edition soundtrack, with an additional track. Additionally, The Lion King Expanded Score contains never-before-released instrumental music from Hans Zimmer's original score.
The compilation Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic includes "Circle of Life", "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", "Hakuna Matata", "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and "Be Prepared". The compilation Disney's Greatest also includes "Circle of Life", "Hakuna Matata", and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight".
- Main article: The Lion King (video)
Box office performance
The Lion King became the highest-grossing motion picture of 1994 worldwide, and the second highest in the USA (behind Forrest Gump). The film initially made $312,855,561 domestically, including a short return to theaters in November 1994, and adding in its 2002 IMAX rerelease the domestic total is $328,541,776. So far with the 3-D broadcasts, the film is now at $422,782,411 in the US, with another $528,800,000 in other countries, for a total of $987,483,777 as of January 9, 2012. With the re-release in 2011, it jumped from 23rd to 9th all-time in total gross in the US.
The Lion King garnered critical acclaim and at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 61 reviews collected, the film has an overall approval rating of 92%, with a weighted average score of 8/10. Among Rotten Tomatoes's Cream of the Crop, which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 100 percent. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a Standard score 0-100 rating to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 84 from the 13 reviews it collected.
Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert called the film "a superbly drawn animated feature" and, in his print review wrote, "The saga of Simba, which in its deeply buried origins owes something to Greek tragedy and certainly to Hamlet, is a learning experience as well as an entertainment." However, on the television program At the Movies the film was praised but received a mixed reaction when compared to previous Disney films. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both gave the film a "Thumbs Up" but Siskel said that it was not as good as earlier films such as Beauty and the Beast and was "a good film, not a great one". Hal Hinson of The Washington Post called it "an impressive, almost daunting achievement" and felt that the film was "spectacular in a manner that has nearly become commonplace with Disney's feature-length animations", but was less enthusiastic toward the end of his review saying, "Shakespearean in tone, epic in scope, it seems more appropriate for grown-ups than for kids. If truth be told, even for adults it is downright strange." Owen Gleiberman, film critic for Entertainment Weekly, praised the film and wrote that it "has the resonance to stand not just as a terrific cartoon but as an emotionally pungent movie". Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers praised the film and felt that it was "a hugely entertaining blend of music, fun and eye-popping thrills, though it doesn't lack for heart".
The staff of TV Guide wrote that "The film has some of Disney's most spectacular animation yet—particularly in the wildebeest stampede—and strong vocal performances, especially by skilled Broadway comedian Nathan Lane. However, it suffers from a curiously undeveloped story line." James Berardinelli, film critic for ReelViews, praised the film saying, "With each new animated release, Disney seems to be expanding its already-broad horizons a little more. The Lion King is the most mature (in more than one sense) of these films, and there clearly has been a conscious effort to please adults as much as children. Happily, for those of us who generally stay far away from 'cartoons', they have succeeded." In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "10 Top 10"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. The Lion King was acknowledged as the fourth best film in the animation genre.
Awards and nominations
The Lion King received many award nominations, including the Academy Award for Best Original Score (by Hans Zimmer) and the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, both of which it won. Most notably, the song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" by Elton John and Tim Rice won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, the BMI Film Music Award, and the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance Male.
The awards were as follows:
- Academy Awards
- Best Original Score (Won)
- Best Original Song for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Won)
- Best Original Song for "Circle of Life" (Nominated)
- Best Original Song for "Hakuna Matata" (Nominated)
- Golden Globe Awards
- Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (Won)
- Best Original Score (Won)
- Best Original Song for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Won)
- Best Original Song for "Circle of Life" (Nominated)
- Annie Awards
- Best Animated Feature (Won)
- Best Achievement for Voice Acting to Jeremy Irons for voicing Scar (Won)
- Best Individual Achievement for Story Contribution in the Field of Animation (Won)
- Best Individual Achievement for Artistic Excellence in the Field of Animation (Nominated, lost to The Nightmare Before Christmas.)
- Saturn Awards
- Best Fantasy Film (Nominated, lost to Forrest Gump.)
- Best Performance by a Younger Actor to Jonathan Taylor Thomas for voicing young Simba (Nominated, lost to Kirsten Dunst for Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles.)
- Best DVD Classic Film Release in 2004 (Nominated, lost to The Adventures of Robin Hood.)
- British Academy Film Awards
- BAFTA Award for Best Sound (Nominated, lost to Speed.)
- Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music (Nominated, lost to Backbeat.)
- BMI Film & TV Awards
- BMI Film Music Award for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Won)
- Most Performed Song from a Film "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Won)
- Grammy Award
- Best Vocal Performance Male to Elton John for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Won)
- Grammy Award for Song of the Year|Song of the Year for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Nominated, lost to "Streets of Philadelphia" from Philadelphia.)
- Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Nominated, lost to "Streets of Philadelphia" from Philadelphia.)
- Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for "Circle of Life" (Nominated, lost to "Streets of Philadelphia" from Philadelphia.)
- Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television (Nominated, lost to Schindler's List.)
- 1995 MTV Movie Awards
- Best Villain for Jeremy Irons (Nominated, lost to Dennis Hopper for Speed.)
- Best Song From A Movie for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Nominated, lost to "Big Empty" from The Crow).
- Kids' Choice Awards
- Favorite Movie (Won)
In 2005, The Lion King was voted 7th in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Cartoons poll in the UK behind The Simpsons, Tom and Jerry, South Park, Toy Story, Family Guy and Shrek.
1995 Masterpiece Edition
The Lion King was first released on VHS and laserdisc in the United States on March 3, 1995, under Disney's "Masterpiece Collection" video series. In addition, Deluxe Editions of both formats were released. The VHS Deluxe Edition included the film, an exclusive lithograph of Rafiki and Simba (in some editions), a commemorative "Circle of Life" epigraph, six concept art lithographs, another tape with the half-hour TV show The Making of The Lion King, and a certificate of authenticity. The CAV laserdisc Deluxe Edition also contained the film, six concept art lithographs and The Making of The Lion King, and added storyboards, character design artwork, concept art, rough animation, and a directors' commentary that the VHS edition did not have, on a total of four double sided disks. The VHS tape quickly became one of the best-selling videotapes of all time: 4.5 million tapes were sold on the first day and ultimately sales totaled more than 30 million before these home video versions went into moratorium in 1997.
1999 Walt Disney Classics collection
On November 13, 1999, The Lion King was released on VCD (Video CD (Video Compact Disc)) in Malaysia and Hong Kong, China under Disney's "Walt Disney Classics collection" video series. This was a 2-disc edition of the movie. In this edition, the movie is digital video and digital audio on 2 Compact Discs and plays 4% faster than the actual speed of the movie. VCD was the very first digital video format ever; therefore, it was also the very first ALL–DIGITAL format (digital video AND digital audio) The Lion King was ever released on.
2003 Platinum Edition
On October 7, 2003, the film was rereleased on VHS for the second time and released on DVD for the first time, titled The Lion King: Platinum Edition, as part of Disney's Platinum Edition line of animated classic DVDs. The DVD release featured two versions of the film on the first disc, a remastered version created for the 2002 IMAX release of the film in both forms: the "Special Edition" cut with a musical number added and the "Original Theatrical Release" cut. A second disc, with bonus features, was also included in the DVD release. The film's soundtrack was provided both in its original Dolby 5.1 track and in a new Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix, making this one of the first Disney DVDs so equipped. By means of seamless branching, the film could be viewed either with or without a newly-created scene — a short conversation in the film replaced with a complete song ("The Morning Report"). A Special Collector's Gift Set was also released, containing the DVD set, five exclusive lithographed character portraits (new sketches created and signed by the original character animators), and an introductory book entitled The Journey.
The Platinum Edition of The Lion King was criticized by fans for its false advertising: producer Don Hahn had earlier stated that the film would be in its original 1994 theatrical version, but it was confirmed after release that it was the "digitally enhanced" IMAX version instead, which is slightly different from the original theatrical cut. One of the most noticeable differences is the re-drawn crocodiles in the "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" sequence. Despite this criticism, more than two million copies of the Platinum Edition DVD and VHS units were sold on the first day of release. A DVD boxed set of the three The Lion King films (in two-disc Special Edition formats) was released on December 7, 2004. In January 2005, the film, along with the sequels, went back into moratorium, but new and used copies still sell very well.
2011 Diamond Edition
Prior to announcing the Diamond Edition release of the film, Disney showed clips of the film on Blu-ray at the Consumer Electronics Show 2008. Disney announced in the Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition official site, that The Lion King was released in a Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on October 4, 2011. Also on October 4, 2011, The Lion King was released for the very first time on Blu-ray Disc. As well as being released as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and a stand alone DVD Edition like previous Diamond Edition releases, The Lion King was the first to be released in a Disney 3D Blu-ray combo pack. This is the second Disney 3D combo pack, following Tangled earlier in the year. There is a Trilogy Collector's set, it has The Lion King: Diamond Edition Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, The Lion King 1 ½: Blu-ray + DVD, and The Lion King 2: Blu-ray + DVD. The Lion King was released on DVD for the second time and was also the first Diamond Edition title to include a 1-Disc DVD Edition instead of a 2-Disc DVD set like previous Diamond titles, which became available on November 15, 2011. It currently went back into moratorium along with Lady and the Tramp on April 30, 2013.
The Lion King was the first Disney animated feature to be an original story, rather than being based on an already-existing story. The filmmakers have said that the story of The Lion King was inspired by the Joseph and Moses stories from the Bible and William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Certain elements of the film, however, bear a resemblance to a famous 1960's Japan's animated television show, Kimba the White Lion. One similarity is the protagonists' names: Kimba and Simba, although the word "simba" means "lion" in Swahili. Many characters in Kimba have an analogue in The Lion King and various individual scenes are nearly identical in composition and camera angle. Matthew Broderick, the voice of Simba, believed initially that he was in fact working on a remake of Kimba, since he was familiar with the Japanese original. Early production artwork on the film's Platinum Edition DVD even includes a white lion. Disney's official stance is that the similarities are all coincidental.
Yoshihiro Shimizu, of Tezuka Productions, which created Kimba the White Lion, has refuted rumors that the studio was paid hush money by Disney but explains that they rejected urges from within the industry to sue because, 'we're a small, weak company. It wouldn't be worth it anyway... Disney's lawyers are among the top twenty in the world!'
Christopher Vogler, in his book The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, described Disney's request that he suggest how to improve the plot of The Lion King by incorporating ideas from Hamlet. It has also been noted that the plot bears some resemblance to the West African Epic of Sundiata.
Alleged subliminal messaging
In one scene of the film's original VHS and LaserDisc releases, it seems like the word "SEX" appears for a split-second in the dust flying in the sky when Simba flops down, which conservative activist Donald Wildmon asserted was a subliminal message intended to promote sexual promiscuity. The film's animators, however, have stated that the letters spell "SFX" (a common abbreviation of "special effects"), and was intended as an innocent "signature" created by the effects animation team. Due to the controversy it had caused, the scene was edited for the film's Special Edition IMAX release, the 2003 DVD and VHS releases and 2011 DVD, Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray 3D and Digital Copy releases, and the dust no longer formed any letters.
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
The use of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in a scene with Timon and Pumbaa has led to disputes between Disney and the family of South African Solomon Linda, who composed the song (originally titled "Mbube") in 1939. In July 2004, the family filed suit, seeking $1.6 million in royalties from Disney. In February 2006, Linda's heirs reached a legal settlement with Abilene Music, who held the worldwide rights and had licensed the song to Disney for an undisclosed amount of money.
In August 2007, the Hamas organization produced an animated propaganda film that resembled the style of The Lion King. The program was aired via their television station, Al-Aqsa TV. Hamas was portrayed as a lion that chased and killed rats that bore the likenesses of members of the secular Fatah organization in Gaza. The program was briefly aired but was pulled off the air for revision.
Portrayal of hyenas
A number of Disney studios artists spent two days observing and sketching captive Spotted Hyenas maintained at the Field Station for Behavioral Research in the hills above the University of California's Berkeley campus. Dr. Laurence Frank, and other scientists who had organized the visit, expressed a strong request that the portrayal of the hyenas featured in The Lion King be positive. The artists responded that they would do their best to make the hyenas appear more comical than evil. The resulting portrayal did not impress most hyena biologists: one hyena researcher sued Disney studios for defamation of character, and in conclusion to a spotted hyena fact sheet written for African Geographic in May 2006, Dr. Frank included boycotting The Lion King as a way of helping preserve hyenas in the wild. Hyena researcher Stephen Glickman wrote: "In both Hemingway and The Lion King there is an emphasis on greed, gluttony, and stupidity that is ultimately designed to be comical. This reaches its "pinnacle" when a hyena Ed feeds on its own body, as described in The Green Hills of Africa and in the American children's computer game based on the movie."
Condemnation was also launched by film critics and cultural analysts, some of whom saw the portrayals of the hyenas as underlying a low class and that their upholding of cultural stereotypes by sporting African American (Shenzi) and Latin American (Banzai) accents, as opposed to the American and British accents of the main characters, was racist. Film analyst Matt Roth described the film as a "the spadework for the ugly principles it [Disney] feels it must implant in each new generation."
Sequels and spin-offs
The success of the film led to the development of a franchise that compromises several sequels, spin-offs, video games and other merchandise. Additionally, characters from the film have made appearances in other Disney media such as Disney's House of Mouse or the Kingdom Hearts series of video games.
In June 2014, it was announced that a new tv series based on the film called The Lion Guard is to be made. It will center around Simba and Nala's son Kion who leads a group of animals to protect the Pride Lands. It will be broadcast on Disney Junior first with a television film in November 2015 before episodes are shown from January 2016. It will feature appearances from Simba, Nala, Mufasa, Timon, Pumbaa, Zazu, Rafiki and Kiara.
Impact on popular culture
Because of its popularity, The Lion King has been referenced in a variety of media. For instance, the animated TV series The Simpsons spoofed the film in the episode "'Round Springfield". Toward the end of the episode, the ghost of Mufasa appears in the clouds with Bleeding Gums Murphy (who had died earlier that episode) and Darth Vader, and James Earl Jones (who voiced both Mufasa and Darth Vader) says, "This is CNN. You must avenge my death, Kimba... dah, I mean Simba," a reference to the Lion King/Kimba the White Lion controversy. Jones' involvement in both Star Wars and The Lion King is also parodied in the sketch comedy show Studio C. When Jones guest-starred as himself in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, he sang karaoke with Sheldon Cooper "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (which was briefly sung in the film), during which Sheldon turns to Jones and says "Take it home, Mufasa". Simba and Nala's escapade to the elephant graveyard was mentioned in a Season 2 episode of House.
Disney also frequently referenced The Lion King in its own films and shows. For example, in the Disney-released, Pixar-produced 1995 computer animated film Toy Story, the song "Hakuna Matata" can be heard playing in Andy's car during the film's climax. Pumbaa made a cameo in Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). Also, Scar made a cameo in Hercules (1997) paying homage to both The Lion King and the Nemean lion: Scar's skin is worn by the title character while he is posing for a painting on a Greek vase. In an episode of Johnny Test, Johnny holds his dog, Dukey, like Rafiki did to Simba. This situation is also parodied at the end of one episode of House of Mouse when Rafiki's "presentation services" is advertised as being great for a variety of occasions.
- When Kiara was created, Kopa was unrecognized, and the official trailer of The Lion King II identified Kiara as "Fluffy", the placeholder name of the cub at the end of The Lion King, therefore disowning Kopa.
- This is the first time real dust was seen in a Disney movie. The second time was in Pocahontas. The third time was in Tarzan. The fourth time was in Brother Bear.
- The film is one of Disney's first attempts at animating hair and fur, due to getting its technology to create fur.
- Simba has 2,433,358 pieces of hair.
- This is the second film to use the film's title at the very final scene, with Aladdin being the first, and Lilo & Stitch as the third (although it was in the logo's font to match the film's setting).
- This is the second film in which James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair appear as king and queen, and the parents of the protagonist, the first being in an R-rated live-action movie Coming to America.
- Aside from the above, James Earl Jones and Robert Guillaume appeared in the movie Meteor Man.
- The film and its direct-to-video sequel are the only Disney animated features from the 'Disney Renaissance' era to have absolutely no humans in the movie.
- Several lions with the same type as Nala appear when they battle for the last time.
- Obviously over thousands of storyboard pages were created for The Lion King. Most Disney films have over 12 thousand storyboards and 10 thousand storyboards. However, it took one and a half years to storyboard, and it's possible how Disney made too many storyboards for it's films.
- Even though the setting is definitely Africa, there are some minor anomalies in the selection of animal species portrayed in the movie. In the "circle of life" sequence, leaf-cutter ants are seen crawling on a branch, even though leaf cutter ants are not only found in South America, they are endemic there. Also Timon is a meerkat, and they are found in parts of Namibia and throughout South Africa, miles from Hell's Gate National Park where the main setting of the film is heavily modelled.
- The film is later similar to Cars 2 in many ways. And they both have a similar ending. Mater is knighted as a Loyal subject by the Queen, And Simba becomes king of Pride Rock.
- The film have later similarities with DreamWorks' The Prince of Egypt:
- Both films have scores composed by Hans Zimmer.
- The sight of the Burning Bush or the resemblance of it is in both films and telling the same message: Save my people. In Disney's case, Mufasa's pride. And in DreamWorks' case, God's people.
- Simba and Moses both ran away from their homes when someone has been killed. The difference is, Moses slew an Egyptian who was whipping a slave while Simba thinks he murdered his father, but the murderer was actually his uncle. In fact, Scar lied to him about it. Simba did not find out about this until he returned to the Prideland as an adult when his uncle told him the truth very late. He compelled Scar to tell the lionesses about it afterwards which caused the battle to begin.
- The storywriter (One of the storywriters in DreamWorks' case) is Brenda Chapman.
- A son or someone related to a son has died. In Disney's case, Simba's father, Mufasa has died. In DreamWorks' case, the son of Rameses II (Pharoah) has died during the final plague.
- Both Moses and Simba meet someone when they run away from home.
- Frozen and The Lion King have later similarities:
- They both open with a song that has chanting in it. "Vuelie" for Frozen and "Circle of Life" for The Lion King.
- They both have love songs. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" for The Lion King and "Love is an Open Door" for Frozen.
- They both have a similarity with their parent(s) dying and the heir runs from the kingdom.
- They both have a song about letting go of their worries. "Hakuna Matata" for The Lion King and "Let It Go" for Frozen.
- After the heroes run away, they don't realize that everything is falling apart back home.
- Both the movies mention the words "fixer upper."
- The hero gets convinced that they're responsible for the death of their loved ones. Mufasa for The Lion King and Anna for Frozen.
- Everything in Pride Rock and Arendelle return to normal.
- Both the heroes return home to defeat an evil prince. Scar for The Lion King and Hans for Frozen.
- The Lion King is now the highest-grossing Broadway show in history with 6.2 billion dollars (with the box office of the film and the show combined, it is the highest-grossing franchise in any medium in history). It surpassed The Phantom of Opera, which has 6 billion.
- This is the second Disney animated classic to feature the 2006 Walt Disney Pictures logo and Walt Disney Animation Studios logo at the beginning of the movie, on current releases. For example: In the original 1994 release, the film opened with the dedication to Frank Wells (in a yellow font), the blue Walt Disney Pictures logo (with birds chirping), Walt Disney Pictures presents, then the start of the film. In the IMAX release/Special Edition, the Walt Disney Pictures logo is orange with a black background and the Frank Wells dedication before it is in a red font. In the 2011 3D version, the CGI Walt Disney Pictures logo and the Walt Disney Animation Studios logos have been added, followed by the Walt Disney Pictures presents credit, and "A Special 3D Presentation" credit in red font, and the Frank Wells dedication has been moved to the end credits, but on the 2011 DVD/Blu-ray, only the CGI Walt Disney Pictures logo appears, then it skips to the Walt Disney Pictures presents credit. So don't expect to see the same version twice.
- This is also the first Disney animated classic to be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures in its 3D reissue and the DVD/Blu-ray release.
- In early versions of the script, Simba would have been much more vicious and had the willingness to kill, as well as Scar being a lone lion leading a pack of vicious baboons. The hyenas would be led by a rogue male called Banagi, who Simba would throw off Pride Rock, after killing Scar in the same way.
- This is the fifth feature to have an entirelly non-human cast.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 The Lion King: A Memoir – Don Hahn. [Blu-ray]. The Lion King: Diamond Edition: Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Neuwirth, Allan. Makin' toons: inside the most popular animated TV shows and movies. Skyhorse Publishing Inc.. ISBN 978-1-58115-269-2.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Pride of the King. [Blu-ray]. The Lion King: Diamond Edition: Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
- ↑ "THE ORIGINS OF 'THE LION KING'". James Cummins Book Seller.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Allers, Roger; Hahn, Don, and Minkoff, Rob (1995). Laserdisc/DVD audio commentary for The Lion King. Walt Disney Home Entertainment
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Finch, Christopher. "Afterword", The art of The Lion King. Hyperion, page 165–193. ISBN 978-0-7868-6028-9.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Norman, Floyd. in Ghez, Didier: Walt's People -, Volume 9. Xlibris Corporation, page 463–464. ISBN 978-1-4500-8746-9.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 The Lion King: Platinum Edition (Disc 2), Origins.. Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
- ↑ King, Susan. "As 'Lion King' goes 3-D, cast and filmmakers recall making", The Los Angeles Times.
- ↑ Shirey, Eric. "Producer Don Hahn Shares His Experiences Working on 'The Lion King'". Yahoo!.
- ↑ 2007, Hans P.. Dream worlds: production design for animation. Focal Press, page 66. ISBN 0-240-52093-9.
- ↑ "Pocahontas revenue". Box Office Mojo.
- ↑ "Rotten Tomatoes – The Lion King". Rotten Tomatoes.
- ↑ "Rotten Tomatoes – Pocahontas". Rotten Tomatoes.
- ↑ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110357/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2
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