The Lion King was released in 1994 and was an instant success. It became the highest grossing animated film of all time, until Finding Nemo (2003) took the title. However, The Lion King remains the highest grossing traditionally animated film of all time. The movie takes place in the Pride Lands and follows a young cub, Simba. As the son of the King of the Pride Lands, Mufasa, Simba is to succeed his father on the throne. Scar, Mufasa’s brother, murders the King and tricks Simba into thinking he is responsible. Simba runs away and befriends the carefree characters Timon and Pumba. The Pride Lands suffer under Scar’s rule, until Simba’s childhood friend Nala convinces Simba to return and take his place as King. The Lion King was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. The screenplay was written by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton. Original songs were written by Elton John and Tim Rice. Voice actors include Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings. Check out various screen facts below.
Opening Scene Changed Once the Director Heard “Circle of Life”
Originally the opening scene was supposed to be a dialogue introducing most of the characters. Once the directors heard Circle of Life by Elton John and Tim Rice, they changed the opening. The iconic intro scene shows animals on the Pride Lands as a newly born Simba is presented to the animal kingdom. Disney believed the opening scene was so powerful they used it as a trailer for the movie. This was the first time Disney made a trailer using an entire scene.
Disney’s First Animated Film with an Original Storyline
The Lion King was advertised as Disney’s first animated film to have a completely original storyline. Most other Disney classics like Snow White (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Cinderella (1950), Alice In Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Little Mermaid (1989), and Aladdin (1992); were all adaptations of previous stories. After writing, The Lion King did receive comparisons to Hamlet by its creators. They used the comparison to flush out their plot and connect the story better with audiences. Though some may consider this a recreation or adaptation, the comparison and inspiration only occurred after the original story had been written.
Stampede Scene Took Over Two Years to Create
The stampede scene occurs relatively early in the movie and lasts 2.5 minutes. It took animators over two years to complete. It even required the Disney CGI animators to write a new program to help inform the movements of the herd.
The Lion King was being created and produced at the same time as Pocahontas (1995). As a result, many of Disney’s top animators chose to focus on Pocahontas as they believed it to be the bigger project. While produced by a “B-Team”, The Lion King certainly proved to be the more wide-reaching of the two films.
The Royal Couple Played a Royal Couple Before
The voice actors of Mustafa and Sarabi, Simba’s royal parents, were played by James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair. These two voice actors played royal parents in the 1988 romantic comedy Coming to America, original story by and starring Eddie Murphy.
Best Selling VHS Tape of All Time
In the age before online streaming and DVDs, VHS tapes were the way to rewatch all your favorites time and time again. The Lion King became the best-selling VHS tape of all time – having sold over 55 million copies worldwide.
Spinoffs, Remakes and Continuations
The Lion King is a body of work that keeps on giving. It had a successful Broadway adaptation in 1997. This show would go on to tour the world. It also has two direct-to-video movies; The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), and the prequel/parallel, The Lion King 1½ (2004). The movie even spawned two television series, Timon and Pumbaa and The Lion Guard. The movie was re-released in 3D in 2011. Finally, a photorealistic remake was released in 2019. This remake has a star-studded cast including: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as well as James Earl Jones.