A few weeks before the film opened, Elton John was given a special screening. Noticing that the film's love song had been left out, he successfully lobbied Jeffrey Katzenberg to have the song put back in. Later, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" won him an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The team working on the film was supposedly Disney's "team B," who were "kept busy" while "team A" worked on Pocahontas (1995), on which the production had much higher hopes. As it turned out, "The Lion King" became a huge critical and commercial success, whereas "Pocahontas" met with mixed reviews and a much lower box office.
The wildebeest stampede took Disney's CG department approximately three years to animate. A new computer program had to be written for the CG wildebeest stampede that allowed hundreds of computer generated animals to run but without colliding into each other.
In early drafts, Scar was a rogue lion with no relation to Mufasa. Eventually, however, the story writers thought relating him to Mufasa would be more interesting, a threat within. This is why Scar and Mufasa differ so much; they weren't originally designed to be related.
Several character names are based on Swahili words: Simba - lion Nala - gift Sarabi - mirage Rafiki - friend Pumbaa - simpleton/weak-minded Shenzi - barbarous/uncouth/uncivilized/savage Despite the fact that Zawadi is the Swahili word for gift, Nala's name also means gift.
Besides inspirations from William Shakespeare's Hamlet (1990), the story also has elements of the Osirian family myths of Ancient Egyptian mythology. In the Osirian myths, the king (Mufasa/Osiris) is killed by his jealous brother (Scar/Seth) and the rightful heir (Simba/Horus) is sent into exile as a boy. The murdered king visits and mentors his son in ghostly visits and when the heir comes of age, he returns to exact revenge on his father's murderer.
The lyric for the opening chant of "The Circle of Life" are: "Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba / Sithi uhm ingonyama / Nants ingonyama bagithi baba / Sithi uhhmm ingonyama / Ingonyama Siyo Nqoba / Ingonyama Ingonyama nengw enamabala". This translates as: "Here comes a lion, Father / Oh, yes, it's a lion / Here comes a lion, Father / Oh yes, it's a lion / A lion We're going to conquer / A lion A lion and a leopard come to this open place."
(at around 29 mins) Jim Cummings (voice of Ed the Hyena in this film) had to fill in for Jeremy Irons for the finale of "Be Prepared." Irons threw out his voice after performing the line, "you won't get a sniff without me!" The rest of his recording didn't sound powerful enough.
HIDDEN MICKEY: (at around 46 mins) One of the bugs that Timon pulls out of a knothole during Hakuna Matata is wearing Mickey Mouse ears. When Mufasa tells Simba about the Great Kings of the Past if you look at the stars in the wide shot you can see Mickey Mouse.
Hans Zimmer originally hesitated the idea of composing music for a children's animated film, but eventually joined production after warming up the story, which reminded him of his respective relationships with his father and daughter. His attitude towards animated films eventually changed throughout the course of his involvement in the film's production. He later called his experience on working on The Lion King (1994) as one of the greatest in his professional career.
One of three Disney films to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture. The other two are Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Toy Story 2 (1999) (all three won in the category of "Musical or Comedy"). Today, however, this is no longer possible due to rule changes at the Golden Globes and the creation of the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature category.
Originally, Scar was going to send Nala as a fully grown lion away from Pride Rock because she ignored his romantic approaches, after which she finds Simba alive and well with Timon and Pumbaa. This idea was ultimately abandoned, as sexual harassment was considered improper in a family film and may have gotten the film a PG-13 rating and it took too long to finish. However, the stage musical adaptation includes this plot development as part of director Julie Taymor's efforts to expand the female characters' presence in the story.
"The Lion King" is very similar to a story almost unknown to Western culture but one of the most beloved historical stories of the Niger Congo language family (western Africa). It is a story about one of their greatest kings - "Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali". The main character Sundiata (which, directly translated, means "the lion king") is a young prince banished from his homeland by his family after his father dies. The story tracks his overcoming of emotional and physical ailments to later return to his kingdom and battle the evil sorcerer king who has overtaken it in his absence. This is a true story with some magical elements added and is still told by griots (history-keepers for upper-class families, aka Rafiki in the film).
Although all of the animals are obviously anthropomorphic in the film, hyenas (as the villainous characters) were most given the short end of the stick from the reality. In fact, spotted hyenas are considered the equal of lions in terms of intelligence and ferocity. They have an equally-intricate social structure and are less likely to kill their own kind than lions (hyena clan matriarchs allow very little intra-species aggression). Also, while hyenas are portrayed as nearly full scavengers, in reality lions scavenge the kills of hyenas as much as (if not more so) than hyenas scavenge lion kills.
This is the second film in which James Earl Jones (Mufasa) and Madge Sinclair (Sarabi) perform together as an African King and Queen. Jones and Sinclair were also King and Queen of a fictional African nation in Coming to America (1988).
Elton John and Tim Rice were a little shocked when they saw that the producers originally intended to have their (eventual) Oscar-winning love ballad "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" as a duet between Timon and Pumbaa.
This film held the record for being the highest grossing animated film of all time, until it was surpassed by Toy Story 3 (2010) in 2010, and then was surpassed by Frozen (2013) in 2013, both Disney films. However, the film remains the highest grossing 2D animated film of all-time.
The original script included several characters which were cut. There was another lion cub named Mee-Too, a bat-eared fox, and a rhino with a tickbird on his back. In fact the tickbird was kept and evolved into Zazu. Multiple characters have ended up scrapped for the final version of the first film - a little brother for Nala, a second meerkat, Nala's father (who would have been leader of another pride), Joka, a rock python who would have acted as a fourth lackey for Scar and a bat-eared fox named Bhati for example. Nala's brother, Mheetu, in particular was to have an important role, serving as a character for Nala to protect from the hyenas and Scar. Mheetu would also have been lured into the gorge, causing Simba to try and save him. However, he fails, causing Mufasa to rescue them, leading to his death.
Rafiki is the only character to not have an American or British accent, and has an accent native to the film's setting in Africa (though he is voiced by an American actor, being Robert Guillaume) and sometimes speaks the African language Swahii.
German-born Hans Zimmer called in the services of his South African friend, Lebo M., to help provide some authenticity to the film's musical soundtrack. The two had previously collaborated on The Power of One (1992). It is Lebo M.'s call that you hear on the opening bars of "Circle of Life". He also wrote the African chant that underpins this stirring version of the song. Hans Zimmer had promised producer Don Hahn and directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers that he would get Lebo M. on the film. Zimmer then realized he had no idea where to find his The Power of One (1992) collaborator but it all worked out as early one morning Lebo, seemingly out of the blue, showed up at Zimmer's house.
(at around 1h 3 mins) The song that Rafiki sings, "Asante sana, squash banana, wewe nugu mimi hapana" is often said to be Swahili for "Thank you very much, squash banana, you're a baboon and I'm not." However, the Swahili word for baboon, nyani, is not part of the song. Some have suggested it in fact means "You're a dog, and I'm not," but the word for dog, mbwa, is not present either.
(at around 52 mins) There have been rumors that when Simba collapses on the cliff after talking with Timon and Pumbaa about stars, the dust that flies off the cliff forms the word SEX. In fact it forms the letters SFX, the abbreviation of the special-effects team that worked on that portion of the film. The 2003 Platinum Edition release omits this word to avoid controversy.
The original opening to the film was supposed to have been a quiet dialogue-heavy sequence. When composer Hans Zimmer prepared his interpretation of Circle of Life, he made an extended version so he would have some flexibility as to what to cut for the film. The animators were so impressed with the work that they decided to change the beginning into the currently seen sequence so they could use the entire work that Zimmer prepared.
The original concept for the production design was to stylize the backgrounds to invoke the colorful and graphic nature of African fabric patterns and tribal art. However, this gave the film an overly stylized quality so the production team then opted for the epic, mystical feel that we see in the film today.
(at around 1h 12 mins) The music of the little song Timon performs for the hyenas ("LUAU!") is a fast-paced parody of the Aloha Chant, which can be heard in Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland.
Nala's mother is named Sarafina. The name is never used in the film; however, it does appear in the credits and on pieces of merchandise based on the film, including the trading cards issued at Burger King for a Lion King-based promotion.
Nearly 20 minutes of the film were animated at the Disney-MGM Studios. Ultimately, more than 600 artists, animators and technicians contributed to The Lion King over its lengthy production schedule. More than one million drawings were created for the film, including 1,197 hand-painted backgrounds and 119,058 individually colored frames of film.
Shenzi's position as leader of the hyenas is very like that of real life- real spotted hyenas are matriarchal, and females dominate the males. For male hyenas to have any real power within a clan, they have usually performed longtime services for high-ranking females.
The premiere for the IMAX version of the film in New York had a strange request on the invitations: "No nannies." (In other words, "You are more than welcome to bring your children to this movie, but we sent the invitation to you and not to them for a reason.")
An alternate version of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", a comic version to be sung by Timon and Pumbaa was storyboarded and even recorded, but never used. Elton John and Tim Rice were a little shocked when they saw that the producers originally intended to have their (eventual) Oscar-winning love ballad "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" as a duet between Timon and Pumbaa. This was changed, but Timon and Pumbaa still got to sing the final verse of the song.
The original intention for 2 of the hyenas 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, voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. Chong alone would later have a role in a Disney Animated Feature Film 22 years later, being Zootopia (2016).
In one episode of Home Improvement (1991), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) says that he always expected his dad to be called a king by everyone while playing with a lion cub doll who resembles Simba. Thomas was the voice of young Simba in The Lion King (1994). In a Halloween episode of the same series, the Taylor home is greeted by two trick or treaters dressed as Buzz Lightyear and Simba, respectively. Randy gives one piece of candy to the former and seven pieces of candy to the trick or treater dressed as latter.
(at around 39 mins) The scenes of the hyenas chasing Simba out of the Pridelands and into the desert originally went screen right to screen left. The filmmakers flipped all the shots so that the chase now went screen left to screen right, so as to match the shot of Simba running back home to face Scar (he runs from screen right to screen left).
For its Platinum Edition DVD release, a new song was recorded and animated. "The Morning Report" was written for the Broadway musical by Elton John and Tim Rice. They wrote two other songs for the play, "Chow Down" and "The Madness of King Scar".
(at around 11 mins) The groundhog that pops up after Simba's pouncing lesson (the song "Morning Report" in the special edition) was originally going to be a naked mole rat, but the animators couldn't get him to look right. One of the directors said in the DVD commentary, "We would've lost our G rating!"
(at around 6 mins) Near the start of the film Mufasa asks Scar if he is going to challenge him. In real life lions actually fight one another for right to be leader of the pride with the loser backing down.
In the special edition release, the crew had to hire a new actor to voice Young Simba singing for the "The Morning Report" since the original singing voice is now an adult. They hired Evan Saucedo, making him the fourth actor to voice Young Simba.
One of the original villain groups being considered was a pack of cape dogs but were changed to spotted hyenas because spotted hyenas are more aggressive because african lions and spotted hyenas are natural enemies and due to cape dogs being an endangered species.
Originally titled "King of the Jungle", it was supposed to be about African lions living in the jungle, until the production team realized that African lions don't live in the jungle. They wanted to focus on the real-life setting for an African lion, though a jungle where Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa does appear later on. Interestingly enough, the phrase "King of the Jungle" is still used on certain T-shirts sold at the Disney Store.
For The Lion King (1994)'s first film trailer, Disney opted to feature a single scene, the entire opening sequence with the song "Circle of Life". Buena Vista Pictures Distribution president Dick Cook said the decision was made for such an approach because "we were all so taken by the beauty and majesty of this piece that we felt like it was probably one of the best four minutes of film that we've seen", and Don Hahn added that "Circle of Life" worked as a trailer as it "came off so strong, and so good, and ended with such a bang". The trailer was released in November 1993, accompanying The Three Musketeers (1993) in theaters, as only a third of "The Lion King" had been completed. Audience reaction was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, causing Hahn to have some initial concerns as he became afraid of not living up to the expectations raised by the preview. Disney would, then, also follow a similar pattern for Pocahontas (1995), as they've selected the entire song of "Colors of the Wind" to be the highlight of the film's first theatrical trailer.
Scar suffers from the seven deadly sins. He believes himself to be deserving of power. He also refuses to abandon the Pride Lands, even if it means the death of his subjects. (Pride) He acts indolent even as the Pride Lands fall into ruin. (Sloth) He enjoys food while letting the rest of his kingdom, including his loyal followers, starve. (Gluttony) He is envious of his brother and nephew for getting the throne, and plots their deaths for it. (Envy) In a deleted scene, he comes onto Nala, eager to produce heirs. (Lust) He wants power and will destroy anyone to get it. (Greed) He gets enraged when Mufasa is mentioned to him, and he attacks Sarabi for comparing him unfavorably to Mufasa. (Wrath)
At the time of its production, many at Disney had high hopes for Pocahontas (1995) and deemed the concept of The Lion King (1994) as experimental. Then-studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg regarded Pocahontas as a more prestigious project than "The Lion King", and even believed that it had a chance of earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, following in the steps of Beauty and the Beast (1991). As production on the two films went on, "The Lion King" finally began to take shape and opinions also began to change. "The Lion King" received overwhelmingly positive acclaim from film critics and audiences alike. The film went on to not only become one of the highest-grossing films in cinema history, but also as one of the best selling home video titles of all time. Pocahontas (1995), on the other hand, was less successful commercially than was hoped and received a mixed-to-negative response from film critics. Because the film dealt with more adult themes and tones and featured both a disjointed script and less regard for historical accuracy, it wasn't a mammoth success as the earlier Disney hits had.
The Legacy Collection soundtrack was released on June 24, 2014 to coincide with the film's 20th anniversary. The two-disc album includes approximately thirty minutes of previously unreleased music and liner notes from composer Hans Zimmer and producer Don Hahn.
The idea of an English majordomo, which had been previously tried twice for Sebastian in The Little Mermaid (1989) and Iago in Aladdin (1992), would finally come to realization in the creation of Zazu in The Lion King (1994).
Linda Woolverton was the original screenwriter of The Lion King (1994). She was virtually exhausted from production, as she wrote scripts and attended story meetings for both "The Lion King" and Beauty and the Beast (1991) at the same time. She, moreover, was more invested in her work on "Beauty and the Beast" than on "The Lion King". Early on in the production of "The Lion King", producer Don 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. Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, Brenda 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 (1991). 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. 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 comedic moments 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. Months before release, the Writers Guild of America officially awarded the screenplay credits to Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton. The Writers Guild ruled that the film's final script utilizes and combines all of the great contributions made by the three writers.
Pumbaa's flatulence is actually Ernie Sabella zerberting on his hand (pressing his mouth on his hand and creating the sound). Sabella jokingly stated once that he is proud to be the first Disney character to express flatulence.
(at around 12 mins) In the first conversation between Scar and Simba, Simba comments to Scar, "You're so weird..." to which Scar retorts a cryptic, "You have no idea...", a line spoken by Jeremy Irons in similar fashion in Reversal of Fortune (1990).
In the Dutch-dubbed version of the film, Timon and Pumbaa's voices are spoken in Flemish, a variation of Dutch spoken in Belgium (Dutch and Flemish have differences in pronunciation comparable to British and American English). The accent given to Rafiki and Simba's mother comes from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America. Zazu speaks a very elitist-sounding Dutch, whereas the hyenas have big city accents. The rest of the characters speak mostly standard Dutch.
(at around 8 mins) Where you first see Simba as a young cub going to wake up Mufasa, Mufasa says to Sarabi, "Before sunrise he's your son" this is because Mufasa is the ruler of everything the light touches.
Linda Woolverton, the film's original screenwriter, had to be withdrawn from production on The Lion King (1994), as she was more invested in her work on Beauty and the Beast (1991). Some of her ideas and characterizations still remain in the final cut of the film.
When Pumba challenges the hyenas in the cave, he demands respect by angrily declaring, "They call me Mister Pig." This is a nod to Sidney Poitier's statement in In the Heat of the Night (1967) when, as detective Virgil Tibbs, he similarly demands respect.
Ed's behavior may suggest that he has brain damage or is mentally challenged. However, in The Lion Guard (2016), a similar character named Cheezi (like Ed) has his tongue sticking out of his mouth in some parts of an episode but unlike Ed he is more intelligent and speaks clearly. Supervising animator Dave Burgess jokes that Ed is really the smartest of the Hyenas but "pretends to be dumb"
The idea for "The Lion King" was conceived in late 1988 during a conversation between Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy Edward Disney and Peter Schneider on a plane to Europe to promote Oliver & Company (1988). During the conversation, the topic of a story set in Africa came up, and Katzenberg immediately jumped at the idea. The idea was then developed by Walt Disney Feature Animation's vice president for creative affairs Charles 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 M. 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. By 1990, producer Thomas Schumacher, who had just completed The Rescuers Down Under (1990), decided to attach himself to the project "because lions are cool". Schumacher likened the script for King of the Jungle to "an animated National Geographic special".
Jeremy Irons had at first refused the role due to not being comfortable going from the dramatic performance as Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune (1990) to a comedic role. Once he came in, however, Irons' performance even inspired the writers to incorporate more of his acting as von Bülow - even adding one of that character's lines, "You have no idea" - and animator Andreas Deja to watch both Reversal of Fortune (1990) and Damage (1992) to pick up Irons' facial traits and tics.
According to Robert Guillaume, Rafiki's Swahili-accented voice was partially created via a failed attempt at a Jamaican accent. Notably, The Lion Guard (2016) marks the first time that Guillaume doesn't reprise his role as Rafiki.
The Broadway production of "The Lion King" opened at the New Amsterdam Theater on October 15, 1997, has run for 6681 performances, and is the fourth-longest running show on Broadway (as of November 30, 2013). "The Lion King" won the 1998 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Musical and received nominations for Best Score and Best Book.
The close relationship between Timon and Pumbaa is based on fact. In the wild, meerkats often stay close to warthogs to eat the fleas and ticks off their backs, relieving the warthogs of an itchy parasitic nuisance.
Oliver & Company (1988) director George Scribner was the initial director of the film, being later joined by producer Don Hahn and Roger Allers, who was the lead story man on Beauty and the Beast (1991), 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 Don Hahn joined the production as producer as Schumacher became only an executive producer due to Disney promoting him to Vice President of Development for Feature Animation.
The languages in this film include Zulu and Kiswahili (commonly known as Swahili, which is actually named for the Swahili tribe). Both have roots in the Bantu language, with a relationship similar to that of Latin and how it relates to English and the romance languages. A distinction of Kiswahili is that has Arabic influence, this due to the influence of the Arab traders and explorers along the east central coast of Africa.
In "The Lion King", Timon is the only character who stands and walks on his back feet (while meerkats normally walk on all four). Interestingly, he is seen running in all fours at least once in both the first film (exiting the cave entrance on Pride Rock with Pumbaa and Zazu, after the off-screen fight against the Hyenas) and the sequel (in a futile attempt to charge at an outsider with Pumbaa). Moreover, it occurred in the climactic battle sequence of both films.
During the stampede scene as Scar grabs Mufasa's paws, his claws leave cuts on them (which disappear shortly after). Later during Scar's final battle against Simba, Scar actually draws Simba's blood; if you look closely at the scene during when Scar's paw hits Simba's face in slow motion before he knocks him down, drops of blood sprays from Simba's mouth. This makes Scar one of the few Disney villains to physically draw someone's blood in an animated film, along with Gaston from "Beauty and the Beast", Dr. Facilier from "The Princess and the Frog" (he needed a few drops of Naveen's blood to maintain his voodoo spell), Sabor from "Tarzan", Shan Yu from "Mulan" and the Gwythaints from "The Black Cauldron".
Production took place at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Glendale, California, and Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida. Thirteen supervising animators, both in California and Florida, were responsible for establishing the personalities and setting the tone for the film's main characters.
No one in any of the films, other than himself, refers to Rafiki by his name. They either call him "the monkey" or "the baboon". His name is only used in Timon & Pumbaa (1995), House of Mouse (2001) and The Lion Guard (2016). Although, in an early draft of the first film in what would become "Circle of Life" sequence, Mufasa refers to Rafiki by his name.
There was a character cut from the film: a gorilla who was of some threat to Simba while he is still a cub. The character appears as a boss battle in the Lion King video game released a few months after the film's initial release.
Scar apparently hates the song "It's a Small World", as he tells Zazu "No, no. Anything but that" when he tries to sing it. In some productions of the stage show held, Zazu originally sang "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", prior to the world premiere of Mary Poppins in Bristol, England, shortly before transferring to London's West End in 2004, but soon after the release of Frozen, Zazu sang "Let It Go" instead. Scar's reaction was the same.
Male hyenas are chased out of their birth clans at maturity, and join another clan. Females, especially high-ranking females, remain and inherit the rank of their mothers, which may rise or sink. This means it is highly unlikely that Shenzi is the sibling of Banzai or Ed.
In a recent interview with HelloGiggles, "The Lion King" producer Don Hahn claimed that Mufasa and Scar were actually not related by blood. Instead, he clarified that, as with real lions, Scar and Mufasa were a coalition of two unrelated males, with one being dominant over the other. The onscreen dynamic between Scar and Mufasa was heavily inspired by this real-life behavior, and that Scar's well known quote of "As far as brains go, I got the lion share. But when it comes to brutal strength, I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool." references this lack of family bond between the two characters. However, little over a week later, "The Lion King" director Rob Minkoff" cleared up" in an interview with Screen Junkies that Mufasa and Scar grew up together and were in fact blood related. He also claimed that Scar's name is a "really mean nickname", and that he believes that Mufasa was the one who gave Scar his scar when they were cubs.
The character animators studied real-life animals for reference, as was done for the 1942 Disney film Bambi (1942). 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 animators also studied various animal movements in natural settings at the Miami MetroZoo under guidance from wildlife expert Ron Magill. 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 George Scribner's request for realism, tried to depict effects such as lens flare - and the works of painters Charles Marion Russell, Frederic Remington and Mayfield Parrish. Since the characters were not anthropomorphized, 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.
A different version of "Hakuna Matata" was recorded by Jimmy Cliff along with Lebo M.. It was a reggae/pop version of the song and was originally intended to appear on the original motion picture soundtrack along with Elton John's versions of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight", "Circle of Life", and "I Just Can't Wait To Be King". Ultimately the decision was made to not include it. It was, however, put on the "sequel" soundtrack "Rhythm of the Pride Lands" (released on February 28, 1995.
During the song "Be Prepared", two hyenas wave skeletons of creatures, creating shadow images of them "dancing" that imitate the dancing skeletons from "Night on Bald Mountain", right down to the curving, "noodly" movements.
Jeremy Irons came prepared with cigarettes for his voice recordings. He was smoking including during Be Prepared. Rob Minkoff stated that the people involved in the making of the movie had to edit out all of the smoking. While recording the line "my teeth and ambitions are bared/Be Prepared" is kind of entertaining.
The view of Mount Kilimanjaro at the beginning of the film is as it appears from the north, from the area ranging from the Ambosei to the Chyulu national parks in Kenya. For those familiar with the film, Out of Africa (1985), this would place the action approximately one hundred miles south-southeast of Karen Blixen's farm. In the mid-nineteenth century when the Royal Geographic Society first received reports of the snow-capped Kilimanjaro, the reports were rejected because the Society believed that such mountains could not exist in equatorial Africa. The mountain has one remarkable yet little-known feature in that at certain times of year, on the cusp of the rainy seasons, there can be tall billowing clouds at high altitudes with clear sky below that can stretch for great distances. In such circumstances, the setting sun can strike the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro, which will reflect the light so that it strikes the tall, high-atmosphere clouds, having the effect of a movie projector. When this happens, the reflection of Kilimanjaro can be seen from as far as eighty miles away, despite its being below the horizon.
Pumbaa is called a "pig" by both Timon and Simba but does not react negatively either time, most likely because they are his friends and did not mean it as an insult. In "The Lion King", only when Banzai called Pumbaa a pig (although it was not meant as an insult), he did react negatively. This was reflected in a couple of episodes of one of the spin-offs, Timon & Pumbaa (1995).
When Scar is signing along to 'Lovely Bunch of Coconuts' with Zazu, he holds up a baboon skull and moves its jaw to the lyrics. While the context is very different from the original play, one can't help but be reminded by the Shakespearian inspiration of the film.
When the hyenas put Zazu into the little geyser and launch him into orbit. Simba says to them "Why don't you pick on somebody your own size?", then the hyenas say to him "Like you?". That same line was used in the film Oliver & Company (1988), which also stars Cheech Marin.
Rafiki's species, the mandrill, is one of the few species that aren't native to Sub-Saharan Africa. While other baboons do originate there, the mandrill is mostly native to the central African rainforests. Rafiki is drawn with a pronounced tail, a contrast to the more diminished tails of real mandrills.
The Italian version of this song, "Siate pronti!" ("Be Prepared"), has a transaltion error: when Banzai come out of the pile of bone, he said: "SI! Siamo pronti, saremo pronti... per cosa?" ("Yeah! Be prepared! We'll be prepared... for what?") But Scar said before "Sarò Re!" ("I'll be king!") and not "Siate pronti!" ("Be Prepared").
This the only Disney film along with the remake in which two brothers die namely Mufusa and Scar. Iconically while Mufusa goes to heaven Scar ends up in Hell. The hyenas even have faces that resemble Satan before they kill Scar to further support this.
While the hyenas in the movie are referred to as scavengers, real spotted hyenas are actually quite competent predators who hunt more than they scavenge and have their kills quite often being stolen by lions. However, at the time the movie was made, many people (including scientists) thought that hyenas were actually pure scavengers, promoting the stereotype even further.
The German dubbing voices of little Simba (singing voice) and Nala would later go on to dub Bilbo Baggins and Eowyn in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings respectively. They're called Manuel Straube and Alexandra Wilcke.
Filmmaker James Mangold, who had worked for Disney on Oliver & Company (1988), was offered a cameo role as a warthog during a scene with Pumba. This was due to Mangold having a very deep baritone voice and an acquaintance with the film's director.
Simba and Scar were animated on separate coasts of the US. Andreas Deja, Scar's lead animator, was working from Florida. Meanwhile Mark Henn, Simba's lead animator, was working from California. The team had to go back and forth to create some of the favorite scenes.
While based on Hamlet the film also burrows elements from the bible. Scar killing Mufusa is directly taken from Cain and Abel as like Scar Cain killed his brother Abel. One of the 10 plagues from the bible in this case fire and thunderstorms takes place during and after the climax. Just how God banished Adam and Eve from Eden Scar exiles Simba for 'causing' Mufusa's death and Simba seeing the ghost of his father is similar to Jacob's ladder where Jacob dreamed he visited God in heaven and both Mufusa and God offer words of wisdom.
Simba is only around a 2-month old cub during the events from when he wakes Mufasa up to when he runs away. That means that so much happened in just two days (Two full musical numbers! A major insidious villain plan! A trip to the elephant graveyard! THE STAMPEDE!). This means, of course, that when Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa he's still roughly 2 months old his age in the first stage of his "Hakuna Matata" evolution. In the middle "Hakuna Matata" phase, Simba appears to be between 20 months and 3 years old And finally, full-fledged adult Simba appears to be somewhere between four to seven years old. Per the site, "Adult lions are between 3 and 8 years old. They are fully grown and are of breeding age, females will often have cubs." That means Simba's lil' Hakuna Matata adventure while his lioness friends rotted away under Scar's fascist regime was ONLY about five years.
Scar's death is foreshadowed twice - during "Be Prepared" he tells the hyenas to "Stick with me and you'll never go hungry again!" and later in the film, when the hyenas (Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed) complain to Scar about there being no food to which Scar annoyingly responds to "eat Zazu", this foreshadows Scar's death when the hyenas devour him alive.
After killing Mufasa, Scar tells Simba to "Run. Run away and never return." Then at the end of the film, when Scar seemingly pleads for mercy, Simba accepts but tells him, "Run. Run away, Scar, and never return."
Originally, Scar's minions were going to be cape dogs but were changed to spotted hyenas because cape dogs are an endangered species and because African Lions and Spotted Hyenas are natural enemies more than any other animal native to Africa.
Jeremy Irons (Scar) and Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa) share a birthday (September 19), one year apart. Their birthday is also one day after Billy Eichner's, who voices Timon in the film's 2019 Live Action Reboot.
With Robert Guillaume passing away in 2017 this had been the only theatrically released animated film he had ever been. The only other animated films of his prior to his death had been the direct-to-video sequel and spin-off to this film.
Despite popular fan theories about the Kings of the Past drying up the Pridelands directing Nala into Simba's path, this isn't the case. When Scar let the hyenas take over the Pridelands, their over hunting had quickly thrown nature off balance. There was no moisture in the air from the waste of the prey that the predators normally feast on, so the grass has no fertilizer to grow and keep the air moisturized during the dry season. Nala knew there was a flourishing jungle beside the Savanna that houses the Pridelands. She unintentionally ran into Simba (unintentional as in the context of real life hunting). The Kings of the Past had nothing to do with it.
Jason Weaver, who provided the singing voice of young Simba, was almost hired to do the character's speaking voice too. But when directors Roger Alles and Rob Minkoff called the studio's legal department to arrange the deal, they got the news that Jonathan Taylor Thomas had literally just signed his contract for the film.
Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi), Cheech Marin (Banzai), and Jim Cummings (Ed the Hyena) have also appeared in animated films by 20th Century Fox Whoopi Goldberg was in The The Pagemaster (1994) released in the same year as this film Cheech Marin was in FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992) released two years earlier, in which he collaborated with Tommy Chong and experienced voice actor Jim Cummings was in Don Bluth's animated film Titan A.E. (2000) released six years later in this film they voiced three villainous hyenas in those films they voiced the good guys.
At the climax of "I Just Can't Wait to be King" when the tower of animals collapses, it can be interpreted as either Played for Laughs (as a rhino had fallen on top of Zazu) or foreshadowing how Simba's whole self-image is about to come crashing down thanks to Scar's frame-up.
There is a strong theory that Nala is actually Simba's half sister. Considering Mufusa is the leader of the pride it makes sense because in reality only the male leader of the pride can mate with the females. If this is true then it is strongly implied Mufusa 'cheated' on his mate Sarabi with Sarafina who is Nala's mother. So technically Simba and Nala cause inbreeding as shown when their cub is shown in the end.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Many fans have described Mufasa's death as one of the saddest and most traumatizing moments of any film in the Disney canon. In fact, the only moment that is considered the same is the death of Bambi (1942)'s mother. According to the makers, the scene was originally even more heart-breaking and intense, but when a test audience consisting of children saw a preview, they started to sob and cry uncontrollably, so it was decided to tone the scene down a bit.
(At around 1h 21 mins) If you look closely at Zazu as Simba comes down to greet his subjects after the defeat of Scar, you can see his beak move, but no sound comes out. Originally he says "Your Majesty".
An extra song for Timon and Pumbaa, Warthog Rhapsody, was written by Elton John and Tim Rice for the film, and was recorded by Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, and Jason Weaver. The sequence that was planned for it was worked out on the storyboard, but was never animated and so the song was not used; the song was included on "Rhythm of the Pride Lands", a companion CD to the film's soundtrack. The song also seems to have some similarities to the song "That's All I Need" from the Direct-To-Video movie, The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata (2004).
Near the start of the film Scar tells a mouse that himself will never be King and the mouse will die. Ironically Scar does become 'King' later in the film while the mouse lives after Zazu prevented him from eating the mouse. Also foreshadows Scars death at the end when the hyenas devour him alive
During the early stages of production, the film's climax had a different ending. After their battle on top of Pride Rock, Scar is left hanging on the edge of a rock and asks Simba for mercy, saying that Simba is not like him, that he is not a murderer, and asks for his forgiveness. Simba pulls him up, but he's thrown over by Scar to the raging fire below and lands safely into a tree. Scar, believing Simba to be dead, starts laughing over his victory before he is burned alive by the fire. The sequence was story boarded, but it was not used, being considered too dark for a Disney film.
(at around 45 mins) In the song "Hakuna Matata", when Pumbaa is telling his story and how he thought of changing his name, the phrase Timon sings is a line from Juliet's balcony monologue from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The exact quote is: "What's in a name? That we should call a rose by any other name and it still smell so sweet".
When Scar says Simba has admitted to "murdering Mufusa" Simba denies this by claiming "No it was an accident". Dorothy says the same line when the Witch of the West accuses her of killing her sister the Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz (1939).