Save 10-50% on Star Wars Comics, Graphic Novels, Toys & Statues


Entertainment Earth


"I wrote three songs for the Lion King but none of them were used.
The producers said they wanted to go in another direction.
Too bad, this movie could have been a hit."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator


The Lion King (1994) is the 32nd animated feature in the Disney animated feature canon, and the highest-grossing traditionally animated feature film ever released in the United States. The film is about a young lion cub named Simba who learns about his place on the throne of Pride Rock and his role in the circle of life. It is frequently alleged that The Lion King was based on Osamu Tezuka's 1960s animated series Kimba the White Lion, although the filmmakers deny this. The filmmakers do, however, acknowledge the prominent influences of the Shakespeare play Hamlet, the Bible stories of Joseph and Moses, and the 1942 Disney animated feature Bambi.

KIMBA, THE WHITE LIONUnlike previous Disney animated films which featured only a select few famous voice actors alongside lesser-known performers, nearly all of the voice acting work for this film was done by well-known actors, including Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Robert Guillaume, Moira Kelly, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings. The Lion King is a musical film, with songs written by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice and a film score by Hans Zimmer. Many of the John/Rice tunes became Disney standards or pop hits in their own right and Zimmer's score also drew substantial praise.

To many, The Lion King represents the peak of the late 1980s to mid-1990s "Disney Renaissance" in animation. This Renaissance featured a return to traditional Disney standard storytelling modes and motifs, a reliance on ever-expanding filmmaking technology, and a strong influence of musical theater.

The Lion King was originally called King of the Jungle during early stages of production. It was once considered a secondary project to Pocahontas, both of which were in production at the same time. Most of the Disney Feature Animation staff preferred to work on Pocahontas, thinking it would be the more prestigious and successful of the two. However, as the film was being marketed, the studio noticed that the released teaser, which consisted of the entire opening sequence featuring the song "Circle of Life", was getting a strongly enthusiastic reaction from audiences. Furthermore, when the film was in limited release in two major theatres, the film did very impressive business which suggested that this "secondary project" promised to be popular. Upon general release, the film more than confirmed that suspicion by becoming the most successful film of 1994 worldwide and the most successful animated feature film ever at the time.


The Lion King, though a very humanistic story, remains the only Disney film to lack any trace of human existence. Robin Hood featured only anthropomorphic animals who lived like humans, while Bambi featured only unseen human characters; whether this makes The Lion King Walt Disney's first "non-human animals-only" film is open to interpretation, but it is one film that is free of "human elements". The film was also the first Disney animated feature to have a non-villain main character die on-screen. In Bambi, someone close to the hero was shot off-screen and was not seen afterwards; whereas in The Lion King, the hero's father is killed on-screen and his dead body is later shown.

The film's significant use of computers helped the filmmakers to present their vision in new, visually impressive ways. The most notable use of computer animation is in the famous "wildebeest stampede" sequence. Several distinct wildebeest characters were built in a 3D computer program, multiplied into the hundreds, cel shaded to look like drawn animation, and given randomized paths down a mountainside to simulate the real, unpredictable movement of a herd. Similar multiplication occurs in the "Be Prepared" musical number with identical marching hyenas. Computers also aided in the implementation of a classic Disney animation technique called "multiplaning" that was prominently featured in Bambi. Elton John and Tim Rice wrote five original songs for this film. John performs "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" during the end credits. However, the major musical praise focused on Hans Zimmer's score which was supplemented with traditional African music and choir elements arranged by Lebo M. Many critics felt this played a crucial role in establishing the grand mythic tone of the African story.

With six major musical numbers (including a repeated "Circle of Life" at film's beginning and end), The Lion King is heavily influenced by American musical theater. The film's look changes drastically from the "realistic" world of the drama to the stylized world of the musical numbers. For instance, the "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" number transitions from a background of natural savanna to abstract blue and pink African tribal patterns the instant the singing begins - but the scene transitions just as quickly back out of it when the music ends. Also, in the "Hakuna Matata" number, the characters sing in a jungle surrounding lit by spotlights that follow them from the sky.

The film is also perhaps one of the most violent and mature Disney animated films, with themes such as responsibility, betrayal, treason and regicide. There are a couple of deaths which may frighten younger viewers, although no blood is shown. Nevertheless, the film was rated worldwide as suitable for all ages.

Sequels and spin-offs were inevitable after The Lion King's huge success. The first of these was a 70mm spin-off film called Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable, which promoted environmental friendliness and shown in the Harvest Theater in The Land Pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World in 1995. Also debuted in 1995 was a spin-off television series called Timon and Pumbaa which focused on the titular meerkat and warthog duo. The TV series implied that the story took place during the mid-20th century through the appearance of humans and technology. Next, a direct-to-video sequel called The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was released in 1998, focusing on Simba's daughter Kiara. Finally, a direct-to-video prequel/midquel, The Lion King 1½ (also known as The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata), was released in 2004 and takes place in a parallel timeline that interweaves with the original Lion King, but from Timon and Pumbaa's perspective.

The movie was also adapted into an award-winning Broadway stage musical with the same title, directed by Julie Taymor, and featured actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets. After the stage show first opened on July 31, 1997 in Minneapolis at the Orpheum Theatre, it was an instant and tremendous success. It moved permanently to the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway in New York City that October. A version later opened in London and another in Toronto, playing there until January 2004.

Due to the film's popularity, especially during its initial release, a wide variety of merchandise has been manufactured. Items have ranged from more common items such as t-shirts and plush toys, to the more bizarre, such as a play shaving kit. In general, there are two packaging styles, helping to differentiate between old and new. Older merchandise usually features a green leaf pattern in the background, with The Lion King in black on an orange and red sunrise logo. The artwork of the characters, usually cub Simba, tends to be in flat colours featuring no shading. Newer merchandise usually adopts a red, sunrise-esque gradient background, similar to the 2005 IMAX poster. The logo is now white with silhouettes of some of the characters walking to the side of the word The and on top of Lion King. The artwork, usually featuring cub Simba as before, is now more detailed with shading.


General- Disney Collectibles

GameStop, Inc.


Save 10-20% on kids comics and graphic novels at TFAW.com!

My Neat Stuff Hall of Fame Look


Content intended for informational and educational purposes under the GNU Free Documentation Areement
and is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company.
Disney logos, content and images copyright © Walt Disney


Original material © Copyright 2023myneatstuff.ca - All other material © Copyright their respective owners.

When wasting time on the interweb why not visit our Kasey and Company Cartoon site?