The Lion King

Template:Infobox Movie

The Lion King is the 32nd film in the Disney animated feature canon, and it also was the highest-grossing traditionally animated feature film ever released in the United States. It was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation, originally released to selected cities by Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Distribution on June 15, 1994, and put into general release on June 24, 1994. A digitally retouched and enhanced Special Edition version of the film was released in IMAX format on December 25, 2002.

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 alleged that The Lion King was inspired by Osamu Tezuka's 1960s animated series Kimba the White Lion, although the filmmakers deny this. In fact, The Lion King is more closely based on the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, as the plot follows much of the basic storyline of this play (see Hamlet).

Unlike previous Disney animated films, which used a few well-known voice actors alongside lesser-known performers, nearly all of the voice acting work for this film was done by well-known actors, including James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Matthew Broderick, Moira Kelly, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Rowan Atkinson, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Robert Guillaume, and Nathan Lane. 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, but Zimmer's score also drew substantial praise.

James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair, who provide the voices of King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi, had previously played another royal couple (King Jaffe Joffer and Queen Aoleon of Zamunda) in the Paramount picture Coming to America (1988).


About the film

The Lion King, though a very humanistic story, remains the only Disney film to have absolutely no trace of human existence. Robin Hood featured only anthropomorphized 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.

Computer animation was used extensively in the creation of the movie, particularly during the "Circle of Life" and the technologically innovative stampede sequences.

During its production, The Lion King was considered a secondary project to Pocahontas, which was in production at the same time. Many of the Disney Feature Animation staffers preferred to work on Pocahontas, thinking that film 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 the year and the most successful animated feature film of all time (though with inflation factored in it would be fourth). The film made $328,541,776 in domestic gross income and $783,841,776 worldwide. With hindsight, the film can be seen as marking the peak of the popular success of the late-80s-to-mid-90s "renaissance" of Disney animation.

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, which many critics felt played a crucial role in establishing the grand mythic tone of the African story.

Plot synopsis

Simba's father, Mufasa, is the lion king. He rules the kingdom with kindness and wisdom. However, Mufasa's younger brother Scar is jealous of his nephew's position as heir and so plots to usurp the throne. Mufasa teaches Simba about the Circle of Life and that everything is connected in a balance. Scar allies himself with some menacing hyenas in an attempt to overthrow his brother. Together with his hyenas, he engineers a wildebeest stampede in which Mufasa rescues Simba but he himself is lost in the stampede. However as all hope seems lost, Mufasa makes one last great leap to cling to the rockface. As Mufasa climbs higher, he looks up to see Scar standing on the ledge above him. Mufasa pleads with Scar for help, who just looks down on his brother and then suddenly latches his sharp claws into Mufasa's paws. With an evil grin, Scar throws Mufasa back off the rock and under the stampede, thus killing Mufasa. Scar manipulates Simba into thinking he is responsible and advises him to run away and never return. As a devastated Simba runs off, Scar sends his hyenas after Simba, but Simba escapes from the hyenas without Scar's knowledge.

Exhausted, Simba collapses in the desert. The young cub is saved and befriended by Timon and Pumbaa (a meerkat and warthog respectively). After growing up with the pair, the adult Simba encounters his childhood friend, a formidable lioness named Nala, who has fled Scar's dictatorial rule to seek help. She urges Simba to return to the Pride Lands and retake his rightful throne, but he refuses, still traumatized by the false belief that he caused his father's death.

After Rafiki the witch-doctor mandrill shows Simba that Mufasa's spirit still lives on inside him, and Mufasa appears to him as a ghost and demands of him to look inside himself and understand that he is the only rightful king, Simba decides to go back home.

When he arrives, Simba is incensed to find that his once joyful and prosperous kingdom has crumbled into a barren wasteland under Scar's rule. With the support of Nala who has rallied the lionesses, Simba confronts his uncle. Scar remains confident and with his hyenas forces Simba to confess to his responsibility for the death of Mufasa. Then Scar backs Simba to the edge of the cliff as lightning ignites the kingdom. Simba slips and hangs onto the rock as Mufasa did years before. Scar recalls Mufasa death and just as the dictator had done to Mufasa, latches into Simba's paws with his claws. Just before Scar kills Simba the same way he killed Mufasa, he whispers the awful truth to Simba. That it was he, Scar who killed Mufasa. Simba, enraged at the truth of the murder and how he was played a fool in it, leaps upon Scar and forces the tyrant to publicly confess to his crime.

The battle begins, and as the lionesses and hyenas fight, Simba does battle with Scar on the summit. Scar attempts to blame everything on the hyenas (who hear this) Simba shows mercy and tells Scar to run away from the kingdom and never return. Scar remembers those words, they were the exact words that he used to manipulate Simba after Mufasa died. Scar begins to slink off when he throws some burning embers into Simba's face. Simba is suprised at this and Scar attacks once again. There is a climatic battle and Simba is thrown to the edge of the cliff. Scar jumps through the flames to finish Simba off but it is Simba who throws his uncle over the cliff edge and watches as Scar's former hyena allies devour the dictator. Simba is finally declared king and leads the Pride Lands back into times of prosperity and glory. Simba and Nala have a baby cub that is presented in a triumphant ceremony mirroring the film's beginning.

The plot bears similarities to both Shakespeare's play Hamlet and the 1942 Disney animated feature Bambi. During production, Disney staffers jokingly referred to The Lion King as "Bamblet".

Key characters

Missing image
Mufasa, Simba's father and King of the Pridelands.
  • Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) - King of the Pridelands, father of Simba and mate of Sarabi, murdered by his brother Scar. Mufasa was reportedly the name of the last king of the Bagada people, who were dispersed during the English colonization of Kenya (see [1] ( The name could also be derived from "Mustafa," another name of Kemal Atatrk. The hyenas in the movie at one point pronounce the name in a funny way that entered '90s American pop culture.
  • Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick) - The future ruler of the Pridelands, son of Mufasa, who was exiled by his uncle Scar. The word simba in the Swahili language means "lion."
  • Nala (Niketa Calame and Moira Kelly) - Friend and future mate of Simba (Swahili for "gift"). According to co-director Rob Minkoff, speaking in 2004, the general assumption during production was that Nala was the offspring of either Scar or Mufasa. The film never specifies this, for obvious reasons of taste, though it is consistent with the real-life behavior of lions.
  • Scar (Jeremy Irons) - Brother of Mufasa and Simba's uncle. It is said that Scar's name was "Taka" (Swahili for "dirt" or "trash") before his disfigurement. The villain of the movie, Scar aspires to become king by overthrowing Mufasa and Simba. However whilst he succeeds in killing Mufasa, Simba escapes only to return years later to reclaim his throne.
  • Sarabi (Madge Sinclair) - Mother of Simba and Mufasa's mate (Swahili for "mirage").
  • Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) - Mandrill shaman, Simba's spiritual guide (Swahili for "friend").
  • Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) - A comical duo who adopt Simba and raise him under the philosophy of "Hakuna Matata" (Swahili for "no worries"). Pumbaa means "simpleton" in Swahili. Timon could be named after a Greek philosopher or after the title character of Shakespeare's play Timon of Athens.
  • Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) - A pompous hornbill who is King Mufasa's majordomo (advisor).
  • Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings) - Three hyenas who assist Scar in murdering Mufasa and exiling Simba. Shenzi is Swahili for "uncouth"; banzai means "skulk" or "lurk."
  • Sarafina (Zoe Leader) - Nala's mother. Her name is never spoken in the movie, and indeed her dialogue consists only of a single line ("Hm, what do think, Sarabi?"). Nevertheless, the end credits as well as the vast majority of fan material appear to consider her a major character. This is in contrast to the gopher who also speaks only one line ("Zazu, Sir. News from the underground.") but is generally designated as a minor role.

The movie also bears a loose resembelance to Shakespeare's Macbeth. The thinnest form of the story is that Brother to King (Scar to Mufasa; MacBeth to Duncan) kills the king, and the rightful heir runs away (Simba to Malcolm). Malcolm/Simba comes back later to reclaim his throne.

Sequels and spin-offs

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The Festival of the Lion King in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Timon is visible.

The Lion King was so successful that Disney's television animation arm created a direct-to-video sequel called The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998), focusing on Simba's daughter Kiara. A spin-off television series called Timon and Pumbaa focused on the Meerkat and Warthog duo, and implied that the story took place during the mid Twentieth Century through the appearance of humans, human clothing and technology. A second direct-to-video sequel, The Lion King 1 (also known as The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata), was released on February 10, 2004, and takes place on a parallel time line that interweaves with the original Lion King, but from Timon and Pumbaa's perspective.

The original movie was remastered and, on October 7, 2003, released as The Lion King: 2-Disc Special Edition, part of Disney's Platinum Edition line of DVDs. Among the extra features on the disc was an extended version of one scene, where a short conversation has been replaced with a complete song, "The Morning Report", which was originally written for the stage musical (see below). By means of seamless branching, the movie could be viewed either with or without the extra scene.

Missing image
The Lion King on Broadway

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was re-released in a 2 disc Special Edition on August 31, 2004.

A boxed set of the three films (in double-disc Special Edition formats) was released on December 6, 2004.


The movie was also adapted into an award-winning Broadway stage musical with the same title, directed by Julie Taymor, featuring actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets. The stage show first opened on July 31st, 1997 in Minneapolis at the Orpheum Theatre, and was an instant and tremendous success, moving permanently to the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway in New York that October. A version later opened London, and another in Toronto, playing there until January 2004. It is also now playing in Buffalo, New York, Sydney, Australia, and Hamburg, Germany. It is produced by Disney Theatrical.

The Lion King was nominated for the following Tony Awards in 1997:

Sound Track

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Hamburg, Germany: Lion King Theater

A soundtrack CD was sold separately from the film. In the original United States version, this CD had the following tracks:

  1. Circle Of Life (by Carmen Twillie)
  2. I Just Can't Wait To Be King (Jason Weaver, Rowan Atkinson, Laura Williams)
  3. Be Prepared (Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings)
  4. Hakuna Matata (Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Jason Weaver, Joseph Williams)
  5. Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Joseph Williams, Sally Dworsky, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Kristle Edwards)
  6. This Land (instrumental, by Hans Zimmer)
  7. To Die For (instrumental, by Hans Zimmer)
  8. Under The Stars (instrumental, by Hans Zimmer)
  9. King Of Pride Rock (instrumental, by Hans Zimmer)
  10. Circle Of Life (Elton John)
  11. I Just Can't Wait To Be King (Elton John)
  12. Can You Feel The Love Tonight End Title (Elton John)
  13. Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Elton John remix)

In most international releases of the CD, Elton John's versions were removed except for the bottom one.

More recently, with the making of the Special Edition and its extra song, "The Morning Report", newer CDs include this track:

  1. The Morning Report (James Earl Jones, Jeff Bennett, Evan Saucedo)

Controversies surrounding The Lion King

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Jungle Emperor (ジャングル大帝), a.k.a. Kimba the White Lion
The Lion King was claimed to be the first animated Disney movie to be based on an original story, although the accuracy of this has become disputed. The Lion King bears a striking resemblance ( to a famous Japanese animated television show, Kimba the White Lion, and many claims have been made that The Lion King was strongly inspired by it. Each character in Kimba has an analogue in The Lion King, the plot has the same structure, and many individual scenes are nearly identical in composition and camera angle. However, Disney's official stance is that any resemblances are a coincidence, and the directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff claim they were well into the development process before someone pointed out the Kimba similarity. The family of Osamu Tezuka, Kimba's creator, have not filed suit against Disney; fans have speculated that this may be because of Tezuka's well-known love for Disney's works during his lifetime. The comparison has led to rumors among anime fans that other recent Disney works are also plagiarized from existing popular anime—for example, Atlantis: The Lost Empire has been variously accused of being a rip-off of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water or of Laputa: Castle in the Sky—but the similarities in these cases are much less direct, and some have countered that the accusations say more about the anime fanbase's regard for Disney than about the ethics of the studio.
Missing image
The infamous 'SEX' frame

In one scene of the movie it appears as if animators had embedded the word "sex" into several frames of animation, which conservative activist Donald Wildmon asserted was a subliminal message intended to promote sexual promiscuity. According to Disney, however, it is supposed to read "SFX" (a common abbreviation of "special effects"), and was a sort of innocent "signature" signed by the effects animation team to the work they did. An examination of the actual frames in question supports this latter claim, as the lower part of the "E" is indeed astray.

The use of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" 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.

It has been said that a part of a scene was removed from the American version of The Lion King stage musical. When Mufasa dies, the lionesses cry over his dead body: this is enacted using a Japanese bunraku puppet mourning technique in which ribbons flow out of the eyes to symbolize tears. To some, the story goes, this looks like the lionesses were crying out toilet paper, causing the audience to laugh at an inappropriate moment. However, the scene was not actually removed, nor does it provoke laughter or confusion during live play. The story can therefore be dismissed as an urban legend.

The two child actors playing the lead roles of Simba and Nala in the Australian stage version were fired due to bad acting, lack of singing talent and inconsistent American accent.

See also

External links


de:Der Knig der Lwen fr:Le Roi lion ja:ライオンキング nl:The Lion King pl:Krl Lew ru:Король Лев sv:Lejonkungen zh:狮子王


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