The Lion King, released in 1994, is an iconic animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. The movie tells the story of a young lion named Simba who learns about responsibility and bravery while navigating the challenges of becoming king. Over the years, The Lion King has become a beloved classic and a staple in animation history. Here are 15 interesting facts about The Lion King that you may not know:
- The Lion King was the first Disney animated feature film to be based on an original story, rather than a pre-existing work or fairy tale.
- The original working title for the movie was “King of the Jungle,” but it was later changed to “The Lion King” since lions don’t actually live in jungles.
- The Lion King’s story was inspired by various sources, including elements of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the biblical stories of Moses and Joseph.
- The film took around four years to create, with over 600 animators, artists, and technicians contributing to its production.
- Simba’s name means “lion” in Swahili, while other character names have meanings in Swahili as well: Nala means “gift,” Rafiki means “friend,” and Pumbaa means “foolish” or “simpleton.”
- The iconic opening song, “Circle of Life,” features Zulu lyrics, which translate to “Here comes a lion, father” and “Oh yes, it’s a lion.”
- In addition to the film’s star-studded voice cast, including Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, and Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella (the voices of Timon and Pumbaa) originally auditioned for the roles of the hyenas.
- The Lion King was one of the first animated films to use a multiplane camera effect, giving the appearance of depth in 2D animation.
- The film’s animators were sent to Africa to study the environment and wildlife to create more accurate and authentic illustrations.
- The wildebeest stampede scene took around three years to animate, as it required the development of new computer software to control the movement of hundreds of animals.
- The Lion King was initially considered a secondary project within Disney, with many top animators opting to work on Pocahontas instead, believing it would be more successful.
- The film received two Academy Awards, one for Best Original Score (by Hans Zimmer) and one for Best Original Song (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John and Tim Rice).
- The Lion King has spawned various sequels, including The Lion King 1 1/2 and The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, as well as a highly successful Broadway adaptation.
- In 2019, a photorealistic computer-animated remake of The Lion King was released, directed by Jon Favreau and featuring the voices of Donald Glover, Beyoncé, and James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa.
- The Lion King has grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time.
As a classic tale of self-discovery, love, and overcoming adversity, The Lion King remains a beloved and enduring part of the Disney legacy. These 15 fascinating facts offer just a glimpse into the rich history and immense effort that went into creating this iconic film.