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The Lion King is a American animated feature produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. Released to theaters on June 15, 1994 by Walt Disney Pictures, it is the 32nd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The story, which was strongly influenced by the William Shakespeare play Hamlet, takes place in a kingdom of anthropomorphic animals in Africa. The film was the highest grossing animated film of all time until the release of Finding Nemo (a Disney/Pixar computer-animated film). The Lion King still holds the record as the highest grossing traditionally animated film in history and belongs to an era known as the Disney Renaissance.

The Lion King is the highest grossing 2D animated film of all time in the United States, and received positive reviews from critics, who praised the film for its music and story. During its release in 1994, the film grossed more than $783 million worldwide, becoming the most successful film released that year, and it is currently the twenty-seventh highest-grossing feature film.

A musical film, The Lion King garnered two Academy Awards for its achievement in music and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Songs were written by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, with an original score by Hans Zimmer. Disney later produced two related movies: a sequel, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride; and a part prequel-part parallel, The Lion King 1½.

Plot

The Lion King takes place in the Pride Lands, where a lion rules over the other animals as king. Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), a mandrill, anoints Simba (cub by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, adult by Matthew Broderick), the newborn cub of King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Sarabi (Madge Sinclair), and presents him to a gathering of animals at Pride Rock.

Mufasa takes Simba around the Pride Lands, teaching him about the "Circle of Life", the delicate balance affecting all living things. Simba's uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons), who desires the throne for himself, tells him about the elephant graveyard, a place where Mufasa has warned Simba not to go. Simba asks his mother if he can go to the water-hole with his best friend, Nala (cub by Niketa Calame, adult by Moira Kelly). Their parents agree but only if Mufasa's majordomo, the hornbill Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), goes with them. Simba and Nala elude Zazu's supervision and go to the graveyard instead. There, the cubs are met by Shenzi, Banzai and Ed (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings), spotted hyenas who try to kill them, but they are rescued by Mufasa, who was summoned by Zazu.

Meanwhile, Scar gains the loyalty of the hyenas by claiming that if he becomes king, they'll "never go hungry again". Scar tells the hyenas to kill Mufasa and Simba, thus establishing his plan of regicide. Some time later, Scar lures Simba into a gorge while the hyenas create a wildebeest stampede. Alerted by Scar, Mufasa races to rescue Simba from the stampede. He saves his son but is left clinging to the edge of a cliff, which results in Scar flinging him into the stampede below. Scar convinces Simba that he (Simba) was responsible for his father's death and tells him to flee from the Pride Lands. Scar once again sends Shenzi, Banzai and Ed to kill Simba, but he escapes. Scar informs the pride that both Mufasa and Simba were killed and that he is assuming the throne as the next in line.

Simba is found unconscious by Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella), a meerkat-warthog duo who adopt and raise the cub. When Simba has grown into an adult he is discovered by Nala, who tells him that Scar has turned the Pride Lands into a barren wasteland. She asks Simba to return and take his place as king but Simba refuses. Simba shows Nala around his home and the two begin to fall in love. Rafiki arrives and persuades Simba to return to the Pride Lands, aided by Mufasa's presence in the stars.

Once back at Pride Rock, Simba (with Timon, Pumbaa and Nala) is horrified to see the condition of the Pride Lands. After seeing Scar strike his mother, Simba announces his return. In response, Scar tells the pride that Simba was responsible for Mufasa's death and corners Simba at the edge of Pride Rock. As Simba dangles over the edge of Pride Rock, Scar whispers to Simba that he killed Mufasa. Enraged, Simba leaps up and pins Scar to the ground, forcing him to admit the truth to the pride. A raging battle then ensures between the hyenas and the lionesses which results in Simba cornering Scar. Begging for mercy, Scar blames the hyenas for Mufasa's death, but Simba orders Scar to go into exile. Scar pretends to leave but turns to attack Simba, resulting in a final duel. Simba triumphs over his uncle by flipping him over a low cliff. Scar survives the fall but finds himself surrounded by the now-resentful hyenas, who attack and devour him. The film concludes with the Pride Lands turning green with life again and Rafiki presenting Simba and Nala's newborn cub.

Production

The production of The Lion King, originally titled King of the Jungle, took place at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Glendale, Californiamarker, and Disney-MGM Studiosmarker in Orlando, Floridamarker. The original treatment, inspired by Hamlet, was written by Thomas M. Disch (author of The Brave Little Toaster), as “King of the Kalahari” in late 1988. Since his treatment was written as work-for-hire, Disch received no credit or royalties. Thirteen supervising animators, both in Californiamarker and Floridamarker, were responsible for establishing the personalities and setting the tone for the film's main characters. Nearly 20 minutes of the film were animated at the Disney-MGM Studios.Ultimately, more than 600 artists, animators and technicians contributed to the 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.

In April 1992, when Rob Minkoff joined the directing team, a session was held to revamp the story. Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, the directors responsible for Beauty and the Beast, also attended. For two days, the producer, Don Hahn, presided over the discussion that finally produced a character makeover for Simba and a radically revised second half of the film. Screenwriter Irene Mecchi joined the team that summer to help further develop the characters and define their personalities. Several months later, she was joined by Jonathan Roberts in the rewriting process. Working together in the animation department and in conjunction with the directors and story team, they tackled the unresolved emotional issues in the script and also added many comic situations, with Pumbaa and Timon and with the hyenas.

Animators studied real-life animals for reference, as was done for the earlier film, Bambi. Jim Fowler, renowned wildlife expert, visited the studio on several occasions with an assortment of lions and other jungle inhabitants to discuss behavior and help the animators give their drawings an authentic feel. He taught them how lions greet one another by gently butting heads, and show affection by placing one's head under the other's chin. Fowler also talked about how they protect themselves by lying on their backs and using their claws to ward off attackers, and how they fight rivals by rising on their hind legs. To prepare the filmmakers, some of the lead production crew made a trip to Africa to better understand the environment for the film. The trip gave production designer Chris Sanders a new appreciation for the natural environments and inspired him to find ways to incorporate these elements into the design of the film.

The use of computers helped the filmmakers present their vision in new ways. The most notable use of computer animation is in the "wildebeest stampede" sequence. Several distinct wildebeest characters were created in a 3D computer program, multiplied into 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. Five specially trained animators and technicians spent more than two years creating the 2½ minute stampede sequence.

At one time, the Disney Feature Animation staff felt The Lion King was less important than Pocahontas. Both projects were in production at the same time, and most of the staff preferred to work on Pocahontas, believing it would be the more prestigious and successful of the two. Songwriter Elton John thought his career had hit a new low when he was writing the music to the song "Hakuna Matata". However, the strongly enthusiastic audience reception to an early film trailer which consisted solely of the opening sequence with the song, "Circle of Life," suggested that the film would be very successful. As it turns out, while both films were commercial successes, The Lion King received more positive feedback and larger grosses than Pocahontas.

Music

Elton John and Tim Rice wrote five original songs for this film, with Elton John performing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" during the end credits. The film's score was composed by Hans Zimmer and supplemented with traditional African music and choir elements arranged by Lebo M.

Songs

Here are the musical numbers in the original theatrical film, listed in the order of their occurrence:

  • "Circle of Life" is sung by an off-screen character voiced by Carmen Twillie, with African vocals by Lebo M and his African choir. This song is played during the ceremony where the newborn Simba is presented to the animals of the Pride Lands. The song is reprised at the end of the film, during the presentation of Simba and Nala's newborn cub.
  • "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" is sung by young Simba (Jason Weaver), young Nala (Laura Williams), and Zazu (Rowan Atkinson). Simba uses this musical number in the film to distract Zazu so that he and Nala can sneak off to the elephant graveyard, at the same time expressing his wish to be king as soon as possible.
  • "Be Prepared" is sung by Scar (Jeremy Irons/Jim Cummings), Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (Cheech Marin) and Ed (Jim Cummings). In this song, Scar reveals his plot to kill Mufasa and Simba to his hyena minions.
  • "Hakuna Matata" is sung by Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) and Simba (Jason Weaver as a cub and Joseph Williams as an adult). Timon and Pumbaa use this song as a warm welcome to Simba as he arrives at their jungle home, and to explain their "no worries" lifestyle. The sequence also contains a montage sequence in which Simba grows into a young adult, indicating the passage of time in Simba's life in the jungle. The American Film Institute released its AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs list in 2004 and "Hakuna Matata" was listed at number 99.
  • "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is a love song sung mainly by an off-screen character voiced by Kristle Edwards, along with Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), adult Simba (Joseph Williams) and adult Nala (Sally Dworsky). This musical sequence shows Timon and Pumbaa's frustration at seeing Simba fall in love, and the development of Simba and Nala's romantic relationship. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song during the 67th Academy Awards.


Additionally, a song which was not present in the original theatrical film, was later added to the IMAX theater and to the DVD Platinum Edition release:

  • "The Morning Report" was originally a scene planned for the theatrical film but never made it past the storyboard stage. It was later cut and the song lyrics were written to be used for the live musical version of The Lion King instead. It was later added, with an accompanying animated sequence, to the 2002 IMAX rerelease. Sung by Zazu (Jeff Bennett), Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and young Simba (Evan Saucedo), the song is an extension of the scene in the original film where Zazu delivers a morning report to Mufasa, and later gets pounced on by Simba.


Soundtrack and other albums

The film's original motion picture soundtrack was released on July 13, 1994. It was the fourth best-selling album of the year on the Billboard 200 and the top-selling soundtrack.

On February 28, 1995, Disney released an album entitled Rhythm of the Pride Lands, which featured songs and performances inspired by, but not featured in, the film. Focusing on the African influences in the film's original music, most of the tracks were by African composer Lebo M, sung either partially or entirely in various African languages. Several songs included on the album would be used in other The Lion King-related projects, such as the stage musical and the direct-to-video sequels (e.g., "He Lives In You" was used as the opening song for The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, and a reincarnation of "Warthog Rhapsody", called "That's All I Need", in The Lion King 1½). Rhythm of the Pride Lands was initially issued in a very limited quantity, but there was a 2003 rerelease included in some international versions of The Lion King's special edition soundtrack, with an additional track. Additionally, The Lion King Expanded Score contains never-before-released instrumental music from Hans Zimmer's original score.

The compilation Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic includes "Circle of Life", "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", "Hakuna Matata", "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?", and "Be Prepared".The compilation Disney's Greatest Hits also includes "Circle of Life", "Hakuna Matata", and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?".

Release

Box office performance

The Lion King became the highest grossing motion picture of 1994 worldwide, and the second highest in the USA (behind Forrest Gump). The film initially made US$312,855,561 domestically, including a short return to theaters in November 1994, and adding in its 2002 IMAX rerelease the domestic total is $328,541,776. The Lion King held the record for the most successful animated feature film until 2003 when it was surpassed by the computer animated Finding Nemo, but it remains the highest grossing hand-drawn animated feature film.

The Lion Kingbox office revenue
Source Gross (USD) % Total All Time Rank
Domestic $328,541,776 41.9% 18
Foreign $455,300,000 58.1% N/A
Worldwide $783,841,776 100.0% 24


Critical reviews

The Lion King garnered critical acclaim and at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 61 reviews collected, the film has an overall approval rating of 92%, with a weighted average score of 8/10. Among Rotten Tomatoes's Cream of the Crop, which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 100 percent. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized 0–100 rating to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 84 from the 13 reviews it collected.

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert called the film "a superbly drawn animated feature" and, in his print review wrote, "The saga of Simba, which in its deeply buried origins owes something to Greek tragedy and certainly to Hamlet, is a learning experience as well as an entertainment." However, on the television program Siskel & Ebert the film was praised but received a mixed reaction when compared to previous Disney films. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both gave the film a "Thumbs Up" but Siskel said that it was not as good as earlier films such as Beauty and the Beast and was "a good film, not a great one". Hal Hinson of The Washington Post called it "an impressive, almost daunting achievement" and felt that the film was "spectacular in a manner that has nearly become commonplace with Disney's feature-length animations", but was less enthusiastic toward the end of his review saying, "Shakespearean in tone, epic in scope, it seems more appropriate for grown-ups than for kids. If truth be told, even for adults it is downright strange." Owen Gleiberman, film critic for Entertainment Weekly, praised the film and wrote that it "has the resonance to stand not just as a terrific cartoon but as an emotionally pungent movie". Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers praised the film and felt that it was "a hugely entertaining blend of music, fun and eye-popping thrills, though it doesn't lack for heart". The staff of TV Guide wrote that "The film has some of Disney's most spectacular animation yet—particularly in the wildebeest stampede—and strong vocal performances, especially by skilled Broadway comedian Nathan Lane. However, it suffers from a curiously undeveloped story line." James Berardinelli, film critic for ReelViews, praised the film saying, "With each new animated release, Disney seems to be expanding its already-broad horizons a little more. The Lion King is the most mature (in more than one sense) of these films, and there clearly has been a conscious effort to please adults as much as children. Happily, for those of us who generally stay far away from 'cartoons', they have succeeded." In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "10 Top 10"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. The Lion King was acknowledged as the fourth best film in the animation genre.

Awards and nominations

The Lion King received many award nominations, including the Academy Award for Best Original Score (by Hans Zimmer) and the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, both of which it won. Most notably, the song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" by Elton John and Tim Rice won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, the BMI Film Music Award, and the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance Male.

The awards were as follows:



1995 release

The Lion King was first released on VHS and laserdisc in the United States on March 3, 1995, under Disney's "Masterpiece Collection" video series. In addition, Deluxe Editions of both formats were released. The VHS Deluxe Edition included the film, an exclusive lithograph of Rafiki and Simba (in some editions), a commemorative "Circle of Life" epigraph, six concept art lithographs, another tape with the half-hour TV show The Making of The Lion King, and a certificate of authenticity. The CAV laserdisc Deluxe Edition also contained the film, six concept art lithographs and The Making of The Lion King, and added storyboards, character design artwork, concept art, rough animation, and a directors' commentary that the VHS edition did not have, on a total of four double sided disks. The VHS tape quickly became one of the best-selling videotapes of all time: 4.5 million tapes were sold on the first day and ultimately sales totaled more than 30 million before these home video versions went into moratorium in 1997.

2003 Platinum Edition

On October 7, 2003, the film was rereleased on VHS and released on DVD for the first time, titled The Lion King: Platinum Edition, as part of Disney's Platinum Edition line of animated classic DVDs. The DVD release featured two versions of the film on the first disc, a remastered version created for the 2002 IMAX release and an edited version of the IMAX release purporting to be the original 1994 theatrical version. A second disc, with bonus features, was also included in the DVD release. The film's soundtrack was provided both in its original Dolby 5.1 track and in a new Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix, making this one of the first Disney DVDs so equipped. By means of seamless branching, the film could be viewed either with or without a newly-created scene — a short conversation in the film replaced with a complete song ("The Morning Report"). A Special Collector's Gift Set was also released, containing the DVD set, five exclusive lithographed character portraits (new sketches created and signed by the original character animators), and an introductory book entitled The Journey.

The Platinum Edition of The Lion King was criticized by fans for its false advertising: producer Don Hahn had earlier stated that the film would be in its original 1994 theatrical version, but it was confirmed after release that it was the "digitally enhanced" IMAX version instead, which is slightly different from the original theatrical cut. One of the most noticeable differences is the re-drawn crocodiles in the "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" sequence. Despite this criticism, more than two million copies of the Platinum Edition DVD and VHS units were sold on the first day of release. A DVD boxed set of the three The Lion King films (in two-disc Special Edition formats) was released on December 6, 2004. In January 2005, the film, along with the sequels, went back into moratorium, but new and used copies still sell very well.

Future re-release

Disney has yet to announce a date for the Blu-ray Disc release, although the studio showed clips of the film on Blu-ray at the Consumer Electronics Show 2008.

Controversies

Story origin



The Lion King was the first Disney animated feature to be an original story, rather than being based on an already-existing story. The filmmakers have said that the story of The Lion King was inspired by the Joseph and Moses stories from the Bible and William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Certain elements of the film, however, bear a resemblance to a famous 1960s Japanese anime television show, Kimba the White Lion. One similarity is the protagonists' names: Kimba and Simba, although the word "simba" means "lion" in Swahili. Many characters in Kimba have an analogue in The Lion King and that various individual scenes are nearly identical in composition and camera angle. Early production artwork on the film's Platinum Edition DVD even includes a white lion. Disney's official stance is that the similarities are all coincidental.

Yoshihiro Shimizu, of Tezuka Productions, which created Kimba the White Lion, has refuted rumours that the studio was paid hush money by Disney but explains that they rejected urges from within the industry to sue because, 'we're a small, weak company. It wouldn't be worth it anyway... Disney's lawyers are among the top twenty in the world!'

Christopher Vogler, in his book The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, described Disney's request that he suggest how to improve the plot of The Lion King by incorporating ideas from Hamlet. It has also been noted that the plot bears some resemblance to the West African Epic of Sundiata.

Alleged subliminal messaging

In one scene of the film's original VHS and LaserDisc releases, it appears as if the word "SEX" might have been embedded into the dust flying in the sky when Simba flops down, which conservative activist Donald Wildmon asserted was a subliminal message intended to promote sexual promiscuity. The film's animators, however, have stated that the letters spell "SFX" (a common abbreviation of "special effects"), and was intended as an innocent "signature" created by the effects animation team. Due to the controversy it had caused, the scene was edited for the film's 2003 DVD and VHS releases, and the dust no longer formed any letters.

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

The use of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in a scene with Timon and Pumbaa 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 from Disney. In February 2006, Linda's heirs reached a legal settlement with Abilene Music, who held the worldwide rights and had licensed the song to Disney for an undisclosed amount of money.

Hamas propaganda

In August 2007, the Hamas organization produced an animated propaganda film that resembled the style of The Lion King. The program was aired via their television station, Al-Aqsa TV. Hamas was portrayed as a lion that chased and killed rats that bore the likenesses of members of the secular Fatah organization in Gazamarker. The program was briefly aired but was pulled off the air for revision.

Impact on popular culture

Because of its popularity, The Lion King has been referenced in a variety of media. For instance, the animated TV series The Simpsons spoofed the film in the episode "'Round Springfield". Toward the end of the episode, the ghost of Mufasa appears in the clouds with Bleeding Gums Murphy (who had died earlier that episode) and Darth Vader, and James Earl Jones (who voiced both Mufasa and Darth Vader) says, "This is CNN. You must avenge my death, Kimba... dah, I mean Simba," a reference to the Lion King/Kimba the White Lion controversy. Simba and Nala's escapade to the elephant graveyard was mentioned in a Season 2 episode of House.

Disney also frequently referenced The Lion King in its own films and shows. For example, in the Disney-released, Pixar-produced 1995 computer animated film Toy Story, the song "Hakuna Matata" can be heard playing in Andy's car during the film's climax. Pumbaa made a cameo in Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996),and Hercules (1997) paid homage to both The Lion King and the Nemean lion: Scar's skin is worn by the title character while he is posing for a painting on a Greekmarker vase.

Sequels and spin-offs

The success of the film led to several spin-offs, the first being a 70 mm film released in 1995 titled Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable. It promoted environmental friendliness and was shown in the The Land Pavilionmarker's Harvest Theater at Epcotmarker in Walt Disney Worldmarker. A spin-off television series called The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa, which focused on the titular meerkat and warthog duo in a more modern, human world than that of the film, also debuted in 1995.

In addition, a direct-to-video sequel called The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was released in 1998, focusing on Simba and his daughter Kiara as she falls in love with Kovu, a former member of Scar's pride. Finally, a direct-to-video prequel-parallel, The Lion King 1½ (also known as The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata), was released in 2004, providing some background on Timon and Pumbaa and giving the timeline of The Lion King from their perspective.

Many characters from The Lion King, including Timon, Pumbaa, Simba, Nala, Rafiki, Zazu, Shenzi, Banzai, Ed, Scar and Mufasa, appear in the Disney Channel series House of Mouse. Some of them also appear in the series' spin-off movies Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse and Mickey's House of Villains.

Musical

The Lion King was adapted into a successful Broadwaymarker stage musical directed by Julie Taymor in 1997, using actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets.The musical won six Tony Awards including Best Musical and is produced by Disney Theatrical.

Video games

Two video games based on the film have been released. The first, titled The Lion King, was published in 1994 by Virgin and was released for the NES (only in Europe), SNES, Game Boy, Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Game Gear, PC, and Amiga. The second game, called The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure, was published in 2000 by Activision and was released for the PlayStation and Game Boy Color. It was based on the first film and its storyline continued into the sequel.

In 1996, Disney Interactive and 7th Level released Timon & Pumbaa's Jungle Games for the PC. It was later seen on the SNES. The Games include: one in which Pumbaa uses his gas to destroy fruits and bugs (and even a kitchen sink) that fall out of trees, a variation of pinball, a game where you use a peashooter to hit enemy creatures in the jungle, a game where Timon has to jump onto hippos in order to cross a river to deliver bugs to Pumbaa, and a variation of Puyo Puyo called Bug Drop.

A game called The Lion King 1½ was published in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance, based on the direct-to-video film and featuring Timon and Pumbaa as the playable characters. Some of the film's characters are playable in Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure, a spin off of the Tony Hawk games. In the Disney and Square Enix video game Kingdom Hearts, Simba appears as an ally that Sora can summon during battles. He also appears again as a summon character in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. In Kingdom Hearts II, the Pride Lands are a playable world and a number of characters from the film appear, including Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, Nala, Mufasa, Rafiki, Scar, Shenzi, Banzai and Ed.

References

External links




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