Thursday, May 30, 2013

20 Things You Didn't Know About The Lion King

  1. The film was originally called King of the Jungle until Disney realized that lions don't actually live in the jungle. Well, shit.
  2. The Lion King and Pocahontas were in production at the same time. Disney's most talented animators opted to work on the latter, believing it to be the more prestigious of the two. Given that the The Lion King was wildly more successful than Pocahontas, I'd say they were wrong.
  3. The original plot of the film dealt with a power struggle between lions and baboons, who were led by Scar. Simba would have never left the kingdom, but instead would have become lazy and unlikable thanks to Scar's manipulation, thus making him easy to overthrow after his coming of age. Thankfully, this premise was heavily revised.
  4. Although Disney heralded The Lion King as their first original story not based on an already-existing work, the filmmakers drew inspiration from Shakespeare's Hamlet, as well as from African folklore. The film elicited controversy over similarities with the 1960s Japanese anime television series Kimba the White Lion.
  5. The "Be Prepared" scene was inspired by footage of Adolf Hitler.
  6. Cheech & Chong were tapped to play the two speaking hyenas, and while Cheech Marin signed on to play Banzai, Tommy Chong was unavailable. Therefore, Shenzi was changed to a female role and Whoopi Goldberg was cast. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella originally auditioned for the hyenas, but the filmmakers liked them together so much that they cast them as Timon and Pumbaa.
  7. Before Elton John was hired to compose the film's soundtrack, Disney and Tim Rice had reached out to ABBA.
  8. Many of the characters' names are Swahili terms: Simba means lion; Pumbaa means simpleton, stupid, or carefree; Nala means gift; Sarabi means mirage; Shenzi means savage or uncouth; and Rafiki means friend. 
  9. The soundtrack is the only animated film soundtrack to be certified Diamond by the RIAA, after achieving sales of over 10 million copies in the United States.
  10. It took approximately three years to animate the two-and-a-half minute wildebeest stampede scene.
  11. Original versions of "Hakuna Matata" delved into Timon's back-story, whereas the final version only deals with Pumbaa's.
  12. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" was originally supposed to be a comical duet between Timon and Pumbaa, rather than the Oscar-winning romantic ballad present in the film today.
  13. The film is said to have racist and xenophobic undertones. While the kingdom is ruled by light-colored lions with American accents, Scar is darkly colored and speaks with a British accent. He and the hyenas, who are also darkly colored and speak with African-American and Latino voices, live in dark impoverished areas similar to inner-city ghettos. When they attempt to enter the kingdom illegally, Mufasa rushes to stop the "trouble at the borders." Once Scar and the hyenas overtake the kingdom, the once-prosperous land quickly goes to shit.
  14. The film was the first to be made exclusively at Disney Studios in Florida.
  15. Originally, Scar was not related to Mufasa, but the filmmakers decided that making him the outcast brother added more emotional depth to the story.
  16. Pumbaa is the first Disney character to fart.
  17. It took nine months for the film to be converted into 3D for its 2011 theatrical re-release.
  18. The Lion King is the best selling home video of all time, with over 55 million copies sold (4.5 million on the first day alone.)
  19. In the Broadway adaptation of the film, Rafiki is a girl, as director Julie Taymor felt that the story lacked a strong female lead. (Sorry, Nala...)
  20. In earlier drafts of the script, Nala leaves the kingdom to escape Scar's romantic advances, rather than to find food as she does in the final version of the film. Scar's demented sexual fixation on Nala is present in the Broadway musical.