The Lion King, made in 1994, is often held up as one of Disney’s best films, but there’s still plenty of facts that can surprise us. Did you know Jeremy Irons didn’t sing all of Be Prepared? That it doesn’t say SEX in the dust cloud? Here are 26 interesting facts about The Lion King.
1. Lion King was nearly called King of the Jungle – but Disney changed the name when they realised lions don’t actually live in the jungle. The very first title was King of Beasts.
2. The start was going to be dialogue heavy BUT Disney was so impressed with Hans Zimmer’s theme they went with that.
3. The music was actually so powerful Disney decided to use it as the trailer for the film – the first time Disney had ever used a complete scene as a promo trailer.
4. When Simba collapses on the cliff – it doesn’t say SEX it says SFX as a nod to the art department.
5. Pumbaa is the first Disney character to ever fart.
6. It took about 3 years to animate Lion King’s two-and-a-half-minute wildebeest stampede scene.
7. “You have no idea” is the same line Jeremy Irons (Scar) says in his Oscar-winning role as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune.
8. James Earl Jones (Mufasa) and Madge Sinclair (Sarabi) were the king and queen in Coming to America. A very different movie.
9. The first script involved Scar as a lone lion, not related to Simba, who was in charge of a group of baboons.
10. The Lion King was the first Disney animated film to feature a completely original storyline – one that wasn’t an adaptation.
11…though saying that people have made comparisons to Hamlet, which was one of the inspirations behind the movie.
12. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, who played Timon and Pumbaa, originally auditioned to be hyenas. Director Rob Minkoff said “They asked the casting director if they could audition together and they were hilarious as they read their lines, but they didn’t seem right for the hyenas. That’s when we thought, ‘What if we use them as Timon and Pumbaa?’ It was the perfect fit.”
Of course Cheech Marin and Whoopi Goldberg were cast as hyenas instead.
13. Jeremy Cummings played the third hyena, he also starred as the gopher who reports to Zazu, but more interestingly he filled in for Jeremy Irons for the last part of Be Prepared when he lost his voice during recording.
14. A hyena researcher sued Disney for “defamation of character” for its portrayal of the animals in the film.
15. There was a song called The Lion in the Moon, a lullaby sung by Sarabi that was cut.
16. Another song that was nearly left out was Hakuna Matata. Minkoff said there was a song about bugs called He’s Got it All Worked Out instead, but people weren’t convinced. The research team who went to Africa came back with the phrase Hakuna Matata. In a meeting with Tim Rice, he said: “Hmmm… Hakuna Matata. It’s a bit like Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.” That was it.
17. The Lion King is the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated feature of all time with a total box office of over $987 million; it is also the third highest-grossing animated feature in general, the 19th highest-grossing film of all time, and the best-selling VHS ever.
18. The Lion King was made at the same time as Pocahontas, which Disney thought would be the more successful film. The animators chosen for the project were the ‘B-team’.
19. Rafiki isn’t a baboon. Sorry. He’s actually a mix between a mandrill and a baboon, as mandrills don’t have tails.
20. A small yellow beetle that Timon finds under a log has Mickey ears on its back.
21. Matthew Broderick (voice of Adult Simba) thought he was working on a remake of 1960s Japanese anime show Kimba the White Lion when he read the script. Disney denied any connection between the two films.
22. The screenwriter Irene Mecchi said the film was pitched as: “Hamlet in Africa with Bambi thrown in, so Bamblet.”
23. Before Rowan Atkinson was chosen as Zazu several other Monty Python members were considered, and Patrick Stewart.
24. Tim Rice is said to have had many versions – up to 15 – of Can You Feel The Love Tonight?, the one Elton John recorded is the first.
25. The original final fight sequence had Simba losing to Scar, though Scar then died in a fire.
26. The opening lyrics from the Lion King’s ‘Circle of Life’ are sung in the language of the Zulu, an ethnic group of Southern Africa. If you directly translate the words they say: “There comes a lion. Oh yes, it’s a lion.”
Got any more interesting facts about The Lion King?
The Lion King remake is out in cinemas in July, 2019.