With The Lion King 3D about to be released for the first time in theaters on
September 16th and on Disney Blu-ray™ Hi-Def and Blu-ray 3D ™ October
4th, we step back in time to uncover some fun facts and top secrets about the
SECRET NUMBER ONE… THE ORIGINAL TITLE OF THE MOVIE WASN’T ‘THE LION KING’
“When I first started work on The Lion King, the movie was called King Of
The Jungle,” reveals the film’s producer Don Hahn. “King Of The Jungle was
a metaphor for this allegorical story about human behavior. We were thinking
about the idea of how it’s a jungle out there and Simba has to exist in this
jungle. However, there was no jungle in our story; they’re out on a savannah.
Another title we looked into was King Of The Beasts, which made more sense
because a lion is the king of beasts – but then we threw that out because
we wanted to focus on a simple story about a lion king. At that stage we
thought, ‘Why not call it The Lion King?’ The story is about a kid who wants to
be king and his uncle frames him for murder, so he grows up in the wilderness
and then he has to come back to claim his throne. That’s the whole story, and
it’s all about a lion king, so the name stuck.”
SECRET NUMBER TWO… PRIDE ROCK WAS CREATED IN BURBANK!
“We took a trip to Kenya to research the animals and the landscape for the
movie,” explains The Lion King co-director Roger Allers. “There wasn’t much time
for sketching during the trip because the animals were always very quick, but
we did a lot of photo research and we absorbed the feel of the landscape and
the weather. In the movie, Pride Lands is modeled after many different areas of
Kenya. There are certain things lifted from the landscape around the Samburu
District, but we used a variety of inspirations. Many people try to say, “Pride
Rock is based on this mountain here.” But they are wrong. An artist in Burbank
invented Pride Rock.
SECRET NUMBER THREE… ZAZU WAS ORIGINALLY A SMALLER SPECIES OF BIRD
“In the early stages of development, Zazu was a little, pointy-beaked bird,”
reveals co-director Roger Allers. “I can’t remember the exact species, but we
decided to change him into something very different after our research trip to
Africa. We kept seeing these wonderful hornbill birds hopping around the place
and they had so much character. The upward curve of their beak suggested
a sense of haughtiness to them; and at the same time they had wonderful
feathery legs that looked like they were wearing pajama bottoms. They looked
so funny and they had so much personality that we knew Zazu would have to be
a hornbill. It really added to his character.”
SECRET NUMBER FOUR… IT TOOK NINE MONTHS TO CONVERT THE MOVIE INTO 3D
“When I first heard that The Lion King was going to be converted into 3D, I
wasn’t sure it could be done,” reveals producer Don Hahn. “However, I was
blown away by the results. It looks fantastic! All in all, it took about nine months
to complete the process. We spent the first three months preparing and testing
the shots, followed by six months of actual production work.”
SECRET NUMBER FIVE… THE CREATIVE TEAM BROUGHT REAL LIONS INTO THE ANIMATION STUDIO TO RESEARCH THEIR MOVEMENTS
“When Walt Disney worked on Bambi, he brought a variety of forest animals
into the animation studio for research,” reveals The Lion King co-director Rob
Minkoff. “The artists could see how the animals looked up close and they could
observe how they moved around, so it was a great way to study the wildlife.
That inspired us to bring real lions and cubs into the studio to research the
animals of The Lion King. A very famous animal expert called Jim Fowler, who
was the host of a television show called Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,
brought the animals in for us. It was very exciting and very informative for all of
the animators working on the movie.”
SECRET NUMBER SIX… RAFIKI WAS A VERY DIFFERENT CHARACTER IN EARLY VERSIONS OF THE STORY
“In the early stages of production, the character of Rafiki was very different to
the character you see in the finished film,” admits co-director Roger Allers. “In
early versions of the story, Rafiki was a serious counselor to the king. He was a
very wise man, so we hired the actor Robert Guillaume to do the voice. However,
by the time Robert came into record the voice, the character had completely
changed. We had come up with the idea of Rafiki being more of a crazy hermit
monk. He was now a wacky and mysterious character with a mystical side and
a wisdom that shows through occasionally – but a very playful, nutty side too.
Robert is a very dignified person and this wasn’t what he had signed up for, so
we spent the first recording session trying to find the voice and the laugh of
Rafiki. Robert nailed it that day and the rest is history.”
SECRET NUMBER SEVEN… NATHAN LANE AND ERNIE SABELLA ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF THE HYENAS
“The casting process for The Lion King was extremely long and very involved,”
explains co-director Rob Minkoff. “We went through lots of different ideas for
the various roles in the movie, but two of the great successes were Timon
and Pumbaa. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella were performing in a Broadway
production of Guys And Dolls in 1992, when The Lion King was being made.
They came to an audition in New York and they bumped into each other in the
lobby, which is when they discovered they were both auditioning for the roles of
hyenas. 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.”
SECRET NUMBER EIGHT… THE HAKUNA MATATA SONG WASN’T IN THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT
“In the early stages of production, we had a song called He’s Got It All Worked
Out in the movie,” reveals co-director Rob Minkoff. “We wanted a fun, bug-
eating song because we wanted to convey the idea that Simba is not being a lion
when he meets Timon and Pumbaa; he’s giving up his lion ways and he’s moving
into this new life away from his home. However, we couldn’t convince everybody
that making the entire song about eating bugs was a good idea. Soon after,
the research team came back from their trip to Africa with the phrase ‘Hakuna
Matata’. We talked about it in a meeting with Tim Rice – and that’s when the
idea struck. I remember Tim saying, ‘Hmmm… Hakuna Matata. It’s a bit like
Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.’ A song was born!”
SECRET NUMBER NINE… PUMBAA’S BELLY-RUBBING WAS INSPIRED BY AN ANIMATOR’S WIFE
“My wife was pregnant with our first child during the time I was working on The
Lion King,” explains animator Tony Bancroft. “If you watch a pregnant woman –
– you’ll notice that they like to rub their bellies. It makes them feel comfortable.
It’s appeasing. Well, I used to watch my wife rubbing her belly and it made me
think, ‘That would be such a fun element to put into Pumbaa since he’s a big,
fat guy.’ When you see Pumbaa lying on his back staring up at the stars in the
movie, you’ll notice he does that gesture. I animated that scene and I had him
stroking his stomach softly like a pregnant woman because it seemed so natural.
It makes him more human and relatable.”
SECRET NUMBER TEN… THE FILMMAKERS ORIGINALLY WANTED CHEECH AND CHONG TO PLAY THE HYENAS IN THE MOVIE
“We had a really tough time finding the right voices for the hyenas in the movie,”
reveals co-director Rob Minkoff. “Gary Trousdale, one of the directors of Beauty
And The Beast, helped us out in the early stages of development and he created
an entire storyboard of the hyenas as if they were played by Cheech and Chong.
It was hilarious, but Cheech and Chong weren’t working together at the time, so
we knew we wouldn’t be able to book the pair for the roles. Around that same
time we heard that Whoopi Goldberg was interested in the film and when we
asked her if she’d like to voice a hyena she said, ‘Yeah, great.’ So we got Cheech
and Whoopi instead of Cheech and Chong!”
- Audiences To Experience Disney’s “The Lion King” Like Never Before… (chipandco.com)
- Walt Disney Studios Celebrates The Premiere Of The Lion King 3D (chipandco.com)
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One thought on “10 Things You Never Knew About The Lion King”
Very interesting stuff!
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