'The Lion King' Turns 20: 6 Things You Didn't Know About the Disney Classic
It's hard to believe that it's been 20 whole years since The Lion King first Hakuna Matata-ed its way into all of our hearts. With such a bafflingly star-studded cast — including Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Rowan Atkinson (a.k.a., Mr. Bean), Cheech of Cheech and Chong, the list goes on — and music by both Elton John and Hans Zimmer (see: the iconic themes from Pirates of the Carribbean and Inception), it's hard to imagine it wouldn't have been a hit. But hey, then again, we all saw how Movie 43 turned out, the bland disasters that became of those [Insert Name of Holiday Here] attempts — clearly, there was more going on here than mere assemblage of talent.
In fact, at the time of its production, The Lion King was considered somewhat of an underdog: Disney reportedly relegated the project to its B-team, assigning its primary animators to Pocahontas , which was pegged as a surer hit. However, with a record-breaking 20 million copies sold in one week upon its video release in 1995, The Lion King lapped Pocahontas and then some. In short: suck it, John Smith.
So, with that spirit in mind, here are a few more factoids about the little animal-centric animation that could. Prepare to have your mind properly blown — or, at least, to be reminded of some nifty trivia before commencing your ceremonial 20th anniversary screening. (Note: I'm currently picturing you holding your Lion King VHS box aloft, Rafiki-presenting-Simba-style, during the opening sequence. Do not disappoint me.)
Meanwhile, let's get to it:
6. The Lion King is Basically Hamlet
This knowledge has been bopping around online for a while, but just as a quick refresher / reiteration of the glorious Venn diagram above: Both tell the story of a young prince whose father is killed by his uncle and who is then goaded by the ghost of said father into seeking revenge. Basically, if you stuck Simba in a castle in Denmark and made him speak in iambic pentameter, you'd hardly be able to tell the difference. Timon and Pumbaa can be Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
This similarity was not lost on the filmmakers: during production, they apparently nicknamed the movie "Bamblet" — a cross between Hamlet and Bambi — which ultimately sounds about right.
5. Adult Simba's Hair Was Inspired By Bon Jovi
Because really, if you're looking for a quality mane... Follow-up question: Why has no one cut footage of Simba and Nala to "Livin' on a Prayer"?
4. Darth Vader = Mufasa
Yes, James Earl Jones's signature voice made him a famous patriarch twice over.
Double twist: Jones and Madge Sinclair, who plays Sarabi, had also previously played an African king and queen in Eddie Murphy's Coming to America.
Triple twist: the role of Mufasa was almost given to Sean "What Is My Scottish Brogue Doing in Africa" Connery.
3. Secret Messages in the Dust...
While many a giggling preteen and/or lunatic conspiracy theory video will try to convince you that the above dust cloud wafts into the word "SEX," animators at Disney have insisted that they only intended to spell out "SFX," the traditional industry abbreviation for "special effects," as a kind of calling card.
2. It Won the Biggest Bucks
... at least where traditional animation is concerned. Otherwise, we're talking Finding Nemo and Frozen — but even then, it's only fallen to number three. In 20 years. Raking in approximately $987 million worldwide (including figures from its 3D re-release), The Lion King remains the highest-grossing hand-drawn film — and likely always will, unless non-CGI style gets a major resurgence sometime soon (which, to be honest, would totally rule).
Meanwhile, once again, I would like to take a moment to inquire if John Smith and team Pocahontas would like some aloe for this thorough and all-encompassing burn.
1. Pumbaa Was the First Ever Disney Character to Fart
But, y'know, Hakuna Matata, man.