The Lion King (franchise)

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The Lion King
The Lion King logo.svg
Created by Walt Disney Feature Animation
Roger Allers
Rob Minkoff
Print publications
Book(s) The Lion King: Six New Adventures
Films and television
Short film(s)
Animated series
Television film(s) The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar (2015)
Theatrical presentations
Play(s) The Legend of the Lion King (1994)
Video game(s)
Original music Rhythm of the Pride Lands (1995)
Theme park attractions
  • The Legend of the Lion King (1994–2002, 2004–2009)
  • The Lion King Celebration (1994–1997)
  • Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable (1995–present)
  • Festival of the Lion King (1998–present)
* Work where this franchise's characters or settings appeared as part of a crossover, or has characters based on those from this franchise.

The Lion King is a Disney media franchise comprising a film series and additional media. The success of the original 1994 American animated feature, The Lion King, directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, led to two direct-to-video sequel films, a television film sequel, two spin-off television series, three educational shorts, several video games, merchandise, and the third-longest-running musical in Broadway history, which garnered six Tony Awards including Best Musical.[1][2] The franchise as a whole has EGOT-ed, meaning it has won the four biggest awards of American show business.

The franchise mainly revolves about a pride of lions who oversee a large swath of African savanna as their "kingdom" known as the Pride Lands, with their leader Simba watching over it as "king". The first three animated films are widely known for being influenced by the works of William Shakespeare,[3][4] as well as other works based on his material.



Crew/detail Film
The Lion King
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride
The Lion King 1½
The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
The Lion King
Director(s) Roger Allers
Rob Minkoff
Darren Rooney
Rob LaDuca
Bradley Raymond Howy Parkins Jon Favreau
Producer(s) Don Hahn Jeannine Roussel George A. Mendoza Ford Riley Jon Favreau
Karen Gilchrist
Jeffrey Silver
Screenwriter(s) Irene Mecchi
Jonathan Roberts
Linda Woolverton
Flip Kobler
Cindy Marcus
Tom Rogers Jeff Nathanson
Composer(s) Hans Zimmer Nick Glennie-Smith Don Harper Christopher Willis Hans Zimmer
Editor(s) Ivan Bilancio Peter Lonsdale Joyce Arrastia N/A TBA
Production companies Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Feature Animation
Walt Disney Home Video
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Television Animation
DisneyToon Studios
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Australia
DisneyToon Studios
Sparx Animation Studios
Spaff Animation
Disney Television Animation
Mercury Filmworks
Walt Disney Pictures
Fairview Entertainment
Distributor Buena Vista Pictures Buena Vista Home Entertainment Disney-ABC Domestic Television Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Runtime 88 minutes 81 minutes 77 minutes 42 minutes TBA
  • June 15, 1994 (1994-06-15)
  • October 27, 1998 (1998-10-27)
  • June 10, 2004 (2004-06-10)
  • November 22, 2015 (2015-11-22)
July 19, 2019

Animated Films[edit]

The Lion King[edit]

The Lion King is the original film of the franchise. It was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. It was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation, premiered in selected cities on June 15, 1994, and widely released to theaters on June 24, 1994 by Walt Disney Pictures.[5] The Lion King is the 32nd Disney animated feature film and belongs to an era known as the Disney Renaissance.[6] The plot of the film is heavily influenced by the William Shakespeare play Hamlet.[3]

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride[edit]

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on VHS in the United States on October 27, 1998. It was directed by Darrell Rooney and co-directed by Rob LaDuca. It was first released on DVD as a limited issue on November 23, 1999, and placed into moratorium on January 19, 2000. It was not released again on DVD until August 31, 2004, when it was a two-disc special edition. It went into moratorium in January 2005. The plot of this animated film is heavily influenced by another Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet.[4]

The Lion King 1½[edit]

The Lion King 1½, also known as The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata in some countries, is the second direct-to-video installment of the film series. It was released by Walt Disney Home Entertainment on February 10, 2004. The DVD went to the Disney Vault in January 2005. The film is a chronologically concurrent sequel to the first film, focusing on Timon and Pumbaa. It was somewhat influenced by Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in which the title characters are seen in every major event of Hamlet.[7][8][9][10]

Around the World with Timon and Pumbaa[edit]

The series The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa had a direct-to-video film named Around the World with Timon and Pumbaa, with Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella reprising their roles as Timon and Pumbaa respectively. The story tells of Pumbaa getting struck by lightning, losing all his memory, and Timon helps refrain every moment they spent. After Pumbaa gets his memory back, lightning strikes Timon losing his memory this time, making Pumbaa break the fourth wall by telling the viewers to rewind the tape to start at the beginning, being it was the only way to help Timon remember. Several episodes from the series are featured in this film. Aside from this film, two other DVDs, Dining Out... and On Holiday... are an hour compilation of other episodes of the series. No DVDs have been released in the U.S. but were released on VHS. 1.5 rated

The Lion Guard[edit]

The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar[edit]

The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar is a television movie that premiered on November 22, 2015, serving as a pilot for The Lion Guard television series.[11][12]

The Lion Guard: The Rise of Scar[edit]

A television movie which premiered July 29, 2017 on Disney Channel.[13]


In 2016, it was announced that Disney is developing a live action Lion King remake with Jon Favreau directing.[14] Reports state that animation styles will be similar to Favreau's 2016 film The Jungle Book and will shoot it back to back with The Jungle Book sequel.[15][16] The film's voice cast will feature Donald Glover as Simba, James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa, and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa respectively. The movie will be produced by Fairview Entertainment.[17][18] In April 2017, Disney announced that the live-action remake will be released on July 19, 2019.[19] John Oliver will be playing Zazu.[20][21]

Television series[edit]

The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa[edit]

The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa is a spin-off cartoon series that centers on Timon and Pumbaa. The show ran for three seasons, airing on the syndicated block The Disney Afternoon and CBS in the United States, and BBS in Canada from September 8, 1995 to November 1, 1998. Since February 8, 2009 (after its final airing on the now-defunct Toon Disney before replaced by Disney XD), this show was no longer on the air, but has returned along with some other favorites on March 23, 2012, as part of the new Disney Junior TV channel.

The Lion Guard[edit]

On June 9, 2014, it was announced that a second TV show called The Lion Guard would premiere on Disney Junior and Disney Channel. First as a television movie which debuted November 22, 2015, followed by a series which began airing January 15, 2016.[22][12] The series centers around Simba and Nala's second-born cub Kion, who assembles a team to protect the Pride Lands. The Lion Guard is a sequel to The Lion King and takes place during the time-gap within the 1998 film, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.[23] Various characters from the first two films also make appearances in the show, including Kiara, Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki, Zazu, and Mufasa.[24][25] The series also features new characters, including Fuli, a confident cheetah; Beshte, a happy-go-lucky hippo; Ono, an intellectual egret; and Bunga, a fearless honey badger. The new characters are friends with Kion and join him on his adventures.[26][27]


Find Out Why[edit]

Find Out Why is a short educational series that features Timon and Pumbaa answering science questions like why there is lightning, why we sneeze, why pandas don't live in deserts, why there is wind, and why an airplane flies. These shorts are for educational purposes at schools, non-residential and residential uses for people, including students and kids everywhere in the world.

Timon and Pumbaa's Wild About Safety[edit]

Together with Timon (voiced by Bruce Lanoil) and Pumbaa (voiced by Ernie Sabella), students will learn a variety of safety lessons for around the house, for the environment, and for in the water that will help themselves and others avoid injuries, live problem-free, and be Safety Smart. At the end of each episode, Timon and Pumbaa sing a musical number reviewing all that they learned on the episode in question.

It’s UnBungalievable[edit]

A short-form series in which Bunga and Ono from The Lion Guard pick two animals to compete in contests such as "Who's Quicker?" "Who Has Better Hair?" and "Who's Hungrier?" The series features live-action animal footage provided by Disneynature.[28]

Broadway musical[edit]

A musical, based on the original animated film, debuted July 8, 1997, in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Orpheum Theatre. Directed by Julie Taymor, produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, and written by the co-director of the original film, Roger Allers, with writer Irene Mecchi. The musical features actors in elaborate animal costumes, and complex puppetry, created by Taymor and Michael Curry. The musical is divided in two acts and has music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, along with the musical score created by Hans Zimmer with choral arrangements by Lebo M.[29] The musical incorporates several changes and additions to the storyline as compared to the film, as well as adding more songs.

The musical became a success even before premiering on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater on October 15, 1997 in previews with the official opening on November 13, 1997. On June 13, 2006, the Broadway production moved to the Minskoff Theatre to make way for the musical version of Mary Poppins, where it is still running.[30] It is now Broadway's third-longest-running show in history. The show debuted in the West End's Lyceum Theatre on October 19, 1999 and is still running. The cast of the West End production were invited to perform at the Royal Variety Performance 2008 at the London Palladium on December 11, in the presence of senior members of the British Royal Family.[31] Other productions within the U.S. include a Los Angeles production at the Pantages Theatre, at Charlotte in the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, and a Las Vegas production at Mandalay Bay.[32] International productions include a British at the Lyceum Theatre in London, a Canadian at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, a Mexican in Mexico City,[33] and a South African in Johannesburg,[34] among others. The first ever UK tour opened at Bristol Hippodrome on August 31, 2012.

Video games[edit]

Two video games based on the first 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.[35] 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.[36] 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 players 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.[37]

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.[38] 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 Interactive Studios and Square Enix video game Kingdom Hearts, Simba appears as an ally that Sora can summon during battles.[39] 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.[40] Simba is also a playable character in the video game Disney Friends.

Other media[edit]

A 70 mm film entitled Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable is shown in the Harvest Theater in The Land Pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. It opened on January 21, 1995 replacing Symbiosis. Compared to the said film, Circle of Life is more an edutainment attraction and more kid-friendly. In the film, Timon and Pumbaa are chopping down trees and clogging up rivers to build the Hakuna Matata Lakeside Village. Simba comes to them and explains how their actions are harmful to nature. This lesson is explained with live-action footage, some left over from Symbiosis.

The Lion King: Six New Adventures, a collection of six spin-off books was published in 1994 by Grolier Enterprises Inc. The books were approved by Disney and take place after The Lion King. The story of the books center around Kopa, the son of Simba who is mischievous and adventurous but good-hearted just like his father was when he was young. In each book, while doing a mischief Kopa learns a life-lesson and meets up with Rafiki who gives him wisdom by narrating the past tales of the Pridelands. The story of the books was completely ignored by Disney in The Lion King sequels and isn't considered canon.[41]

The Legend of the Lion King was an underground stage performance retelling the story of the film using fully articulated puppets in Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland. This attraction ran from June 1994 to February 2002.

A Broadway-caliber short-form stage musical named Festival of the Lion King is performed live in Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Florida and in Adventureland at Hong Kong Disneyland. It uses the concept of tribal celebration in combination with ideas from Disney's Electrical Parade. The show is in the form of a revue, and not a condensed version of either the film or Broadway show. However, it features the award-winning music from the first film, written by Elton John and Tim Rice. The show uses songs, dance, puppetry and visual effects to create an African savannah setting filled with lions, elephants, giraffes, birds, zebras and gazelles.

The Lion King Celebration was a parade based on the film that ran at Disneyland from June 1, 1994 to June 1, 1997. It was designed as though the story of Simba was a tale passed down in Africa for generations.[42] The parade featured six floats designed around different aspects of Africa, dancers dressed in animal costumes and a Pride Rock float featuring Simba and Nala.

Many characters from The Lion King appear in the Disney Channel series Disney's House of Mouse.[43] Some of them also appear in the series' spin-off films Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse and Mickey's House of Villains. The characters also appear at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as a meet and greet characters.

Plot and themes[edit]

The story is set in a kingdom of anthropomorphic animals in Africa known as the Pride Lands, where a lion rules over the other animals as king.[3] The Lion King begins when Rafiki, a mandrill, anoints Simba, the newborn son of King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi, presenting him to a gathering of animals at the Pride Rock. Simba is next seen as a young cub, with Mufasa teaching him about the "Circle of Life". Simba's uncle and Mufasa's brother Scar plots to take the throne for himself and tells Simba about an elephant graveyard, a place where Mufasa has warned Simba not to go. When Simba and his best friend Nala go to the place, Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, three hyenas aligned with Scar, attack and try to kill the two cubs, but they are stopped by Mufasa. Scar's next plan is to lure 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 and killing him. Scar then tricks Simba into thinking that he is responsible for his father's death and tells him to run away, only to later order the hyenas to kill Simba, but they fail. 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 later found unconscious by Timon and Pumbaa, who adopt and raise him. It is not until Simba is a young adult lion that he meets Nala again, and the two lions fall in love. Along with Rafiki and Mufasa's ghost, Nala convinces Simba to return to the Pride Lands and claim the throne. Simba, along with Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa go to the Pride Rock, where Simba confront and eventually defeat Scar, who is later killed by his own army of hyenas as a result of Scar's blaming of the hyenas for Mufasa's death. The film concludes with the Pride Lands turning green with life again and Rafiki presenting Simba and Nala's newborn cub.

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride begins with the presentation of Simba and Nala's daughter named Kiara. Simba is very protective of his daughter and assigns Timon and Pumbaa to be her guardians. One day, the young cub sneaks into the Outlands, the place in which a group of lions loyal to Scar called the Outsiders reside after Simba exiles them from the Pride Lands. In the Outlands, Kiara meets a young male cub named Kovu, Scar's hand-chosen successor, and the two of them befriend each other until Simba and Kovu's mother, Zira arrive and a fight between Pride Landers and Outsiders almost takes place. Later in the film, Zira decides that she can use Kovu's new friendship with Kiara to get her revenge against Simba. Kiara is next seen as an adolescent lioness and is set to go for her first solo-hunt, but discovers that her father still sends Timon and Pumbaa to watch her. Furious, Kiara goes further from home until Zira's other children, Nuka and Vitani, set fire to the plains where Kiara is hunting, causing her to faint and giving Kovu the chance to rescue her. Simba finds that Kovu has helped Kiara and reluctantly allows him into the Pride Lands. While Simba struggles with the idea of accepting Kovu, Kiara and Kovu eventually fall in love. One morning, Simba invites Kovu for a walk but they are ambushed by Zira and her pride. They attack Simba but, while chasing him, Nuka got killed by the logs, resulting in Zira blaming and scratching Kovu for his death giving him a scar over his left eye. A wounded Simba exiles Kovu as he thinks Kovu was behind the ambush, but Kiara, knowing that Kovu would never do such a thing, runs away from Pride Rock against her father's orders and reunites with Kovu and convinces him to return with her to reunite their prides. Meanwhile, Zira leads her pride in a war against Simba and the Pridelanders and a fierce battle breaks out. Kovu and Kiara leap between them and Kiara reminds her father that, by his own words, "we are one". Zira refuses to end the battle, but Vitani and the other Outsiders understand Kiara's words and abandon their leader and join the Pridelanders. Now alone, Zira leaps for Simba, but Kiara pushes her away and they fall over a cliff. Kiara lands on a rock, but Zira slips and falls into the lake to death. Simba allows the Outsiders, including Kovu, to return to the Pride Lands, and Kovu is allowed to stand with Kiara at the top of Pride Rock.

The Lion King 1½ is a retelling of the events of the first film from Timon and Pumbaa's perspective.

The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa follows the further adventures of the titular meerkat and warthog duo. The pair is normally seen having misadventures in the jungle, but sometimes find themselves across the globe in various settings. This series also has episodes centering on Rafiki, Zazu, and Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. A pre-existing storyline of how Timon met Pumbaa appeared in this series. This episode's relation to The Lion King canon is questionable with the introduction of The Lion King 1½.

The Lion Guard follows the adventures of Simba and Nala's son Kion as he assembles the titular group of animals to protect the Pride Lands.

Cast and characters[edit]

A total of thirteen supervising animators from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney-MGM Studios were responsible for establishing the personalities and setting the tone for the first film's main characters. The animation team studied real-life animals for reference, as was done for the earlier film Bambi.[44] The animation of the characters counted with supervision by wildlife experts such as Jim Fowler, who 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, mannerisms that can be appreciated in Simba and Nala's encounter during the song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight". 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.[45] Screenwriter Irene Mecchi joined the directing team to help in the character development process as well as to define each character's personality. Story head Brenda Chapman, gave insight to the challenge of the characters and the story by stating "It was our job to make the main character likeable and sympathetic. It was also challenging to make the environment and characters interesting. In real life, lions basically sleep, eat and have no props."[45]

Two spin-off television series have been produced, one focusing on the characters of Timon and Pumbaa, the other following the story of newly created character, Kion. Three sets of educational shorts have also been produced. Additionally, some characters appeared in the Disney program House of Mouse.

List indicator(s)

  • A dark grey cell indicates the character was not in that medium.
Fighting Hyena
Uncle Max
Films TV Shows Mickey Mouse Features Shorts Attractions Video Games
The Lion King
The Lion King II:
Simba's Pride

The Lion King 1½
The Lion Guard:
Return of the Roar

Live-action Remake
The Lion King's
Timon & Pumbaa

The Lion Guard
House of Mouse

Mickey's Magical Christmas:
Snowed in at the House of Mouse

Find Out Why
Timon and Pumbaa's
Wild About Safety

It’s UnBungalievable
Circle of Life:
An Environmental Fable

Mickey's PhilharMagic
The Lion King
Animated StoryBook

Timon and Pumbaa's
Jungle Games

Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure
Timon and Pumbaa's
Virtual Safari

Kingdom Hearts II
Disney Think Fast
Matthew Broderick Rob Lowe Donald Glover Cam Clarke Rob Lowe Cam Clarke Joseph Williams   (non-speaking role)   Cam Clarke Jason Weaver Cam Clarke (non-speaking role)   Cam Clarke  
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (young) Cam Clarke (singing voice) Matt Weinberg (young) Ryan O'Donohue (young) Jonathan Taylor Thomas (young)
Jason Weaver (singing voice)
Joseph Williams (singing voice)
Evan Saucedo (Morning Report)
Moira Kelly Gabrielle Union Beyoncé   Gabrielle Union Sally Dworsky   Vanessa Marshall   Moira Kelly  
Niketa Calame (young)   Niketa Calame (young)
Sally Dworsky (singing voice)
Nathan Lane Kevin Schon Billy Eichner Nathan Lane Kevin Schon Nathan Lane Bruce Lanoil   Nathan Lane   Nathan Lane Kevin Schon Nathan Lane Bruce Lanoil
Kevin Schon
Quinton Flynn
Ernie Sabella Seth Rogen Ernie Sabella   Ernie Sabella   Ernie Sabella Leslie Hedger Ernie Sabella  
Robert Guillaume Khary Payton John Kani Robert Guillaume Khary Payton Robert Guillaume   Robert Guillaume   Robert Guillaume  
Rowan Atkinson Edward Hibbert Jeff Bennett John Oliver Edward Hibbert Michael Gough Jeff Bennett   Rowan Atkinson   Unknown  
Jeff Bennett (Morning Report)
James Earl Jones (non-speaking role) James Earl Jones   Gary Anthony Williams Keith David   James Earl Jones   James Earl Jones   James Earl Jones  
Jeremy Irons Jim Cummings (non-speaking role)   David Oyelowo   Jeremy Irons   James Horan   James Horan  
Zoe Leader  
Whoopi Goldberg   Whoopi Goldberg   Tress MacNeille   Whoopi Goldberg   Tress Maacneille  
Cheech Marin   Cheech Marin   Rob Paulsen   Cheech Marin   Cheech Marin  
Jim Cummings   Jim Cummings   Jim Cummings   Jim Cummings   Jim Cummings  
Madge Sinclair   (non-speaking role)   Alfre Woodard   (non-speaking role)  
Jim Cummings   Jim Cummings  
Brian Tochi  
(non-speaking role) Neve Campbell   Eden Riegel   Eden Riegel  
Mary Gibbs (baby)
Michelle Horn (young)
Charity Sanoy (singing voice)
Liz Callaway (singing voice)
Ashley Edner (growls)
  Jason Marsden   Jason Marsden  
Ryan O'Donohue (young)
Gene Miller (singing voice)
  Suzanne Pleshette   Nika Futterman  
  Andy Dick   Andy Dick  
  Jennifer Lien   Lacey Chabert  
Lacey Chabert (young)
Crysta Macalush (singing voice)
  Julie Kavner  
  Jerry Stiller  
  Jason Rudofsky  
  Max Charles   Max Charles  
  Joshua Rush   Joshua Rush   Joshua Rush  
  Diamond White   Diamond White  
  Dusan Brown   Dusan Brown  
  Atticus Shaffer   Atticus Shaffer   Atticus Shaffer  
  Andrew Kishino   Andrew Kishino  
  Vargus Mason   Vargus Mason  
  Kevin Schon   Kevin Schon  

Blayne Weaver, Shaun Fleming, Quinn Beswick, Bradley Pierce, Specers Breslin, Jeff Bennett, Andrew McDonough, Jim Cummings, Aaron Spann, Bill Farmer, Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Chris Sanders, Carolyn Gardner, Corey Burton, Kevin Schon, Bob Joles, Cam Clarke and Del Roy appeared during The Lion King 1 1/2, as a variety of Disney Characters.



Early production of The Lion King began in late 1988, with the film originally being titled King of the Kalahari and later King of the Jungle.[46] The treatment, inspired by Hamlet, was written by Thomas M. Disch (author of The Brave Little Toaster) as work-for-hire; Disch received no credit or royalties. Production took place at the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Glendale, California. Also, nearly 20 minutes of the film were animated at the Disney-MGM Studios.[45] Ultimately, more than 600 artists, animators and technicians contributed to 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.[45]

In October 1991, after finishing work on Beauty and the Beast as Head of Story, Roger Allers joined The Lion King, as the initial director. Allers worked for 6 months on story development and was then joined by co-director, Rob Minkoff. A 2-day story session was held to revamp the story with the two directors, Allers and Minkoff, joined by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, directors of Beauty and the Beast, and Producer Don Hahn who presided over the discussion. The creative think-tank produced a character makeover for Simba and a radically revised second half of the film.[45] 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.[45] 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.[45] The filmmakers also made use of computers to better 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.[47] Five specially trained animators and technicians spent more than two years creating the 2½ minute stampede sequence.[45]

At one time, the Disney Feature Animation staff felt The Lion King was less important than Pocahontas.[3] 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.[3] As it turned out, while both films were commercial successes, The Lion King received more positive feedback and larger grosses than Pocahontas.[48][49][50]

The sequel The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was directed by Darrell Rooney and produced by Jeannine Roussel, with Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus writing the screenplay. Disney believed that Simba's Pride would be so popular that it shipped 15 million copies to stores for the October 27 release date.[51]


The original motion picture soundtrack for the first film was released on June 13, 1994, two days before the film's release. It contains songs by songwriter Elton John and Tim Rice, who wrote five original songs, with Elton John performing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" during the end credits. Additionally, "The Morning Report", 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 film's score was composed by Hans Zimmer and supplemented with traditional African music and choir elements arranged by Lebo M.[52] Elton John thought his career had hit a new low when he was writing the music to the song "Hakuna Matata".[53] 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. Out of the five original songs, "Hakuna Matata" was listed at number 99 in the AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs list in 2004,[54] and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" won the Oscar for Best Original Song during the 67th Academy Awards. The soundtrack itself was the fourth best-selling album of 1994 on the Billboard 200 and the top-selling soundtrack.[55]

Disney Records released Rhythm of the Pride Lands on February 28, 1995 as a sequel to the soundtrack of the first film. Rhythm of the Pride Lands was initially printed in a very limited quantity. However, it was re-released in 2003, included in some international versions of The Lion King's special edition soundtrack with an additional track, "Circle of Life".

An audio CD entitled Return to Pride Rock: Songs Inspired by Disney's The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was released on September 8, 1998. Although not promoted as a soundtrack to The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, it contained all the songs from the film and some additional songs inspired by it by Lebo M. Tina Turner recorded a version of "He Lives in You" for the film. On August 31, 2004, Disney released an "enhanced soundtrack" to coincide with the release of the film's 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. However, the CD only contains the songs featured in the film, without any of the inspired songs by the first film. Siskel & Ebert noted that it was best the film was direct-to-video, since the music was lacking and not remotely equal to the original's soundtrack.[56]

The soundtrack for the third film, The Lion King 1½: Songs From Timon and Pumbaa's Hilarious Adventure, was released to CD by Disney Records on February 10, 2004. It includes two songs from the original film, "That's All I Need" and "Hakuna Matata", re-performed by Nathan Lane who took over the role of voicing the character Timon. The rest of the soundtrack includes various R&B tracks, including remakes of the Kool and the Gang classic "Jungle Boogie" by artist French, and two instrumental pieces from film composer Don Harper. The soundtrack also includes Ennio Morricone's theme from "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly".[57]


During its release in 1994, The Lion King was widely praised and acclaimed, grossing more than $783 million worldwide, becoming the most successful film released that year, and it is currently the thirty-first highest-grossing feature film of all time. The film was the highest grossing animated film of all time until the release of Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo, a computer-animated film. The Lion King is still the highest grossing traditionally animated film of all time in the United States.[58][59] The film received many award nominations. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Score,[60] the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy,[61] and the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.[62] The song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" alone 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 Lion King II: Simba's Pride sold 3.5 million copies in three days. Thirteen million copies were sold while it was still in print in the late 90s.[63] Both sequels won the Annie Award for Best Animated Home Entertainment Production. The Lion King 1½ also won five DVD Exclusive Awards. The musical won six Tony Awards including Best Musical.[64][65]

Box office performance[edit]

Film Release date Box Office
United States Outside US Worldwide
The Lion King June 15, 1994[5] $422,783,777[66] $545,700,000[66] $968,483,777[66]
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride October 27, 1998 Direct-to-Video Direct-to-Video Direct-to-Video
The Lion King 1½ February 10, 2004 Direct-to-Video Direct-to-Video Direct-to-Video
The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar November 22, 2015 television movie television movie television movie
The Lion King (Remake) July 19, 2019[67] TBA TBA TBA

Critical reaction[edit]

films Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic Yahoo! Movies
The Lion King 92% (113 reviews)[49] 83% (14 reviews)[68] A+ (6 reviews)[69]
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride 33% (6 reviews)[70]    
The Lion King 1½ 76% (17 reviews)[71]    
The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar      


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