The Lion King is the highest grossing 2D animated film of all time in the United States, and received positive reviews from critics, who praised the film for its music and story. During its release in 1994, the film grossed more than $783 million worldwide, becoming the most successful film released that year.
The story of The Lion King takes place in the Pride Lands, where a lion rules over the other animals as king. At the beginning of the film, Rafiki, a mandrill shaman, anoints Simba, the newborn cub of King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi, and presents him to a gathering of animals at Pride Rock ("The Circle Of Life"). Meanwhile, Mufasa's younger brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), realizes that he is no longer the heir to the throne and plots to kill Simba and Mufasa.
Mufasa takes Simba around the Pride Lands, teaching him about the "Circle of Life", the delicate balance affecting all living things. Later, Scar tells Simba about the elephant graveyard, a place where Mufasa has warned him not to go. Simba asks his mother if he can go to the water-hole with his best friend, Nala. Their parents agree, but only if Mufasa's majordomo, the hornbill Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), goes with them. Simba and Nala elude Zazu's supervision ("I Just Can't Wait To Be King") and go to the graveyard instead. There, the cubs are chased by Shenzi,Banzai and Ed, Scar's spotted hyenas who try to kill them, but they are rescued by Mufasa, who was summoned by Zazu.
Meanwhile, Scar gains the loyalty of the hyenas by claiming that if he becomes king, they will "never go hungry again." Plotting further, Scar gathers more hyenas ("Be Prepare"). Some time later, Scar lures Simba into a gorge for a "surprise from his father", while the hyenas create a wildebeest stampede down into the gorge where Simba is. Alerted by an insincerely dramatic 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, where he is buried into the some of the wildebeests' horns, hit the ground with extreme force, and finally trampled to death by the wildebeest. Scar convinces Simba that he was responsible for his own father's death, and recommands that he flee the Pride Lands, never to return. To compound this, Scar once again sends Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, his hyena henchmen to kill Simba, but as Simba reaches a thorny embankment, the hyenas let him escape, hurling threats that he will be killed if ever seen again. Scar informs the pride that both Mufasa and Simba were killed in the stampede, and that he is assuming the throne as the closest of king.
Simba collapses in a distant desert where he is found unconscious by Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat-warthog duo who adopt and raise the Simba under their carefree "Hakuna Matata" lifestyle ("Hakuna Matata"). When Simba has grown into an adult (Matthew Broderick) he is discovered by Nala (Moira Kelly). Simba shows Nala around his home and the two begin to fall in love ("Can You Feel The Love Tonight"). Nala then tells him that Scar's tyannical reign has turned the Pride Lands into a barren wasteland; she demands that Simba must return and take his rightful place as king, but Simba refuses, still guilty about supposedly causing his father's death. Rafiki arrives and persuades Simba to return to the Pride Lands, aided by Mufasa's presence in the stars. After some advance from Rafiki and the ghost of his father, Simba, followed by Timon and Pumbaa, returns home.
Once back at Pride Rock, Simba (with Timon, Pumbaa and Nala) is horrified to see the condition of the Pride Lands. After seeing Scar strike his mother, Simba announces his return. In response, Simba confronts Scar and the truth about Mufasa's death which is revealed by an overly confident Scar. A fierce battle breaks out between the lionesses and the hyenas while Simba fights Scar by cornering Simba at the edge of Pride Rock. As Simba dangles over the edge of Pride Rock, Scar whispers to Simba that he killed Mufasa. Enraged, Simba leaps up and pins Scar to the ground, forcing him to admit the truth to the pride. A raging battle then ensues between the hyenas and the lionesses which results in Simba cornering Scar. In the midst of their fight, Scar tries to surreptitiously blame everything on the hyenas for Mufasa's death, but they overhear his conversation with Simba which Simba orders Scar to flee the Pride Lands. Scar pretends to leave but turns to attack Simba, resulting in a final duel. Simba eventually triumphs over his uncle by flipping him and kicks him over a low cliff. Scar survives the fall but finds himself surrounded by the now resentful hyenas. The hyenas surround their traitorous fallen leader and attack him by devouring him.
With the rightful king in place, the Pride Lands are restored which is turning green with life again. The film concludes with Rafiki presenting Simba and Nala's newborn cub, Kiara, into the air, thus continuing the Circle of Life.
- Mitsuru Miyamoto as Simba
- Sota Murakami as Young Simba (Speaking & Singing)
- Hajime Inoue as Adult Simba's singing voice
- Shinya Owada as Mufasa
- Riko Hanamura as Nala (Speaking & Singing)
- Masako Yamamoto as Young Nala (Speaking & Singing)
- Yuji Mitsuya as Timon
- Hiroshi Hatanaka as Pumbaa
- Ryuji Saikachi as Rafiki
- Hideyuki Umezu as Zazu
- Haruko Kitahama as Sarabi
- ??? as Sarafina
- Tomie Kataoka as Shenzi
- Ben Hiura as Banzai
- Jim Cummings as Ed
- Haruhiko Jo as Scar
- Matthew Broderick as Simba
- Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Young Simba
- Jason Weaver as Young Simba's singing voice
- Joesph Williams as Adult Simba's singing voice
- James Earl Jones as Mufasa
- Moira Kelly as Nala
- Nikete Calame as Young Nala
- Laura Williams as Young Nala's singing voice
- Sally Dworsky as Adult Nala's singing voice
- Nathan Lane & Ernie Sabella as Timon and Pumbaa
- Robert Guillaume as Rafiki
- Rowan Atkinson as Zazu
- the late Madge Sinclair as Sarabi
- Zoe Leader as Sarafina
- Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin & Jim Cummings as Shenzi,Banzai and Ed
- Jeremy Irons as Scar
- "Circle Of Life" is sung by an off-screen character voiced by Carmen Twillie, with African vocals by Lebo M and his African choir. This song is played during the ceremony where the newborn Simba is presented to the animals of the Pride Lands. The song is reprised at the end of the film, during the presentation of Simba and Nala's newborn cub.
- "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" is sung by young Simba (Jason Weaver), young Nala (Laura Williams), and Zazu (Rowan Atkinson). Simba uses this musical number in the film to distract Zazu so that he and Nala can sneak off to the elephant graveyard, at the same time expressing his wish to be king as soon as possible.
- "Be Prepare" is sung by Scar (Jeremy Irons/Jim Cummings), Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (Cheech Marin) and Ed (Jim Cummings). In this song, Scar reveals his plot to kill Mufasa and Simba to his hyena minions.
- "Hakuna Matata" is sung by Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) and Simba (Jason Weaver as a cub and Joseph Williams as an adult). Timon and Pumbaa use this song as a warm welcome to Simba as he arrives at their jungle home, and to explain their "no worries" lifestyle. The sequence also contains a montage sequence in which Simba grows into a young adult, indicating the passage of time in Simba's life in the jungle. The American Film Institute released its AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs list in 2004 and "Hakuna Matata" was listed at number 99.
- "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" is a love song sung mainly by an off-screen character voiced by Kristle Edwards, along with Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), adult Simba (Joseph Williams) and adult Nala (Sally Dworsky). This musical sequence shows Timon and Pumbaa's frustration at seeing Simba fall in love, and the development of Simba and Nala's romantic relationship. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song during the 67th Academy Awards.
Additionally, a song which was not present in the original theatrical film, was later added to the digitally enhanced IMAX re-release version in the form of "Special Edition", but for the Platinum Edition release:
- "The Morning Report" was originally a scene planned for the theatrical film but never made it past the storyboard stage. It was later cut and the song lyrics were written to be used for the live musical version of The Lion King instead. It was later added, with an accompanying animated sequence, to the 2002 IMAX rerelease. Sung by Zazu (Jeff Bennett), Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and young Simba (Evan Saucedo), the song is an extension of the scene in the original film where Zazu delivers a morning report to Mufasa, and later gets pounced on by Simba.
- This is the first time real dust was seen in a Disney movie. The second time was in Pocahontas. The third time was in Tarzan. The fourth time was in Brother Bear.
- This, along with Tarzan, are the only two movies that have crying. However this changed in the next film The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, in which there was happiness and anger during the film. It's possible that there is an entire feelings list in this film, but the only feelings Nala used were happy, sad and angry.
- The film is one of Disney's first attempts at animating hair and fur, due to getting it's technology to create fur.
- Simba has 2,433,358 pieces of hair.
- Simba and Nala's newborn cub at the end is named Kiara, as revealed in The Lion King 2 Simba's Pride.
- This is the second film to use the film's title at the very final scene, with Aladdin being the first, and Lilo & Stitch as the third (although it was in the logo's font to match the film's setting).
- This is the second film in which James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair appear as king and queen, and the parents of the main character, the first being in an R-rated live-action movie, Coming to America.
- Several lions with the same lion type as Nala appear when they battle for the last time.
- Obviously over thousands of storyboard pages were created for The Lion King. Most Disney films have over 12 thousand storyboards and 10 thousand storyboards. However, it took one and a half years to storyboard, and it's possible how Disney made too many storyboards for it's films.
- Even though the setting is definitely Africa, there are some minor anomalies in the selection of animal species portrayed in the movie. In the "circle of life" sequence, leaf-cutter ants are seen crawling on a branch, even though leaf cutter ants are not only found in South America, they are endemic there. Also Timon is a meerkat, and they are found in parts of Namibia and throughout South Africa, miles from Hell's Gate National Park where the main setting of the film is heavily modelled.
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