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The Lion King (franchise)

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Subject: The Lion King, Disney Friends, The Lion King 1½, Walt Disney Animation Studios, He Lives in You
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The Lion King (franchise)

The Lion King
Films and television
Animated series The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa
The Lion Guard
Theatrical presentations
Musicals The Lion King
Video games
Parades The Lion King Celebration

The Lion King is a Disney media franchise comprising a film series and additional merchandise. 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 spin-off television series, several video games, merchandise, and the 5th longest-running musical in Broadway history, which garnered six Tony Awards including Best Musical.



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.[1] The Lion King is the 32nd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics and belongs to an era known as the Disney Renaissance.[2] The plot of the film is heavily influenced by the William Shakespeare play Hamlet.[3] Its animation design is very similar to Osamu Tezuka's anime Kimba the White Lion.

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. 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 film is heavily influenced by another Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet.[4]

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 the Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, in which the titular characters are seen in every major event of Hamlet.[5][6][7][8]

The Lion Guard will debut in late 2015 as a one hour television movie, serving as a pilot for a Lion Guard television series.[9]

Television series

The Lion King: The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa is a spin-off cartoon series that centers on Timon and Pumbaa. The show ran for three seasons on CBS in the United States, and BBS in Canada from September 1, 1995 to November 1, 1998. In 1998, a change in writers and a new director meant the show became aimed more towards children than the whole family . As a result of this, ratings declined and the show was canceled. 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.

Disney Junior logo variations parts characters for Rafiki Old Monkey, Mufasa Lion, Zazu, Timon Weasel, Pumbaa Pig Forest and Three Dog Wolf Wild Hyena.

The series had a direct-to-video film named Around the World with Timon and Pumbaa. 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. No DVDs have been released in the US, but were released on VHS.

On June 9, 2014, it was announced that a second TV show called The Lion Guard was slated to premiere on Disney Junior in November 2015 as a one-hour movie, followed by new episodes in January 2016. The series will center around Simba and Nala's son Kion, who tries to assemble a team to protect the Pride Lands. Various characters from the first two films will also make appearances in the show, includ­ing Kiara, Timon, Pum­baa, Rafiki, Zazu, and Mufasa.[10][11] It will also fea­ture 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 set to be friends with Kion and join him on his adventures.[12]

Broadway musical

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, 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 (with the first act ending when Simba transforms from cub into adult lion) 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.[13] 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.[14] It is now Broadway's fourth 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.[15] 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.[16] 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,[17] and an African in Johannesburg, South Africa,[18] among others. The first ever UK tour opened at Bristol Hippodrome on 31 August 2012.


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.[19] 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.[20] 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 you 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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] Simba is also a playable character in the video game Disney Friends.

Other media

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 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.[25] 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.[26] 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.

Common elements

Plot and themes

The story is set in a kingdom of

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

The plot of The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa centers on its title characters. The pair are normally seen having misadventures in the jungle, but sometimes find themselves across the globe in various settings. 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.

Cast and characters

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.[27] 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.[28] 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."[28]

Character Films TV Shows Shorts Others
The Lion King The Lion King II: Simba's Pride The Lion King 1½ Timon & Pumbaa Wild About Safety Mickey Mouse Works House of Mouse Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse Mickey's House of Villains
Rafiki Robert Guillaume
Simba Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Jason Weaver
Matthew Broderick
Joseph Williams
Matthew Broderick
Cam Clarke
Matt Weinberg
Matthew Broderick
Cam Clarke   Cam Clarke Cam Clarke
Timon Nathan Lane Nathan Lane
Kevin Schon
Quinton Flynn
Bruce Lanoil (Cameo) Kevin Schon (no voice actor)
Pumbaa Ernie Sabella   Ernie Sabella  
Zazu Rowan Atkinson Edward Hibbert Michael Gough   (no voice actor)  
Nala Niketa Calame
Moira Kelly
Sally Dworsky
Moira Kelly   (no voice actress)
Scar Jeremy Irons Jim Cummings (no voice actor)   (no voice actor)  
Shenzi Whoopi Goldberg   Whoopi Goldberg Tress MacNeille   (no voice actress)   (no voice actress)
Banzai Cheech Marin   Cheech Marin Rob Paulsen   (no voice actor)   (no voice actor)
Ed Jim Cummings   Jim Cummings   Jim Cummings   Jim Cummings
Mufasa James Earl Jones (no voice actor)   Keith David  
Kiara (cameo only) Michelle Horn
Charity Savoy
Neve Campbell
Liz Callaway
Sarabi Madge Sinclair  
Sarafina Zoe Leader  
Kovu   Ryan O' Donahue
Jason Marsden
Gene Miller
Zira   Suzanne Pleshette  
Vitani   Lacey Chabert
Crysta Macalush
Jennifer Lien
Nuka   Andy Dick  
Ma   Julie Kavner Mentioned only  
Uncle Max   Jerry Stiller  



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.[29] 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.[28] 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.[28]

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.[28] 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.[28] 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.[28] 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.[30] Five specially trained animators and technicians spent more than two years creating the 2½ minute stampede sequence.[28]

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.[31][32][33]

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.[34]


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.[35] Elton John thought his career had hit a new low when he was writing the music to the song "Hakuna Matata".[36] 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,[37] 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.[38]

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.[39]

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. Ennio Morricone was the original composer of "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly".[40]


During its release in 1994, The Lion King was widely appraised and acclaimmed, grossed more than $783 million worldwide, becoming the most successful film released that year, and it is currently the thirty-first 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.[41][42] The film received many award nominations. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Score,[43] the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy,[44] and the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.[45] 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.[46] 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.[47][48]

Box office performance

Film Release date Box Office
United States Outside US Worldwide
The Lion King June 15, 1994[1] $422,783,777[49] $564,700,000[49] $987,483,777[49]
The Lion King: The Musical November 13, 1997 Direct-to-Video Direct-to-Video Direct-to-Video
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

Critical reaction

Media Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic Yahoo! Movies
The Lion King (1994 film) 90% (110 reviews)[32] 83% (14 reviews)[50] A+ (6 reviews)[51]
The Lion King (1997 musical) 45% (7 reviews)    
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998 film) 33% (6 reviews)[52]    
The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure (2000 video game)   30%[53]  
The Lion King 1½ (2003 video game)   64%[54]  
The Lion King 1½ (2004 film) 76% (17 reviews)[55]    


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