Disney has released the Jon Favreau-directed, re-imagined version of the classic animated movie, The Lion King. While the movie has been met with mixed responses, the story of Mufasa and Simba has warmed the hearts of many since it was first released in 1994. While that version from a quarter-century ago remains the most popular yet, the story has been adapted multiple times since, and portrayed on multiple platforms.
Set in the heartland of Africa, The Lion King tells the tale of the brave and majestic lion Mufasa, who does his best to impart all his wisdom to his son Simba. However, fate has other plans as the father dies an unnatural death and Simba, blaming himself for the unfortunate incident, runs away from home. What happens next forms the basis of the plot.
The king returns and battles his evil uncle Scar, who had not only planned the murder of Mufasa, but had, since the beginning, resented his nephew as he himself coveted the throne of the fictional Pride Rocks land. But as they say, all’s well that ends well — things turn out right for the young king Simba, who takes the throne after a series of adventures.
The 1994 Lion King was released during the period of what is now popularly known as the Disney Renaissance. The story is said to be influenced by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which, with a similar twist of fate, an uncle takes over the throne from his dead brother. Some are also of the opinion that the tale of The Lion King was heavily influenced by Japanese artiste Osamu Tezuka’s 1960 anime series, Kimba the White Lion.
It is said that the makers of the movie, along with directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, took a trip to Kenya’s Hell Gate National Park to observe the animals in their natural habitat. The Lion King is one of the few Disney movies whose story is based on an original script, and not on a previous or existing work.
According to the press notes released at the time, it took Disney animators more than two years to develop the over-two minute famous stampede scene from the movie which results in the death of Mufasa.
According to the same press notes, wildlife expert Jim Fowler had brought in actual African animals in the Disney studio to demonstrate how they behaved in real life.
The Lion King was pronounced as an incredibly successful movie upon its release. It is the highest grossing handmade animated feature of all time, with box office collections of over $986 million, an impressive sum at the time. It is also the eighth-highest grossing animated feature of all time and the 42nd highest grossing movie in history.
The massive success of the 1994 film resulted in two sequels with a limited release (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, and The Lion King one-and-a-half), two television spin-offs called The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, and The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa. Three shorts by the names of Find Out Why, Timon and Pumbaa’s Wild About Safety and It’s UnBungalievable were also released.
While Find Out Why was an educational series that answered science questions for children, featuring Timon and Pumbaa; in the Wild About Safety series, young minds learnt the importance of safety in different circumstances. It’s UnBungalievable show was a fun game show that featured two animals from Pride Rock who answered questions like ‘Who’s quicker?’ Who’s hungrier?’ etc.
A musical based on The Lion King was released in 1997, which had music by Elton John with lyrics penned by Tim Rice. The musical had some of its own revisions to the well-loved story of The Lion King, and was received quite favourably by the audience as well as the critics. In fact, it is still running in theatres and has proved to be the third longest running Broadway musical.
Two video games based on the movie were also released. While the first video game called The Lion King was released in 1994 itself, the second titled The Lion King: Simba’s Mighty Adventure was published in 2000.