The Lion King at 20: 10 Facts You Might Not Know

This year sees one of Disney’s most popular animated movies, 1994’s ‘The Lion King’, turns 20. To anyone who can remember seeing it in UK cinemas circa October ‘94, you’ll no doubt feel really old right about now, but were you aware of the following amazing facts about the film?

1. It’s revealed during a ‘Making Of’ featurette that the original opening scene introducing each character was scrapped after co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff heard the final version of The Circle of Life.

2. In an early script, Scar wasn’t related to Simba, but the head of a ruthless pack of Baboons. Rafiki was originally a cheetah, with Timon and Pumba already pals with Simba from the beginning, which would’ve made for a very different story.

3. One of the most memorable scenes — the wildebeests stampede — took a reported three years to create. The process was so challenging that Disney animators had to create new computer software to achieve it.

lion king stampede

4. ‘The Lion King’ is the best-selling film on video of all-time, having sold over 55 million copies. It has made just shy of $1 billion at the box office, placing it inside the top 20 of the biggest-grossing films of all-time.

5. This was the first ever Disney film to feature an original story that wasn’t adapted from a pre-existing one.

6. Prior to Rowan Atkinson securing the role of Zazu, Sir Patrick Stewart was in mind for the part, as were a number of the Monty Python gang.

7. The film was originally called ‘King of the Jungle’, until someone at Disney realised that lions don’t actually live in the jungle. Awkward.

Nala and Simba

8. After Sir Elton John hosted a screening of the film prior to release, he noticed the song Can You Feel the Love Tonight had been removed. His appeal to have it put back in was successful and it went on to win him the Oscar for Best Song.

9. During the tune Be Prepared, the shot of militant hyenas marching past Scar was inspired by actual footage of Nazis marching passed Hitler.

10. Several characters were cut from the final film, including a rhino with a tickbird on its back. The latter was actually kept and evolved into the character of Zazu.

Did you know all of these fascinating ‘The Lion King’ facts? Got any more to share? Add them to the comments below…


Mike Williams

About the Author

Mike is an experienced freelance writer, director and scriptwriter. He's also got a thing for Disney Pixar, as well as animation in general. His favourites include 'Toy Story 3' and 'WALL-E', but loves a bit of 'Wreck-it Ralph' and a sing-along to 'Frozen', and he's not ashamed to admit it.