Two decades ago a young cub named Simba dominated the box office and captured the hearts of millions of individuals around the world. 20 years later, The Lion King remains one of The Walt Disney Company’s most enduring and popular brands. In what ways do Timon, Pumbaa, Mufasa, and company rule?
This first part of a two-part special edition of Disney In Depth will remind you of why not only does Disney pride The Lion King, but so do countless people who have been influenced by a movie about triumph in the savannas of Africa.
1. Taught us new words: Thanks to The Lion King, we learned the Swahili translation of “no worries.” Let’s all praise the meerkat and warthog for that!
2. Became the highest-earning show on Broadway… ever: Once the film was adapted into a magnificent stage production in 1997, the public could not get enough of catching Scar and Sarabi alike on The Great White Way. The Lion King has also toured around the globe and continues to rake in much money. As of February 2014, the production has earned more than $1 billion.
3. Earned two Academy Awards: The film garnered two Oscars, one for its majestic score by Hans Zimmer and the other for its Elton John and Tim Rice collaboration (“Can You Feel The Love Tonight”). Two other songs from The Lion King (“Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata”) were also nominated, but it was in fact the love melody that resonated most with Oscar voters. Regardless of what some may feel is its best song, the romantic duet demonstrates the loveliness between two friends who now view one another in a different light.
4. Referenced in countless Disney productions: Its cultural impact could be seen within a few years of it hitting theaters, as the penultimate scene of Toy Story features Andy listening to “Hakuna Matata.” Even Disney-produced Home Improvement winked to its audience when Randy, the character played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas (who voiced Simba), slyly gave more Halloween candy to a trick-or-treater adorned in a Simba costume than other kids.
5. Possesses several attractions at Walt Disney World: For a several year period, The Lion King boasted an attraction at three of the four Walt Disney World theme parks. While the puppet show-themed Legend of The Lion King closed more than a decade ago, the strong environmental film at Epcot featuring Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba remains, as do two experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (the live Festival of The Lion King show and environmental exhibits within Rafiki’s Planet Watch). Lion King can be found practically everywhere, even within an entire section of Disney’s new Art of Animation Resort.
6. Offers some of the best sidekicks: How could anyone not want to be friends with Timon and Pumbaa? Disney found numerous opportunities to make full use of their silly relationship. Among those uses: a television series; a safety campaign at the Disney theme parks; and various educational DVDs.
7. Pokes fun at itself: Around the time of the 2011 3D re-release, Disney debuted an array of “bloopers” from the film, including deep-voiced Mufasa attempting to clear his throat. These keen outtakes are akin to the cleverness of the ones Pixar produced with its earlier films.
8. Defined an iconic opening: WatchMojo recently named The Lion King as possessing the third best beginning scene of any movie. The overwhelmingly powerful scene, set to African music, gorgeous visuals, and a heavy tone still holds resonance, no matter how many times you view it. Few films have eclipsed the momentousness of the initial five minutes of the 1994 classic.
9. Depicted one of the best father figures in film: Witnessing Simba’s dad perish in one of the most grueling scenes of any family film could be considered difficult for any child. The poignancy of the scene is not solely in its trauma, though. The impact results from the bond we had watched form between a son and his devoted father. Mufasa is perhaps one of the greatest movie dads, for his strength does not emerge from his dominance over the kingdom, but rather he draws on inner power and his love for Simba. Needless to say, this was a great career choice for James Earl Jones, who certainly needed to depict a caring dad after his previous monumental paternal role as Luke Skywalker’s pop.
10. Developed an entire film to reference itself: The Lion King 1 1/2 brought viewers back to the Pride Lands in a “midquel” that demonstrates the origins of Timon and Pumbaa’s friendship, set during the early days of Simba’s life. Along the way the hilarious, if not somewhat odd, direct-to-video picture finds moments to joke around with its source material. Case in point, this uproarious scene below that truly explains why all of the animals who come to watch Simba’s “debut” actually bow down when Rafiki showcases the lion cub.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Be sure to read Part 2 of 20 Reasons The Lion King Rules now. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.