One of the most iconic films of our time, The Lion King speaks to almost everyone, and this week BD wants you to know a little more about the story behind the King. So sit back, grab some grub(s) and enjoy!
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What’s up everybody, welcome back to the Devils in the details, I’m BD. And thank God it’s Friday.
Today I’m a little bit excited, because today I get to talk about my favourite animated movie of all time.
Nope not Akira, and not ninja scroll. My favourite all-time animated movie is a Disney movie, and that film is The Lion King.
I know you knew that because you saw the thumbnail, I don’t care, I wrote it anyways.
Now of course if you’ve been watching my last few shows, you’ve probably come to notice that I like to focus on the details.
The stories behind the stories. The roots of some of my favourite things. And today is no different.
The lion King definitely hit a chord with me when I first saw it in The summer of 1994 when it was released. And yes it had me at
OK OK not now, but I will come back to that.
Once again, Disney hired an all-star cast to voice, well let’s face it, an all-star cast of characters. They gave us Mufasa, Simba, Nella, scar, Rafiki…
He’s here isn’t he?
BD: can I help you?
D: you mentioned scar, big fan big big fan, One of my favourites, like Vader, Joker, Kruger.
BD: OK but it’s not a show on scar, Chris just did a show on scar two days ago,
D: he did?
BD: I guess I can elaborate a little bit on scar, I mean Jeremy Irons did a fantastic…
DAN: yeah, he’s gone.
BD: Of course he is.
Moving along then.
Disney was coming off of consecutive blockbusters at the box office including titles like the little mermaid, beauty and the beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas was also in production at the time.
And although all of those titles were huge successes at the box office, The lion king was the one that took animation from its niche and made animated theatrical films mainstream.
The lion king speaks to every single culture. Everyone in the world can identify with the lion King. Because of its characters and because of its timeless story.
Well first of all, it wasn’t always called the lion King, it’s original title was king of the jungle.
The title was changed because the creators realized that there really wasn’t much jungle in the movie.
But where did the idea come from?
Don Hahn, the producer explained that The idea for The Lion king came from Jeffrey Katzenberg, Head of the studio, Peter Schneider the VP at the time, and Roy Disney.
As always, The original research was the key, and that’s where it all sprouted from. Six people from Disney went to Africa, boots on the ground.
George Scribner and Roger Allers, the Directors, Chris Sanders and Lisa Keene The art directors, Brenda Chapman as head of story, and Jeff, the administrative adult that was supposed to watch over them.
They’re research was conducted in Kenya. Learning as much as they could from the sights and sounds that they were seeing and hearing.
Even their guides taught them a few things.
Such as Swahili phrases, which is where Hacuna Matata was born.
They all returned from the trip with a little piece of Africa inside of them, and then began to have intense discussions on how they could translate that to the movie screen.
The directors, George Scribner and Roger Allers, although they got along just fine, couldn’t see eye to eye on which direction to take with the film.
Scribner wanted to make something closer to a National Geographic type of film, whereas Roger Allers wanted a less serious tone to the movie.
And once Elton John was brought on by Tim Rice from the music department to help with songwriting Scribner started scratching his head.
George Scribner admitted that he couldn’t understand why they would even hire Elton John? And vigourously voiced his disappointment, which did not go over too well.
About a month later, George Scribner was let go of the project.
Enter Rob Minkoff, Who was then brought in as co-director. Now, both directors could start from scratch.
After rounding up a team of artists, the studio brought in Jim Fowler an expert on lions and big cat behavior.
They filled up a classroom with animators, so that they could begin to sketch lions, and understand how they moved.
It helped them feel the size, the heat and the power of these animals. It inspired the animators.
During one of the sessions, Jeffrey Katzenberg was invited to meet one of the lions, he then proceeded to use an animator as a human meat shield.
It’s interesting to note that, no one at Disney, had much faith in the lion King, in fact most artists were running away from the project.
Almost everybody wanted to work on Pocahontas, and not The Lion King. The film was considered more of an experiment.
Jeffrey Katzenberg even stated that if the movie made more than 50 million, he would get down on his hands and knees.
However not all animators ran away from the project, many of them were more than happy to stay with it.
Some of the more intricate challenges that arose on the making of the film, was how to present the ghost of Mufasa.
It took a while for them to figure that one out, but the storyboard artist in charge of that sequence, Chris Sanders spent so much time working on it that eventually, he was able to make it work.
Having James Earl Jones’s voice in anything, is a no-brainer, but they did have to fill up the rest of the roster. And all the voices they ended up casting, we’re perfect for every character in the film.
Once the casting was complete, it was time to tackle the other elephant in the room, the music. The music had to go along with the story hand-in-hand, and there were no slip ups here.
with score composer Hans Zimmer collaborating with both Tim rice and Elton John, every single song in the film was polished until it shined.
Another little interesting story that I was able to dig up was that the singer for the opening chant at the beginning of the song circle of life, Lebo M. was very difficult to find, he was at the time, a valet parking cars in Los Angeles.
And although he had previously worked with Hans Zimmer, Zimmer had a very difficult time locating him.
A lot of the African lyrics in the film which Lebo brought to the table are based on what was happening in the country at the time.
Eventually, everything started coming together.
building an animation film is like creating a giant Mosaic, you have to fit all the pieces together, but you can only do that once all of the pieces are ready.
The musical score, animation, colour, sound effects and the finishing touches.
But just before the studio was able to complete this intricate collage, disaster hit.
Los Angeles was hit with a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. Ordinarily, that kind of a disaster would bring anything to complete halt. But the production had to go on.
The deadline for the film wasn’t going to move, so they had to do something.
They started using shuttle and express delivery services. People were living at the studio or working in they’re garages to complete the film.
And some of the executives started wondering was it worth it, is anyone really going to want to see a movie about A lion cub that gets framed for murder?
But it was too late for that. The deadline had arrived, and it was Showtime.
The lion King made me sad, it made me laugh, it made me angry and surprised, it made me love a musical like I never had before.
I’d love to hear your comments on what The Lion King means to you.
I want to thank everyone once again for tuning in, liking, sharing, and subscribing, it is as always, very much appreciated.
This episode was brought to you by Pup_Gilder.
Not that one, nor that one. Yes that one.
I’ll see you next Friday.