Saturday, September 17, 2011

17 Things You Might Not Have Known About 'The Lion King'


Call it the circle of life: many kids who saw 'The Lion King' in theaters when it opened in 1994 can now take their own kids to see it when the 3D version hits the cineplex on Sept. 16. (The film hits both standard and 3D Blu-ray on Oct. 4.) Of course, it's hard to believe there's a generation that has never been exposed to 'The Lion King'; since the landmark Disney cartoon debuted, it has spawned an industry that's included two direct-to-video sequels, a TV series, several video games and a long-running Broadway musical.

To celebrate the 17-year history of 'The Lion King,' Moviefone has unearthed 17 things you might not have known about the furry film fable, including which Oscar-nominated song Elton John thought would kill his career, the supposed secret "sex" scene, what that chant at the beginning of 'Circle of Life' means, and a precedent-setting blast of warthog flatulence. 


1. Originally, the movie was going to be called 'King of the Jungle,' until the filmmakers realized that lions live on the savanna, not in the jungle.

2. Initially, the film was not going to be a musical, but rather, a more realistic, National Geographic-type story. It was lyricist Tim Rice -- who'd worked with Disney on 'Aladdin' -- who suggested adding songs and hiring Elton John to compose them.

3. The film's writers referred to the film in private as 'Bamblet,' noting the similarity between their movie's plot and those of 'Bambi' and 'Hamlet.'

4. Conservative activists objected to a scene where particles in the night sky supposedly spell out, for an instant, the word "SEX." The animators have said that they were actually spelling out the abbreviation "SFX" (for "special effects") as a signature of their work that would be visible only to viewers with sharp eyes (and fast thumbs on the pause button).

5. For inspiration, the animators and artists spent two weeks in Africa, visiting Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya. They also had real lions brought into the animation studio, under the supervision of Jim Fowler, of TV's 'Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.'

6. The song 'Hakuna Matata' originated with a phrase the animators heard from a tour guide during their African trip. Tim Rice heard the phrase (which, as every fan knows, means "no worries") and noted its similarity to 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo' from Disney's 'Cinderella,' and he turned it into the film's comic centerpiece. Elton John, however, was afraid the tune would mark a low point in his career. "I sat there with a line of lyrics that began, 'When I was a young warthog," John said in 1995, "and I thought, 'Has it come to this?'"

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