Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection
Once upon a time, the phrases "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" were not a part of the American lexicon. That was before Disney's The Lion King exploded onto movie screens during the summer of 1994. The tale of the young lion Simba — voiced in the movie by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick — who grows up to overthrow the reign of his evil uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) became a global phenomenon, augmented by the songs of Elton John and Tim Rice. Even if you know that the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, here are some fun facts about the movie that you might not know.
1. The movie was the first Disney feature-length animated film to be created from an original script idea. All of the company's other animated movies had been based either on books or long established fairy tales.
2. The original script was titled King of the Jungle and centered on a battle between lions and baboons. In that version, Scar was the leader of the baboons. At some point during development, the animation team realized that lions don't actually live in the jungle.
3. At one point in the production, animators considered having the song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" sung entirely by Pumbaa and Timon, much to the horror of John and Rice. A version of the song using Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, the voices of the warthog and meerkat, was recorded but not used. Similarly, the song was almost cut from the movie entirely until John lobbied to have it kept in.
4. Many of Disney's top animators at the time didn't work on The Lion King because they were working on the animated film being produced concurrently, Pocahontas. Most people at Disney thought that the historically-based film would be the more prestigious of the two.
5. It was the second Disney animated film, after Beauty and the Beast, to win the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy.
6. When Irons' Scar delivers the line, "You have no idea," it is a direct nod to one of the actor's most famous roles as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune. In that film, Irons' character delivers the line in answer to his lawyer calling him a "very strange man." In The Lion King, he says it after Simba accuses him of being "so weird."
7. Timon's famous line, "What do you want me to do, dress in drag and dance the hula?" was improvised by Lane.
8. When Irons strained his voice while recording "Be Prepared," actor Jim Cummings, who voices the hyena Ed, stepped in and imitated Irons to get the song finished.
9. Originally, the intention was to pair Cheech Marin with his longtime comedy partner Tommy Chong to voice the hyenas Shenzi and Bonzai. They could never get in touch with Chong to reach an agreement, so Whoopi Goldberg was tapped instead.
10. James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair, who voice Simba's parents, also play a royal husband and wife in Coming to America, where they reign as the king and queen of a small African country and parents to Eddie Murphy.
11. Scar makes an appearance in a later Disney animated movie. He's seen as a rug during a sequence in Hercules.
12. There was a controversy over the formation of dust during a scene when Simba flops on the ground. Activist Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, asserted that the dust gathered to form the word "SEX" if you looked at a freeze frame of the scene and was an intentional subliminal message aimed at promoting sexual promiscuity. The producers said that really it was meant to be "SFX," as a reference to the special effects team that was working on the movie. In the films rerelease, some additional dust was added to the scene to blur any letters.
13. There was additional controversy over similarities between the film and a Japanese animated TV series entitled "Kimba the White Lion" that was produced in the 1960s. Disney has maintained that any similarities are coincidental, but Broderick has admitted that he thought that they were adapting "Kimba" when he first saw the script.
14. Three of the songs from the film — "Hakuna Matata," "The Circle of Life," and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" — were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" ultimately won the Oscar, and John's version of the song went to No. 4 on the singles chart in the U.S.
15. Rice, who had provided the lyrics for Disney's Aladdin and started his career as the partner of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita), was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. John was knighted in 1998. The duo reteamed for the Broadway musical Aida in 2000.
16. Before playing Timon and Pumbaa, Lane and Sabella had previously worked together in the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls. After The Lion King, they were paired again on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. At first, Lane and Sabella were cast to be two of the hyenas, but their chemistry was so good that they were switched to voicing Simba's pals.
17. Lane and Broderick went on to star as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom in the Broadway musical version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, and reprised the same roles in the film version. Reportedly, the duo saw each other only once during their voice work for The Lion King… passing each other in a hallway.
18. The stage version of The Lion King, which has been running since 1997, is the highest-grossing Broadway show in history.
19. The Lion King was the second highest grossing movie of 1994, behind Forrest Gump, in the United States, but it easily outdistanced Tom Hanks' movie worldwide and grossed over $768 million during its initial theatrical release.
20. The Lion King remains the highest grossing hand-drawn (or hand-drawn/computer animation combination) film of all time. It's the second highest grossing film in the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios behind only Frozen.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Shooting on the romantic adventure film Beyond Borders starring Angelina Jolie will begin Thursday in northern Thailand. Co-producer Lloyd Phillips told The Associated Press on Wednesday that main filming on the movie will wrap up following about five weeks of shooting in the country. The Thai locations will stand in for Cambodia in the 1980s during the devastating rule of the Khmer Rouge. In the film, Jolie plays a married American socialite in London who falls in love with an idealistic doctor played by Clive Owen. Filming began in December, with previous shooting done in Namibia, standing in for Ethiopia, and Montreal, standing in for London and Chechnya. Beyond Borders, directed by GoldenEye's Martin Campbell, is expected to be released around Christmas.
It's absolute rubbish. That's what Madonna's spokeswoman told Reuters about media reports that the pop icon had made a series of unreasonable demands before taking to the stage for Up For Grabs debuting next month in London. Recent press reports claimed Madonna demanded a raised stage to stop fans from rushing her, theater staff were told not to have eye contact with her and cast members were told not to call her "Madge." Up For Grabs debuts in London May 23.
Noah Wyle, ER's handsome Dr. John Carter, and his wife, Tracy, are expecting their first child in November, the AP reports. Wyle, 30, met Tracy Wyle, a makeup artist, on the set of The Myth of Fingerprints in 1996. They became engaged on Valentine's Day in 1999 and have been married for about two years.
Supermodel Claudia Schiffer will marry her boyfriend, British producer Matthew Vaughn, before the end of the year, Ananova.com reports. Schiffer's mother reportedly told Germany's Bunte magazine that rumors of the couple's split were false and that her daughter will "marry within the next six months." Schiffer, the one-time companion of magician David Copperfield, and Vaughn, who produced Guy Ritchie's films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, live together in London's Notting Hill.
Former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Jason Priestley will drive for Kelley Racing in the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series, the AP reports. The 32-year-old actor has competed in several racing series before and has worked as a TV commentator at Indy Racing League races.
Pippi, Ozzy Osbourne's little black Pomeranian, is missing. A regular fixture on the MTV series The Osbournes, Pippi has apparently been lost for two months. According to MTV.com, the family is offering a $500 reward for any information leading to the dog's retrieval.
In the Biz
Billy Bob Thornton has been cast in the title role of Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa, Variety reports. The Dimension Films comedy, which is set for a Christmas 2003 release, follows two con men who travel to malls dressed as Santa and his elf.
Darren Star, the creator of HBO's successful comedy Sex and the City, will direct a film adapted from the book Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl: A Nancy Chan Novel by Tracy Quan for Sony's Revolution Studios. The book, based on Quan's Salon.com column, centers on the diary of a call girl working on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Variety reports.
Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnettare in talks to star in another Revolution Studios project about a pair of cops who become involved in a crime that revolves around the music business, Variety reports. The untitled police drama will be helmed by Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed White Men Can't Jump and Tin Cup, and is set to begin production this fall.
CBS chief Leslie Moonves said Tuesday the network likely would not air the Robert Urich movie Not in Our House because of its rough subject matter. According to Reuters, Urich plays a pedophile in a story about a family a year after an incestuous relationship comes to light. The film co-stars Meredith Baxter.
Francophone Celine Dion will headline this year's Billboard Latin Music Awards in Miami Beach, Fla., on May 12, the AP reports. The Canadian singer's song "My Heart Will Go On" became the first and only English-language single to top the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks chart. Dion will join previously announced performers Marc Anthony, Jaci Velasquez and Thalia.
Will Smith may have walked away from this year's Academy Awards empty-handed, but the rapper-turned-actor hasn't lost steam. According to MTV.com, Smith's next album will hit stores on June 25 and will feature two singles from Men in Black 2. Smith has not released new material since Willennium in 1999.
Rosie O'Donnell presented Gene Wilder with the first-ever Roche Beauty of Giving Award on Wednesday at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. The award was handed out as part of the Cosmetic Executive Women's Beauty Awards. Wilder is the founder of Gilda's Club, a support network named after his wife, Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. O'Donnell also praised the beauty industry's commitment to charities that support women with cancer.
Warren Beatty and Kevin Spacey will be honored at this year's San Francisco Film Festival. According to the BBC News, Beatty is being awarded the Akira Kurosawa Award for lifetime achievement in film directing, while Spacey is being honored with an acting award. The festival opens today and closes on May 2.
Science fiction writer Damon Knight died Monday at a hospital in Eugene, Ore., of age-related causes, the AP reports. He was 79. Knight, whose final novel Humpty Dumpty: An Oval was published in 1996, was also an influential teacher, critic and organizer, helping to found the Science Fiction Writers of America. He also served as editor for the science fiction anthology series Orbit. Knight is survived by his wife, two daughters, two sons, two stepsons and seven grandchildren.
Jimi Hendrix's father, James Al Hendrix, died in his sleep at home Wednesday after a long battle with congestive heart failure, the AP reports. He was 82. Hendrix, a former Golden Gloves boxer, worked as a plumber, electrician and gardener before retiring in 1979 due to poor health. Hendrix is survived by daughter Janie and son Leon.
Looks like Panic Room director David Fincher has settled on his next movie: the third installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise, according to Variety. The intense Fincher, who also directed Fight Club and Seven, has been palling around with star/producer Tom Cruise in recent months, due to similar interests in the Columbia Pictures WWII project, They Fought Alone. Even though Cruise has since passed on the Columbia film, the two seem to have developed a genuine desire to work with each other. Voila! Mission: Impossible III is born.
The other two Mission movies were directed by Brian De Palma (1996) and John Woo (2000) and grossed $454 million and $546 million worldwide, respectively.
Actor/director and all-around funny guy Ben Stiller and his wife, actress Christina Taylor (The Brady Bunch Movie), welcomed their first child, a baby girl. No word on the baby's name or weight.
Actress Josie Bissett and her husband, actor Rob Estes--formerly co-stars of the primetime melodrama Melrose Place (boy, we miss that show)--have a new addition to the household: a 6-pound baby girl. Bissett gave birth to Maya Rose Estes on Sunday in Los Angeles, according to her publicist. The couple, who have been married for nine years, also have a 2-year-old son, Mason.
As if we ever had any intention of doing it, Madonna doesn't want to be called "Madge." Playwright David Williamson, who is currently working with the diva on the new London West End play Up For Grabs, told The Australian, "The English newspapers call her 'Madge' to try to domesticate her, and she hates it." He added that she has requested all the other actors to simply call her "M." And we call this news. The play opens in May.
Clint Eastwood has been OK'd. To do what, you may ask? Well, the politically minded Eastwood, who was the mayor of Carmel for a few years, has been appointed to the California State Park and Recreation Commission by Gov. Gray Davis. The actor/director will sit on a nine-member panel, which meets about six times a year and governs policies for the more than 260 parks in the Golden State.
To the moon, Carmela! James Gandolfini wants to shed his Tony Soprano image for awhile and take on a new role: Ralph Kramden in the big-screen adaptation of The Honeymooners. Variety reports he has put out the word to Paramount and the producers that he is interested, looking to fill up his time during The Sopranos hiatus, which starts in May. The filming for the fifth season of the hit HBO show won't begin until January 2003.
Forget singing--Destiny's Child frontwoman Beyonce Knowles has gotten bit by the acting bug. Making her movie debut in this summer's Austin Powers in Goldmember, Knowles is positioning herself to star in The Fighting Temptations with Cuba Gooding Jr., about a rap producer who has to put together a gospel choir and lead it to success in order to get an inheritance.
Viacom's TNN: The National Network is looking at adult animation to fill up its programming schedule. It is developing a slate of new animated series, including Gary the Rat--about a lawyer who wakes up one day to find out he's turned into a 6-foot rat--voiced by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, and Stripperella--about a stripper who moonlights as a superhero--voiced by Pamela Anderson. Now, that's a show we want to see.
MTV News reports former Van Halen lead singers David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar are going on tour together beginning May 29 near Cleveland. "Sammy and I are like fraternity brothers that have been through the same sh---y hazing," Diamond Dave said at Tuesday's press conference. "I think this tour is going to last a lot longer than Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love," who once toured together for nine shows.