While I was at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, where I heard all the announcements and presentations from Disney, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, we were also invited to hear a panel on the classic animated film, The Lion King, where we learned some pretty cool facts about one of my favorite movies!
Some of my all-time favorite Disney songs came out of a film that was almost never made. That’s right. You may never have heard the words Hakuna Matata. Never. But more on that later.
While at D23 Expo last month, I was invited to attend a panel on The Lion King. It was a panel to discuss the making of the movie and also to announce that it becomes a part of the Walt Disney Signature Collection on Digital Aug. 15th and on Blu-ray™ Aug. 29th. We were treated to fun stories and facts about the movie from Executive Producer Don Hahn and Co-Director Rob Minkhoff along with special guests Mark Henn (animator), Tony Bancroft (animator), Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa), and Jim Cummings (Ed the Hyena). And we had a surprise special guest…..
That’s right, new Disney Legend, Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi) told us about her experience with The Lion King. What an honor to be in the room with her!
Here are some of the fun facts that we learned about The Lion King that day, this is stuff I bet you NEVER knew!
Executives Thought It Would Flop
The Lion King was the highest grossing hand-drawn animated film of all time. It was the first time in the history of Walt Disney Studios, two animated movies were being made at the same time – The Lion King and Pocahontas. And the Disney execs thought Pocahontas would be a hit and The Lion King wouldn’t make more than $50 million. Well, they were wrong…..it made over $100 million the weekend it opened!
King of the Jungle? No!
The movie was originally called “King of the Jungle” but producers jokingly called it “Bambi in Africa.”
How Do you Tell Elton John that you Hate the Circle of Life?
As we all know, the soundtrack of The Lion King was written by Time Rice & Elton John. And the directors would receive demo tapes of songs the pari had written while the film was being created. The first version of the classic “Circle of Life” was a fast-paced version that the directors hated. And it was up to song writer, Tim Rice to tell him. But rather than tell Elton they didn’t like his song, he told him that the writers had “changed the story and they need a new song that is an anthem where all the animals are coming to give tribute to a new born lion.”
Nathan Lane & Ernie Sabella Auditioned for the Hyenas
Originally, Nathan Lane (Timon) & Ernie Sabella (Pumba) auditioned for the hyenas in The Lion King. They were both on Broadway doing Guys & Dolls at the time. Apparently, they ad-libbed their way thru the audition and left thinking they had flopped. Which in fact they didn’t…..
They actually recored all their audio clips together in the sound booth because they fed so well off of each other.
Who is the First Disney Character to Pass Gas?
Pumba’s famous gas that could “clear the savannah after every meal” came out of an early morning sound session with both Lane & Sabella. Apparently, Sabella kept making gas sounds to keep the energy level up and the whole morning ended in laughter. Which made it into the movie of course.
Labella recalled a press interview he did for the movie where he told reporters that the movie has the “first Disney character to have gas”. Lane leaned into the microphone and said, “Actually it was Snow White but we don’t talk about it.”
The Original Singers of Can You Feel The Love Tonight
Elton John’s award-winning song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” was originally set to be sung by Timon & Pumba. But once John found out it changed. “I don’t want a stinky old fat warthog singing my song!” So they just introduced the song in the movie.
Whoopi Goldberg Asked to Be in the Movie
When Whoopi Goldberg heard about The Lion King from Elton John, she asked to be in the movie. But the directors didn’t have a place for her originally. The hyenas were written to be played by Cheech & Chong – luckily they couldn’t get Chong, so it was the perfect character for Goldberg to play.
It was such a treat to take a walk down memory lane and revisit one of my favorite childhood movies, The Lion King. And it meant a lot to the creators & actors to have been a part of the movie too:
These are just the top fun facts that I learned about The Lion King but there are many more that came out of the panel. If you are a big fan of the movie, I promise you will love the full panel:
The Lion King comes out on Digital on August 15 and BluRay on August 29!
Other Fun News from the D23 Expo
Live Action Films Panel from D23 Expo
News from the Pixar & Walt Disney Animation Panel from D23 Expo
7 Disney Parks Rumors Confirmed at D23 Expo
Jump into Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin with me for DuckTales!
6 Reasons Why You Will Want to Attend D23 Expo in 2019
9 Things You Don’t Want to Miss at the Disneyland’s Summer of Heroes
How Exactly Did Lin-Manuel Miranda Become a Part of DuckTales?
6 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Disney’s The Lion King
Disclosure: I was invited by Disney to attend the D23 Expo, learn about The Lion King and visit Disneyland’s Summer of Heroes. All opinions are my own.