Following the success of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin most of the A-list animators at Disney wanted to work on Disney’s upcoming version of Pocahontas . The B-team huddled together on a small film about lions which would become the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated film of all time, and the 23rd highest grossing feature film ever. Not too shabby.
The Lion King also marks the end of Disney’s late 80’s/early 90’s resurgence that gave us The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. Over the next few years Disney would put out several films (Mulan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, Hercules, Atlantis: The Lost Empire) but none of them recaptured the magic found in The Lion King, and by the end of the decade the big-budget epic animated musicals the studio was known for would be a thing of the past.
With one of Disney’s most iconic opening numbers The Lion King gave us the story of a young lion cub named Simba (Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Taylor Thomas) who grows up in hiding blaming himself for his father’s (James Earl Jones) death and running from his destiny to become the king of the jungle. Filled with great numbers (“Circle of Life,” “Hakuna Matata,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight“) and memorable characters like Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), the crazy monkey Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), and the villainous Scar (Jeremy Irons) and his army of hyenas (most notably Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings), the film works as well today as it did in theaters in 1994. The Lion King is the last great hand drawn Disney musical epic, and it’s an easy recommendation to make for fans of animated films.
The Blu-ray/DVD two-disc set includes a Disney sing-a-long mode, the ability to sink the movie with a tablet or laptop and explore extra options with Disney’s Second Screen, an interactive Blu-ray gallery, bloopers and outtakes, deleted and extended scenes, the animated sequence for one of the Broadway numbers that was added sequence which was added to the film for the 2002 IMAX, audio commentary, and a series of featurettes.
“Pride of the Lion King” examines the success and legacy of the film and includes interviews with Thomas Schumacher the executive producer of Disney’s Theatrical Group, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers, composer Hans Zimmer, lyrisist Tim Rice, the animators of the film reassembled for the first time, Julie Taymor, Broderick and Lane. “A Memoir – Don Hahn” examines the process of creating the film and includes video footage Don Hahn had taken during that time.