About 22 years ago, June 15, 1994 to be precise, Disney created one of the most phenomenal Disney classics to ever grace the silver screen: The Lion King. Considered to be the crown jewel in the Disney Animation Classics Collection during its “Renaissance Era” – which started with The Little Mermaid and ended with Tarzan – The Lion King would become the most critically-acclaimed Disney film of all time.
In celebration of the 22th anniversary of The Lion King, we here on Dream Gifs are going to re-watching this beloved classic and remember the first time when chills shot down our spine during the opening sequence to The Circle of Life. Remember the tears we all cried when Simba watched his father, Mufasa, fall to his death. Remember that intense scene when Simba ascends Pride Rock to take his place as the new king! Yes, it is all memorably classic, and after more than two decades, it is still considered one of the best animated films of all time.
22 years, 22 Facts you probably did not know about The Lion King:
1) Pumbaa was the first Disney character to ever fart on screen. This is probably the most important fact on here.
2) The Lion King was originally titled The King of the Jungle. Blessedly, someone realized that lions don’t actually live in jungles, and so the title was changed. The tagline still lived on in some of the film’s marketing, though. Whoops.
3) If you were in grade school around the time The Lion King was released, you probably lost yourself in giggle fits every time the Savannah’s Three Stooges—hyenas Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed—came on screen. Initially, however, the trio was written with Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong in mind to deliver Shenzi and Banzai’s repartee. The famed comedy duo, however, wasn’t working together at the time, and the reunion wasn’t in the cards. Whoopi Goldberg was then cast as Shenzi opposite Marin’s Banzai, and the rest is hilarious history.
4) Actors James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair provided the regal voices for Mufasa and Sarabi, the respective King and Queen of the Pridelands and Simba’s parents. Their royal chemistry shouldn’t be a surprise, though: They also voiced the king and queen in Coming to America.
5) The Lion King got majorly shafted by Disney’s creative team during development. Pocahontas was being produced at the same time and everyone who worked for the studio was more bullish on that project, thinking that the historical roots of the film would make it the more likely to succeed. As such, Disney’s top animators actually worked on Pocahontas, and not The Lion King.
6) Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, who voiced Timon and Pumbaa, actually wanted to play two of the hyenas. The actors were starring together in Guys and Dolls on Broadway at the time, and ran into each other at the voice audition and convinced the casting director to let them audition as a pair. Their chemistry killed so much that it was decided they would be a far better fit as the famous meerkat-warthog duo.
7) This was the first full-length animated film to be created from an original script idea. OK, there are definitely elements of Hamlet in there. But it was still the first animated Disney movie to not be based on a book or a familiar fairy tale.
8) The film’s plot was close to being a lot more adult. In one draft of the script, the reason Nala is banished from Pride Rock is for spurning Scar’s sexual advances. And you thought Mufasa’s death was tough for kids to handle.
9) One of Pumbaa’s defining characteristics was the way he rubbed his belly. The inspiration for the tick: animator Tony Bancroft’s then-pregnant wife, who would often rub her own protruding belly. Bancroft thought that the action would make Pumbaa more “human and relatable.”
10) “Hakuna Matata” wasn’t planned as Timon and Pumbaa’s signature song. “He’s Got It All Worked Out” was originally written for the duo and was apparently all about how they convince Simba to eat bugs. After taking a trip to Africa, the creative team thought a more enlightened number—namely, “Hakuna Matata”—would fit the film better.
11) It’s hard to imagine anyone but James Earl Jones providing the infallible Mufasa with his booming, wise voice. But it was Sean Connery who was the first choice to voice the Disney patriarch with the tragic fate.
12) The wildebeest stampede used groundbreaking computer animation effects—it’s one of a handful of scenes in the film to supplement hand-drawn cells with computer-generated effects—that took roughly three years to complete. The scene as it plays in the film is just two and a half minutes.
13) “What do you want me to do? Dress in drag and do the hula?” What is possibly Timon’s most famous line was actually improvised by Nathan Lane.
14) The pyramid of animals featured in the big “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” sequence includes anteaters. It’s cute—if only anteaters were native to Africa. The tongue-y creatures are actually native to South America.
15) Jeremy Irons’ voice performance as Scar is deliciously sinister, whimsically wicked, and, by all accounts and description, brilliant. But Irons actually faced competition from Tim Curry and Malcolm McDowell, who were both considered for the part.
16) Jeremy Irons actually strained his voice while recording dialogue for Scar. When it came time to record “Be Prepared,” his voice was too damaged to finish the song, so Jim Cummings—who recorded the voice of Ed the hyena—actually finished the vocals on the song, imitating Irons’ delivery.
17) The trio of actors in contention to voice Scar is nothing compared to the coterie of comedians that were in the running for Zazu. Patrick Stewart and practically the entire Monty Python brood—John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam—were all considered to voice the snooty bird before animators caught some episodes of Mr. Bean and decided that Rowan Atkinson would be the perfect voice performer.
18) The Lion King grossed over $768 million worldwide during its initial release, making it the highest-grossing film of 1994. In the U.S., however, it was only the second-highest grossing film, behind Forrest Gump. It was overseas box-office receipts that pushed it over the edge.
19) The Lion King is the first Disney animated feature that was dubbed in Zulu.
20) The Lion King was the second Disney animated film to win the Golden Globe award for Best Musical or Comedy. (Beauty and the Beast was the first, and only Toy Story 2 has done it since.)
21) The dialogue exchange that best serves to characterize Scar comes when young Simba says, “You’re weird,” and Scar eerily replies, “You have no idea.” It shouldn’t be a surprise that Irons’ line delivery is so perfect there. It’s purposefully the same line he uttered in his Oscar-winning performance as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune.
22) As much fun as it is for all of us to make up our own gibberish for the opening chants in “Circle of Life,” there are actual lyrics that mean real things. Here’s the lyric: “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba / Sithi uhm ingonyama / Nants ingonyama bagithi baba / Sithi uhhmm ingonyama / Ingonyama Siyo Nqoba / Ingonyama Ingonyama nengw enamabala.” And here’s its translation: “Here comes a lion, Father / Oh yes, it’s a lion / Here comes a lion, Father / Oh yes, it’s a lion / A lion We’re going to conquer / A lion A lion and a leopard come to this open place.”