6 Extraordinary Facts That Were Revealed During The D23 Expo Panel For Disney’s The Lion King

6 Extraordinary Facts That Were Revealed During The D23 Expo Panel For Disney’s The Lion King

If you’ve not yet added Disney’s The Lion King to your movie collection, now is the time! The Signature Collection Edition of the film will be available on Blu-ray™ + DVD + Digital on August 29th. The version is filled with extras and exclusive bonus features that no one should miss!

The panel for The Lion King at Disney's D23 Expo this year.

Here are 6 extraordinary facts we learned during The Lion King panel at D23 Expo this year.

Voice Actor Jim Cummings is a Man of Many Disney Voices!

Jim Cummings, who is the voice of Ed the Hyena is also the voice of many other Disney characters, including Darkwing Duck, Winnie the Pooh, and Tigger, TOO!

Now A Classic, The Lion King Almost Didn’t Happen

Although The Lion King is now the highest grossing, hand-drawn animated film of all time, it nearly didn’t get the green light from the studio.

“It was the first time Walt Disney Studio history that two movies were going to be made at the same time,” said director Rob Minkoff. The other film, Pocahontas, was seen by the studio as a sure thing. The head of the studio at the time, XXXBBBB, said he wasn’t sure of the film’s ability to succeed; he greenlit the project and added, if the film makes $50 million, I’ll get on my hands and knees.

It made over $1.5 million during a limited opening weekend.

The head of the studio said Pocahontas was a home run! It’s ‘West Side Story’ meets ‘Romeo and Juliet’ meets ‘Dances With Wolves’ and Lion King was kind of an experiment.” -Rob Minkoff
Yeah, our pitch was ‘Moses meets Joseph and Hamlet in Africa with music by Elton John.” – Don Hahn

The Lion King Wasn’t The Film’s Original Name

Minkoff recalls his inspiration for The Lion King – it was a documentary called “Lions and Hyenas: Eternal Enemies” which was a National Geographic special. “It was just so incredibly powerful,” Minkoff said. Around that time, he received a call from another producer to start work on a project they were calling “King of the Jungle.” 

The project was eventually renamed to what we now know as The Lion King.

There’s A Live Version of The Film In Production!

A Live action version of The Lion King has been announced

A live action version of The Lion King has been announced and we couldn’t be more excited. The only bit of information we received during D23 Expo and beyond was a scene from the film; the presentation of Simba. The crowd went nuts! And even though the film won’t hit theaters until 2019, we now a few of the actors that will be voicing characters in the film.

Donald Glover (Community) will star as Simba, James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver will play Zazu, Billy Eichner will voice Timon, and Seth Rogan will be the voice of Pumba.

Elton John Presented A Version of A Song No One Liked

Besides songs performed by the character’s themselves, all the songs from The Lion King are performed by famous singer Elton John. Because he was traveling at the time the film was being made, “we would usually get songs on a tape – a demo,” Minkoff said. John would perform the songs in a hotel room on an electric piano, record them, and send them to the studio. One of the songs that was sent was an early version of the song Circle of Life for which the original version was a more upbeat musical number. 

“You can’t tell Elton John his version is terrible,” Minkoff said, laughing. Collaborator Tim Rice told Elton John that the team had decided to change the song to a version that is more of an anthem to the animals. It was changed to a version on which the whole team agreed – the version we know today.

Whoopi Goldberg makes an appearance at D23 during The Lion King panel

Mother Nature Interfered With Production Of The Lion King

In 1994, while The Lion King was being produced, there was a massive earthquake that struck the area. The Northridge Earthquake occurred on January 17, 1994, and measured a magnitude of 6.7. It killed more than 60 people and injured more than 9,000, and causing widespread damage.

“We had to shut the movie down and shut the studio down,” Hahn said, “because the boards were knocked over, the desks were knocked over, and we had to make sure the studio was safe.”

Thankfully, The Lion King was made and is now one of the most popular animated films of all time.

Don’t Miss The Lion King On Blu-Ray+DVD On August 29th and on digital now! If you pre-order your copy from Disney, you’ll also get a free lithograph set!

The Lion King Blu-ray Bonus Extras include: 

  • Footage of The Recording Sessions
  • Archival footage inside The Story Room
  • An peek inside the creation of Scar
  • Sing-along version of the movie
  • plus MORE!



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