The Lion King: Film Notes

The Lion King: Film Notes 10/10/14 9:57 PM The Lion King Production Information The adventure-filled journey of Simba, a heroic young lion struggling to find his place in nature's circle of life and follow in the regal paw prints of his father, the great King Mufasa, forms the basis of Walt Disney Pictures' extraordinary new animated feature, The Lion King. Set against the breathtaking natural beauty, mysticism and diversity of the African landscape, captured and stylized here by a team
of 30
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  10/10/14 9:57 PMThe Lion King: Film NotesPage 1 of 30 The Lion King Production Information The adventure-filled journey of Simba, a heroic young lion struggling to find his place in nature's circleof life and follow in the regal paw prints of his father, the great King Mufasa, forms the basis of WaltDisney Pictures' extraordinary new animated feature, The Lion King. Set against the breathtakingnatural beauty, mysticism and diversity of the African landscape, captured and stylized here by a team of top artistic talents, Disney's 32nd full-length animated film is a uniquely entertaining coming-of-ageallegory and the studio's first to be based on an srcinal story. Using classic storytelling elements,personable characters, memorable music, generous doses of humor and universal themes as buildingblocks, the film's creative team meticulously and painstakingly crafted the story instead of the moretraditional approach of adapting a classic fairy tale or literary favorite.With superb performances from Disney's talented animation team and an inspired all-star vocal ensemble,five incredible new songs by legendary singer/songwriter Elton John and Academy Award-winninglyricist Tim Rice ( Aladdin ) plus composer Hans Zimmer's evocative score and musical supervision, thisstylish, ambitious and magical film provides a delightfully entertaining experience for moviegoers of allages. Innovative uses of technology add to the production's scope and richness, allowing the filmmakersto once again expand the boundaries of their medium by creating images and situations that were neverbefore possible. The Lion King follows the epic adventures of a young lion cub named Simba as he struggles to acceptthe responsibilities of adulthood and his destined role as king of the jungle. As a carefree cub, he justcan't wait to be king, and spends his days frolicking with his pal, Nala. His father, King Mufasa, therevered ruler of Pride Rock and the lands that surround it, teaches him about the circle of life -- thedelicate balance of nature which bonds all animals together -- and cautions him to prepare for the daywhen he will be called upon to lead. Mufasa's evil brother, Scar, hopes that day will never arrive andschemes to do away with the king and Simba so that he can assume the throne for his own tyrannicalpurposes. He and his hyena henchmen -- Shenzi, Banzai and Ed -- lure Simba into the path of awildebeest stampede in which Mufasa is killed trying to save his son.Scar convinces Simba that he is responsible for his father's death and urges him to run far away from thePride Lands and never return. A frightened and guilt-ridden Simba flees into exile where he is befriendedby a wacky but warmhearted warthog named Pumbaa and his free-wheeling meerkat companion, Timon.Under the dubious guidance of this nature's odd couple, Simba adopts their Hakuna Matata (no worries)attitude towards life, living on a diet of bugs and taking things one day at a time. The cub matures into ayoung adult and is able to put his past behind him until a beautiful young lioness, who turns out to be hischildhood friend Nala, arrives on the scene. She tells him of the hard times and suffering that have cometo the Pride Lands under Scar's reign and beseeches him to take his place as king. With the help of Rafiki,a wise shaman baboon, Simba realizes that his father's spirit lives on in him and that he must accept theresponsibility of his destined role. In a climactic battle with his uncle and an army of hyenas, Simbaattempts to reclaim his rightful place in the circle of life. Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, two versatile Disney veterans whose impressive backgrounds run thegamut from character animation to story supervision, design and short film direction, make their featurefilm directing debuts on The Lion King. Producer Don Hahn, a major contributor to Disney's animationrenaissance during his 18 years at the studio as producer of Beauty and the Beast and as associateproducer of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, was responsible for overseeing this production. Thomas  10/10/14 9:57 PMThe Lion King: Film NotesPage 2 of 30 Schumacher and Sarah McArthur, both key players in the recent revitalization of Disney's FeatureAnimation division, served as executive producers. The film's srcinal screenplay is by Irene Mecchi andJonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton. Thirteen supervising animators, both in California and Florida,were responsible for establishing the personalities and setting the tone for the film's main characters.Nearly 20 minutes of the film were animated at The Disney-MGM Studios in Florida.Helping to bring the film's colorful cast of characters convincingly to life is a stellar group of vocaltalents. Their performances at the microphone coupled with the artistry of the animators result in some of the most exciting personalities ever created for animation. As the voice of young Simba, Jonathan TaylorThomas ( Home Improvement ) is a roaring success lending a tone of sincerity and humor to the curiouscub. Simba's voice as an adult belongs to popular actor Matthew Broderick, who brings the proper blendof comedy, compassion and complexity to the character. The unmistakable roar of King Mufasa comesfrom renowned actor James Earl Jones, one of the most popular and recognizable voices in the world. Hisdeep, distinguished tones are just right for this brave, magnificent lion who is deservedly the pride of thePride Lands and Simba's great role model.Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons is a sure bet to join Disney's gallery of classic villains with hisdeliciously nasty delivery as Scar, the tyrannical uncle who is prepared to do whatever it takes to gaincontrol of the Pride Lands. Ready to do his bidding are a laughable trio of hyena henchmen who may beat the bottom of the food chain, but are tops at stirring up laughter and treachery. Academy Award-winnerWhoopi Goldberg lends her impressive comic talents to the vocalizations of Shenzi while Cheech Marinchases down lots of laughs as the bedraggled Banzai. Versatile vocalist Jim Cummings uses an expressiverange of laughs from giggles to guffaws to add personality to a slap-happy hyena named Ed, a crossbetween Harpo Marx and Ed McMahon.Also featured in the vocal cast is Rowan Atkinson, the popular British comic actor best known for histelevision portrayals of Mr. Bean and Black Adder, who fills the bill here as a hapless hornbill servingas the king's loyal assistant and guardian to young Simba. Broadway veterans Nathan Lane and ErnieSabella bring their hilarious comic antics to the roles of a carefree meerkat named Timon and his pungentwarthog pal, Pumbaa. Multi-talented Robert Guillaume adds heart, eccentricity and a touch of mysticismto the proceedings as the voice of Rafiki, a wise baboon who leads Simba back on track. Rounding out thecast are Niketa Calame as the playful voice of Simba's young playmate, Nala, with Moira Kelly takingover as that character grows into a lovely lioness. Actress Madge Sinclair provides the maternal voicebehind Simba's royal mother, Queen Sarabi. 'The Lion King' is very much in the great Disney tradition of using allegories with animals forstorytelling purposes, says Roy E. Disney, vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company and head of feature animation. In the early days, Walt adapted many of Aesop's fables for animation and used animalcharacters like Mickey and Donald to tell his stories. Later 'Bambi,' 'Lady and the Tramp' and 'OneHundred and One Dalmatians,' and some of the 'True Life Adventures' further explored the approach of telling stories about animals in human terms and with strong moral themes. I think 'Lion King' very muchhas its roots in those films and I am personally delighted because it opens up whole new worlds for us instorytelling. According to Peter Schneider, president of feature animation and one of the principal architects of thatdivision's unprecedented expansion, 'The Lion King' is a departure for us, thematically. It tackles a newarea and a new subject and pushes the boundaries one step further both technically and artistically. Ouranimators are like a resident repertory theater company and the quality of the performances in this filmreflects the fact that with each film they are getting better and better as actors and artists. Part of ourcontinuing challenge in feature animation is to convince moviegoers that animated movies are movies thathappen to be animated. They have great stories, great emotion and great humor.   10/10/14 9:57 PMThe Lion King: Film NotesPage 3 of 30 'The Lion King' is essentially a love story between a father and a son, says producer Don Hahn. It'sabout that moment in life when you realize that your father is going to pass on to you his wisdom andknowledge. The circle of life. Someday we all become adults. The baton will be passed on to us and we'regoing to have to grow up. For Jeffrey Katzenberg, who, as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, has taken a deep interest andcreative role in the animated features, The Lion King was a heartfelt project that touched a deep chord. This movie is about responsibility, he says. It's about the responsibility we have as torchbearers fromone generation to the next. For every single human being, there is a special moment when they go frombeing a child to an adult and must take on the responsibility that goes with it. For most people, it happensout of something joyous like finding a mate in life or the birth of a child. Sometimes, as in the case of Simba, it is caused by something tragic. He has to come to terms with that and ends up growing in theprocess. Whether you're 5 or 85, it is something everyone can relate to instinctively or through personalexperience. To prepare the filmmakers for the daunting task of capturing the vast natural beauty of Africa inanimation, six members of the creative team visited Eastern Africa during the early stages of production.For each of them, the trip had a profound impact and helped them create and design the exciting visualsthat make this film so special and unique. Close encounters with real lions and other jungle animalshelped shape and define the roles the characters would play in the film. The numerous sketches, photosand videos they brought back with them enabled art director Andy Gaskill and production designer ChrisSanders to add authentic flavor to the reality-based fantasy Africa they were creating for the film. Theunforgettable images of fiery sunrises, velvety-blue nights, dusty gorges, lush green jungles and theearthtone colors of the Serengeti were all inspired by this trip and the natural beauty that abounds there.For the more than 600 artists, animators and technicians who contributed to The Lion King over itslengthy production schedule, the film presented many challenges. In the end, more than one milliondrawings were created for the film, which is made up of 1,197 hand-painted backgrounds and 119,058individually colored frames of film.The release of The Lion King comes at a time when Disney Feature Animation is experiencing newpeaks in worldwide popularity and the studio has entered its most prolific period of production, expansionand innovation since the 1930s. The unprecedented success of such recent films as Aladdin (1992), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Little Mermaid (1989) have helped to generate new interest inthe art form and create a new appreciation and sense of excitement as to its possibilities. Under theguidance of Roy E. Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Peter Schneider, Walt Disney Feature Animation hasgrown from 150 employees to nearly 900 in just the last 10 years. The studio is currently at work on twoanimated features for release in 1995: Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, both featuringmusic by Academy Award-winner Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Among the many otherprojects now in development are adaptations of a Chinese legend, the story of Hercules and the classictale of the Ethiopian Princess Aida. ORIGINS OF THE PROJECT The idea for an African-based coming-of-age story told as an allegory srcinated in the story departmentof Disney Feature Animation more than four years ago. The project was initially called King of theJungle and, like most animated features at Disney, its development was evolutionary, taking years tocreate and refine. Unlike the six classic fairy tales that preceded it and the numerous adaptations of literary favorites like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, TheRescuers and The Great Mouse Detective, The Lion King is an srcinal story not based on any  10/10/14 9:57 PMThe Lion King: Film NotesPage 4 of 30 previously published account.According to producer Hahn, The strength of our process here at Disney is the ability and willingness tothrow things out, move things around or try something completely different. For example, the song 'CanYou Feel the Love Tonight' was in different places and sung by different characters during the course of the production and finally became the beautiful love ballad that is in the final film. Having two directors with impressive story and development backgrounds proved to be a tremendousasset to the film. Minkoff and Allers' interest and participation in theater also prepared them well for thiscurrent assignment and proved to be another great strength of this directing team.According to Allers, who joined the project in October, 1991, The real heart and emotional underpinningof the whole story is the father-son relationship. At one point in the film, Simba steps into his father's pawprint and we see this image of his little paw in an enormous print. It is very symbolic. When his father istaken away from him too soon, he feels unworthy and inadequate. My favorite part of the film is when hisfather returns in ghost form and tells him that his spirit lives on in his son. Minkoff adds, We set out to do something very different from the things that had been done before.'Aladdin,' 'Beauty' and 'Mermaid' were all basically love stories and this one is more about the relationshipbetween a father and a son. It is just as crucial and interesting in its own way, but a real different subjectand a change of pace from other Disney films. For story head, Brenda Chapman, the process was very rewarding but not without its share of frustrations. Writing an srcinal story is definitely more challenging, says Chapman, because there is nothing to fallback on. There is no structure to begin with. Sometimes we found ourselves in left field and didn't know ituntil we were way out there. The story changed quite a bit from the initial idea that Simba would staywith the pride after his father's death. It was our job to make the main character likable and sympathetic. Itwas also challenging to make the environment and characters interesting. In real life, lions basically sleep,eat and have no props. Chapman credits her trip to Kenya in 1991 as being a real turning point on this project. It made me verypassionate about this film and helped me to approach it with lots of new insights about the animals andthe environment. It also gave us the idea for 'Hakuna Matata,' which is a very popular expression overthere. Rafiki's 'nonsense' rhyme -- Asante sana. Squash banana. We we nugu. Mi mi apana. -- also cameout of that trip. It was a schoolyard chant that our guide made up when he was a kid and used to sing justfor the heck of it. I wrote it down in my notebook because it was so amusing and it worked perfectly whenwe needed it for the scene with Rafiki and Simba. In April, 1992, when Rob Minkoff joined the directing team, a brainstorming session was held to revampthe story. For two days, Don Hahn presided over the intensive discussion that included the two directorsand Chapman. Also attending were Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, the directing and story-savvy duoresponsible for Beauty and the Beast. What emerged was a character makeover for Simba and aradically revised second half of the film.By that summer, screenwriter Irene Mecchi was brought on board to help further develop the charactersand define their personalities. Several months later, she was joined by Jonathan Roberts in the rewritingprocess. Working together as the Nick and Nora Charles of the animation department and inconjunction with the directors and story team, they tackled the difficult unresolved emotional issues in thescript and also added lots of new comic situations with foils, Pumbaa and Timon, as well as the hyenas.Mecchi enjoyed the process of writing an animated feature and describes it as writing in layers. You are
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