Disney Odyssey #32 – Life is a Circle, and Revenge Happens Naturally

The next installment of the Disney Odyssey is an animal-centric movie, which means only one thing: the return of famed big game hunter and animal rights activist…. Professor Gordon! For this momentous occasion, we also invited comedic genius Andy Huttel to join us – and thus the meeting of the bearded gingers was begun. 

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An actual photo of Professor Gordon (left) and Andy Huttel (right) in the wild.

Both Bill and Andy had a lot of personal connections with The Lion King so it seemed only right to have them both weigh in on this highly formative film from the mid-1990s.

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The Film: The Lion King (1994)

The Facts:

  • The Lion King is the best selling home video of all time and the highest grossing movie of 1994 worldwide, but second in the U.S. to Forrest Gump. It also held the title of highest grossing animated film of all time… until 2013 when it was surpassed by Frozen.
  • It was the first Disney movie to have a Zulu language dub released.
  • The plot is commonly known to borrow heavily from William Shakespeare’s famous play “Hamlet,” but the structural implications of the story go even further back than the 16th century – ancient Egyptian mythology depicts the story of Osiris being killed by his jealous brother, and the rightful heir is banished until he comes of age and returns to take his revenge.
  • Supposedly the top-notch A-team animators at Disney were hard at work on Pocahontas at this time, while the “B-team” worked on The Lion King. Ironically, Pocahontas would be highly criticized and end up being a great deal less successful than Lion King for many reasons.
  • Although actors Nathan Lane (Timon) and Matthew Broderick (adult Simba) only met once in passing during the filming of this movie, they would later go on to perform in “The Producers” together on Broadway and in the film adaptation, becoming a famously beloved musical theatre duo.
  • This is the second movie where James Earl Jones (Mufasa) and Madge Sinclair (Serabi) played an African king and queen – the first film was Coming To America (1988).
  • The Zulu lyrics in the chant at the beginning of “Circle of Life” translate as follows: “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.” The strange thing, however, is that there are no leopards in the film whatsoever.
  • This was the last Disney movie supervised by Jeffrey Katzenberg before he left the company for DreamWorks.
  • The hyena sidekicks were supposed to be voiced by comic duo Cheech and Chong, but the studio couldn’t get a hold of Chong, so the other hyena role went to Whoopi Goldberg instead.
  • Although the score for the film was composed by Hans Zimmer (aka the guy who did the soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean much, much later on!) the musical numbers were written by Sir Elton John. The romantic “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” was actually cut from the film at one point (KATZENBERGGGGG!) but Sir Elton politely demanded it be put back in. They consented, and later they won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
  • There are approximately 1,197 hand-painted backgrounds in the film.
  • Pumbaa is the first Disney character to exhibit flatulence.

The Observations:

  • Perhaps the most classic cinematic opening in the entire Disney canon… the African chant with the bright red rising sun. IMMEDIATE GOOSEBUMPS.
  • Professor Gordon immediately began naming every animal that was shown in the opening: longneck bobble-birds, flap-trunks, gumhorses, middle-part waterhoofs, pretentious britishbirds, spazmonks, shadowfeeders….
  • “Everything the light touches is our kingdom.” “What about that shadowy place?” Andy: “That’s Detroit, son.”
  • Zazu is the Sebastian of this film. Inadvertent chaperone, exotic accent, smaller than the main characters…
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    “Is… is that the voice of Mr. Bean?”

  • The animation developments for this film are gorgeous. The backgrounds are stunning, of course, but the articulation and expressiveness of each of the animals are beautifully done – energized and fresh compared to some of the previous works. Not bad for the ‘B-team’ of Disney animation.
  • Mufasa: “Simba, let me tell you something that my father told me.” Andy: “‘Shut up.'”
  • “Be Prepared” is absolutely the greatest villain song since “Poor Unfortunate Souls” …and it’s painfully relevant to modern politics. It’s so rad that Jeremy Irons blew out his voice on “You won’t get a sniff without me!” and had to be replaced for the rest of the song by vocal chameleon and unexpected pinch-hitter Jim Cummings. If you’ve never noticed the change, go back and listen. YOU CAN NEVER UN-HEAR IT.
  • And the stampede scene took three whole years to animate… and a special computer program to make sure the wildebeests could run independently without their images criss-crossing on the screen. Three years to animate… three minutes to terrify children and break their hearts by killing Mufasa.
  • Scar taking over the pride isn’t as unusual as human culture would have us think… but his ruling over the hyenas as lesser beings is. In the wild, hyenas are often the ones making the kills that the lions scavenge. And they’re about equal on the food chain. Go figure.
  • “Hakuna Matata” sums up how most of us managed our post-collegiate life: hang out with your friends, eat what you want, travel around, and generally ignore your problems altogether.
  • “How is Ed even still alive? He’s so dumb, he should definitely be dead by now.” “He’s the dumbest sidekick until Heihei.”
  • (camera pans to Pridelands) “Meanwhile, in America…” (camera pans to the jungle oasis) “Meanwhile, in Portland…”
  • Adult Nala: “Who *are* you?” Andy: “I’m Matthew Broderick.” Aly: “Star of such films as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…” Andy: “And Godzilla.” Drew: “And Ladyhawke.
  • Timon: “Pleased to meetcha!” Aly: “Welcome to Portland.” Andy: “Putabirdonit.”
  • (“Can You Feel The Love Tonight” starts playing) Andy: “Hey youse guys!” Aly: “HEY. Do youse feel that?” Andy: “I think it’s love.”
  • (Simba and Nala argue) Drew: “Wow… this is super realistic. A Disney couple that argues.”
  • Drew: “Oh my gosh… Rafiki is actually Sun Wukong.”
  • The line “Whaddaya want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?!” was improv’d by Nathan Lane. (Also definitely Aly and Bill’s favorite line in the movie.)
  • Scar: “You see, [the hyenas] think I’m king.” (Nala and the lionesses show up) Nala: “Well *we* dont’!” Aly: “Oh my gosh, the WOMEN’S MARCH JUST SHOWED UP.”
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    Simba is rolling REALLY well on his attacks here at the climax of the film…

  • Aaaaand Circle of Life reprise brings us homeeee at the end of the movie. It ends the same way it begins… because life is a circle. WHAT A PERFORMANCE.
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Disney Renaissance Credits Slow Jam:


Extra special thanks to my patrons who made this and all Disney Odyssey posts possible: Candace, Cameron, Andy, Allen, Josh, Ben, Kuta, Stephen, Tiffany, Kat, AE, Katie, Eric, Rhett, Mary, Michael, Matt, David, Dennis, and Mary-Kate. If you’re interested in supporting this blog, the Disney Odyssey, and future fantastical adventures, please consider donating a dollar or more to my Patreon!

Thank you for joining us this time on the Disney Odyssey… and make sure to subscribe to the blog for the next post!

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