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‘The Lion King’ turns 30 years old: all the secrets of the animated film that made history

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The sunrise in a red sky, the music that grows and the poems sung in Zulu, then the animals of the savannah waking up and running towards the Rock of Kings, even today, thirty years later, this beginning is majestic, for those who saw it in 1994, in the darkness of cinema, it is explosive. From those first minutes it was clear the king lion He was proposing something never before seen in animated cinema, accompanying viewers towards a new and exciting experience.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the king lion It followed the story of Simba, a lion cub, son of a king and destined to become king himself. His already privileged and drawn-out life changes completely when his uncle Scar, who is secretly aiming for the throne, decides to kill his brother and blame it on his nephew. At that point, Simba begins a different but happy life thanks to his friends Pumbaa and Timon who taught him the CrestHakuna Matata And life without worries. But is it possible to turn your back on your past?

Released in US theaters on June 15, 1994, reached the height of that period known as the “Disney Renaissance” and helped confirm that the studio was experiencing a moment of very high creativity and talent. It all started in 1989 with… the little Mermaidwhich was followed by two other huge successes with audiences and critics, beauty and the beast And Aladdin. In this scenario, the king lion – since it had already been made – it seemed like a risk, a film so different from not only these last three films, but also from what the studio had produced in the previous 50 years.

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The most important news is related to music: Never before has a pop star signed the songs of a Disney movie. He was chosen as the lyricist Tim Rice Which, after the sudden death Howard AshmanI worked on the missing words for my songs Aladdin He was the one who suggested to the producers to participate in the project Elton John Who worked with him in 1982 on the song Legal boys. “When you get famous and get older – said Elton John Famcrawler In 2011 – People are afraid to ask you to do something. They say: Oh, no, he won’t do that. And that’s exactly what happened when Tim Rice called me in 1993 to do it the king lion. He told me: Disney said you would never accept me. But you are my friend and you told him you would do this instead. So I said, ‘Tim, I’ve worked with you in the past.’ I love you. Of course I will.” A collaboration born almost by chance that changed the course of Elton John’s career and his making the king lion One of the most successful musicals in the history of cinema, first and then theater. At the 1995 Academy Awards, the film won Best Original Score, Composed by Hans ZimmerAnd one for Best Song (the statue went to… Can you feel the love tonight?But three of the five songs nominated for this category were written by Elton John and Tom Rice the king lion). Two years later, in July 1997, the theatrical film of the same name debuted, won six Tony Awards, and is still being shown on stage in some of the most important theaters in the world, and above all Minskoff Theater New York and Lyceum Theater from London.

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Even visually, the king lion It provided a very special experience. The authors not only abandoned the creation of anthropomorphic animals for this feature film, but decided to make the appearance and movements of the animals as realistic as possible. As it just happened to Bambireleased in 1942, the animators studied the fauna and flora in depth (in this case of the savannah): some of them took a trip to Kenya, while all the others showed documentaries, days were organized in parks and nature reserves and a family of lions was brought to Burbank Studios so that animators could see them up close and study the interactions between the male, female and cubs.

Meticulous attention to detail was rewarded, as well as the use of new technologies (the famous wildebeest herd racing scene was one of the first uses of computer graphics in Disney films). the king lion It achieved unprecedented success: it was crowned as the highest-grossing film of 1994 worldwide, at which time it also ranked as the second highest-grossing film of all time, behind . Jurassic Park. It remains the biggest success in traditional animation in Disney history, while it holds the record for the highest-grossing animated feature film (in North America, outside North America, and worldwide) even for CGI animated feature films.

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Nothing would have been possible without the script he wrote Erin Meeke, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton Which was a very long process, with years of constant reworking of the theme, from the animation scenes which were then discarded and drawn from scratch to fit the new dialogues. A turbulent upbringing gave life to an engaging and poignant story about the transition to adulthood: not only that (here too, the closest thing to a Disney film is… Bambi) The protagonist faces the loss of a parent, but over the course of the story he learns to look at the pain in his eyes and accept it. “Look inside yourself, Simba, you are so much more than you have become,” King Mufasa’s ghost says to his son, encouraging him to take his place in the world, to stop hiding and pretending to be someone else; While the “shaman” Rafiki explains to him that although it is painful, the past teaches us and one should never run from it.

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The rest was done by iconic and timeless characters, born from the pens of animators who later became legendary, such as Andreas Degas And Mark Henn: From the hilarious Timon and Pumbaa to the wise Rafiki, from the proud Nala to the loyal Zazu to the unforgettable Mufasa (originally dubbed with a deep voice James Earl Jonesalready loaned to Darth Vader and in Italian by Vittorio Gassman). It is he, specifically, Simba’s father, who will be dedicated to the new Disney film inspired by this cinematic achievement and expected to be released at Christmas 2024.

Over the years beloved characters the king lion It’s back to a long list of entertainment products: the sequel The Lion King II – Simba’s Pridespin-offs The Lion King 3 – Hakuna Matata (2004), animated television series Timon and Pumbaa And lion guardand finally the 2019 photorealistic computer graphics remake of the same name (which itself became the most successful animated film of all time). Mufasa – The Lion Kingdirected by the Academy Award winner Barry Jenkinswill serve as a prequel to this new version and will therefore replicate its realistic style and will reiterate some well-known characters and voice actors (e.g. Beyonce In the role of Nala) who has already been seen in 2019.

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However, the original remains unparalleled thanks to its innovative animation and creative choices (in fact all of that is replicated in the remake). On the occasion of this 30th birthday, there is no shortage of tributes around the world: in the United States the king lion You also return to the room to enjoy once again the majestic sunrise and the birth of the puppy who, like all of us, is part of the great “circle of life”.????

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