Disney
Disney

30 Facts About The Lion King 

Disney
Disney

Did you know that Simba was originally supposed to save Nala’s little brother from the wildebeest stampede? Or that the voices of Timon and Pumbaa were almost cast as hyenas? Here are a few things you may not have heard about the animated masterpiece that had you in tears two decades ago.

1. According to “The Making of The Lion King,” the original opening scene featured a dialog introducing most of the main characters, but directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff scrapped it when they heard the final version of “Circle of Life.”

2. The result of this decision was so powerful that the opening scene was used as a trailer for the film, marking the first time Disney had ever made a trailer using a complete scene.

3. The first script (which was titled King of Beasts, then King of the Jungle) featured Scar as a lone lion, unrelated to Simba, who was in charge of a pack of vicious baboons. In this version, Rafiki was written as a cheetah and Timon and Pumbaa were both friends with Simba from the start.

4. The Lion King was the first Disney animated film to feature a completely original storyline—that is, one that was not an adaptation of a pre-existing story.

5. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, who played Timon and Pumbaa, originally auditioned to be hyenas. "They came to an audition in New York and they bumped into each other in the lobby, which is when they discovered they were both auditioning for the roles of hyenas," director Rob Minkoff said. "They asked the casting director if they could audition together and they were hilarious as they read their lines, but they didn’t seem right for the hyenas. That’s when we thought, ‘What if we use them as Timon and Pumbaa?’ It was the perfect fit.” Cheech Marin and Whoopi Goldberg were cast as the hyenas instead.

6. Tommy Chong was supposed to play the third hyena opposite his former partner-in-crime, Marin, but when he couldn’t be reached, Jim Cummings was cast in his place.

7. Cummings is also the voice of the gopher who reports to Zazu in the film, and filled in for Jeremy Irons as Scar on last third of “Be Prepared” when Irons threw his voice out recording the song.

8. After Simba’s first encounter with the hyenas, the film was supposed to feature a lullaby sung by Sarabi called “The Lion in the Moon,” which was about a protective lion spirit.

9. “Hakuna Matata” wasn't originally in the script; instead, there was a song about eating bugs called "He's Got it All Worked Out." According to Minkoff, "We couldn’t convince everybody that making the entire song about eating bugs was a good idea. Soon after, the research team came back from their trip to Africa with the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’. We talked about it in a meeting with Tim Rice—and that’s when the idea struck. I remember Tim saying, ‘Hmmm… Hakuna Matata. It’s a bit like Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.’ A song was born!”

10. The Lion King is the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated feature of all time with a total box office of over $987 million; it is also the third highest-grossing animated feature in general, the 19th highest-grossing film of all time, and the best-selling videotape of all time.

11. According to the film's press notes, the wildebeest stampede scene took Disney CGI animators more than two years to create and involved writing a new computer program to govern the movements of the herd.

12. A hyena researcher sued Disney for “defamation of character” for its portrayal of the animals in the film. [PDF]

13. The film’s first director, George Scribner (who also directed Oliver and Company), wanted the movie to be a sort of animated National Geographic feature and left the film when the decision was made to turn it into a musical.

14. The Lion King was actually made by a “B-Team” of Disney animators since the “A-Team” had elected to focus on the picture they thought would be more successful— Pocahontas.

15. Wildlife expert Jim Fowler brought real African animals like hornbills and lions at different stages of life into the Disney studio to serve as figure models for the team of animators working on the film.

16. Rafiki is actually something of a cross between a mandrill and a baboon as true mandrills do not have tails.

17. An earthquake in 1994 forced the Disney Studios to close down temporarily and much of the film was finished in the artists’ homes.

18. A number of characters developed for the film were written completely out of the script, including a tagalong little brother for Nala named Mheetu (who Simba was originally supposed to save from the stampede) and another friend of Nala’s named Bhati—a wise-cracking bat-eared fox. There was also, at one point, a lizard named Iggy, and another meerkat named Tesma (a mopey relative of Timon); the hyenas had originally been written as cape hunting dogs.

19. One small yellow beetle that Timon finds under a log has Mickey ears on its back.

20. In November 1991, Disney sent a team of animators to Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya to do research for the film. Most of the landscapes in the finished movie are based on this park—but not Pride Rock itself, which was created by a Disney artist in Burbank.

21. Screenwriter Irene Mecchi said in “The Making of The Lion King” that the idea for the movie was first presented to her as “Hamlet in Africa with Bambi thrown in, so Bamblet.”

22. Before Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean fame was cast as the finicky hornbill Zazu, several former members of Monty Python were considered for the role, as was Patrick Stewart.

23. “Hakuna Matata” originally had an extra verse in which Timon explained his difficulty fitting in with other meerkats.

24. In the film's press notes, Tim Rice is said to have been through about 15 iterations of lyrics for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” The Elton John recording that plays during the credits (and won an Oscar) was the first version of the song.

25. The original final fight sequence had Simba losing to Scar, though Scar then died in a fire.

26. The American Film Institute lists The Lion King as the fourth best animated film of all time.

27. SEX in a dust cloud? Animators claimed this was supposed to say “SFX,” and was meant as an innocent nod to the art department.

28. James Earl Jones (voice of Mufasa) and Madge Sinclair (voice of Sarabi) played an African king and queen together in the 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy, Coming to America.

29. According to a 1995 article in Entertainment Weekly, Disney made more than $1 billion on Lion King merchandise in 1994.

30. Matthew Broderick (voice of Adult Simba) first thought he was going to be working on a remake of a 1960s Japanese anime show called Kimba the White Lion when he read the script, though Disney has denied any connection between the two projects.

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iStock
18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
iStock
iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

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2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

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Amazon

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Amazon

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American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

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Amazon

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MoMA Shop

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Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

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Amazon

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Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

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Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

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Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

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Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

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14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

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Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

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Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

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Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

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