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AT THE MOVIES

A 'Lion's' tale

As the 1994 film is released in 3-D in theaters and soon on Blu-ray, some cast and filmmakers recall what made 'The Lion King' such a memorable project.

September 15, 2011|Susan King

Walt Disney's 1994 animated blockbuster "The Lion King" certainly hasn't been an endangered species for the studio. Not with an international gross of $788.2 million. Though it hasn't been out on DVD or VHS since 2004, Disney reports it is the most successful title in home entertainment history. The film has also spawned two straight-to-video sequels and a TV series. And the Broadway musical version has played more than 5,000 performances and won six Tony Awards including best musical. Now the lions Simba (Matthew Broderick), Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Scar (Jeremy Irons), the laughing hyenas (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings), the shaman monkey Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) and the comedic buddies Pumbaa the wart hog (Ernie Sabella) and Timon the hyper meerkat (Nathan Lane) are back for a two-week run in theaters in a new 3-D version. (On Oct. 4, Disney will release the 3-D Blu-ray and regular Blu-ray). Ironically, "The Lion King" was considered the "B" project at the studio. Everyone was paying more attention to "Pocahontas," which would come out in 1995. George Scribner, the director of the 1988 hit "Oliver & Company" was attached to the film, originally called "The King of the Jungle." Some of the filmmakers and actors recently discussed their memories of making "The Lion King."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, September 16, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
"The Lion King": An article in the Sept. 15 Calendar section about the making of the animated film "The Lion King" gave actor Robert Guillaume's first name as Roger.

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Mark Henn

Animator of young Simba

At the time I was working out of the studio in Florida. I was in the midst of doing "Aladdin" when we heard about "The Lion King" project. It had a different name and a different director. We were all pretty excited about it because a lot of the artists in the Florida studio particularly were all very young and new to the world of animation and a lot of them were excellent wildlife artists. A lot of us felt it was kind of our "Bambi" if you will.

Everybody went to the zoos. Jim Fowler from the old "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" days came in and did lectures. We had lion cubs and some of the birds. The little, little lions were much more friendly [that the older lions] and we got to get up close to pet them and tussle with them a bit.

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Jim Cummings

Voice of the laughing hyena Ed

I wrote all my own dialogue! I was basically a running gag, a site gag and a sound gag. I remember director Rob Minkoff said "Get some legal pads...." We all wrote down the words anger, blood lust, hunger, fear, trepidation, nervousness. All of these different emotions. He then said there is your script, so laugh and convey each of those emotions with a laugh.

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Tony Bancroft

Supervising animator of Pumbaa

I knew he [Pumbaa] was going to be kind of a scene stealer. Mike Surrey, he did Timon -- we were good friends. We shared a room together and we lived the "Hakuna Matata" lifestyle working on the film. We tried to enthuse our relationship, our friendship into the relationship of Pumbaa and Timon.

There was a lot of choreography between Mike and I. I would usually start the scene because Pumbaa became like a stage for Timon. Timon was always on his head, or his nose or his back, pulling on his tail. I would do the dialogue up to a certain point and I would give it over to Mike. He would put Timon on top of him or he would be pulling his hair or something like that. We worked back and forth like that. We said let's take advantage of that whenever we can. Let's make these guys the best we can make them.

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Rob Minkoff

Co-director

It was the first film that had been sort of put into production that wasn't based on any kind of published material. It sort of started out inauspiciously as a pitch about doing "Bambi in Africa."

The film was very much a drama. We kind of started over and said let's look at this movie in a different way and try to make it a bit more, not only mythical, but add a bit of magic to it.

Pumbaa and Timon were characters described as Simba's childhood friends who met Simba around the water hole. Another one of the significant changes was to change Pumbaa and Timon to become older adult characters that Simba would meet once he left the pride lands. Casting Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella really brought it to life. They were both performing in "Guys and Dolls" in New York at the time. They came in and happened to bump into each other at the audition -- they didn't know they were going to be there together and asked if they could do their audition together. They read for the hyenas. Hearing them together they were hilarious. We hadn't figured out who Timon and Pumbaa were going to be character-wise, but having heard Nathan and Ernie, we said it has to be them.

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Roger Allers

Co-director

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