The Lion King

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The Lion King
Directed by Roger Allers
Robert Minkoff
Produced by Don Hahn
Written by Randall Wallace
Starring Johnathan Taylor Thomas
Matthew Broderick
James Earl Jones
Jeremy Irons
Moira Kelly
Niketa Calame
Madge Sinclair
Robert Guillaume
Rowan Atkinson
Nathan Lane
Ernie Sabella
Whoopi Goldberg
Cheech Marin
Jim Cummings
Music by Hans Zimmer (score)
Elton John
Tim Rice (songs)
Editing by Ivan Bilancio
Distributed by Buena Vistas Pictures
Release date(s) June 24, 1994
Running time 88 min
Country USA
Language English
Budget $45 million
Gross revenue $968.5 million
Followed by The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride
IMDb profile

The Lion King is a 1994 American animated musical movie produced by the Walt Disney Animation Studio, directed by Roger Allers and Robert Minkoff. It tells the story of a lion cub named Simba, prince of the Pride Lands in Africa, who idolizes his father and king, Mufasa. When a plot hatched by his evil uncle Scar results in tragedy, Simba runs away and is raised by two outcasts. Years later, he must make a decision: to return to his homeland and save it from ruin or turn his back on his kingdom at its darkest hour. It gets its inspiration from William Shakespeare's Hamlet, as well as the stories of Joseph and Moses from the Bible.


In the Pride Lands in Africa, a lion cub named Simba is born to King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi, presented to the kingdom by the wise mandrill shaman, Rafiki. But this angers Mufasa's brother Scar, who had been next in line to be king until Simba was born, and from then on watches Mufasa and Simba with a jealous eye.

A few months go by, and Simba grows into an adventurous cub, idolizing his father Mufasa. Mufasa teaches him about the Circle Of Life (which is explained by the food chain) and how being a king is more than just getting their own way all the time. Encouraged by this, Simba goes back to Pride Rock to tell Uncle Scar, who tricks him into going to the elephant graveyard, which Mufasa says is forbidden territory. He gets his best friend Nala to go along with him (while tricking Zazu, Mufasa's majordomo hornbill bird), only to encounter a trio of hyenas in league with Scar, named Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. Zazu manages to alert Mufasa in time, who thrashes the hyenas and chases them away. Though disappointed in Simba at first for disobeying him and putting himself and Nala in danger, the king forgives him and reassures him that he would always watch over him. In the meantime, Scar colludes with the hyenas to take over the Pride Lands so that he would become king at last and that the hyenas would be free to hunt all they liked.

The next day, Scar takes Simba to the gorge on the guise of his father having a surprise for him, telling him to also practice on his roar. As Simba does so, a herd of wildebeests (stirred up by the hyena trio) stampedes in the gorge, with Simba caught in the middle. Mufasa hears word of it and goes with Zazu and Scar to the gorge, where he rescues Simba. When trying to climb out, however, Scar shoves him back into the stampede, the herd trampling Mufasa to death. Simba is distraught by his father's death, which Scar tells him is his fault and then tells him to run away. Simba does so (after being briefly chased by the hyenas), and Scar takes command of the Pride Lands, letting the hyenas into the kingdom.

Lost and alone, Simba is rescued in the desert by a wisecracking meerkat named Timon and a naïve yet friendly warthog named Pumbaa. They take Simba into their jungle home and teach him the philosophy "Hakuna Matata", where he has no responsibilities and no worries. He grows up into a powerful young male lion living a life of ease and hedonism, but he still feels guilt over what happened to his father. In the meantime, Rafiki realizes that Simba is still alive and sets out to find him and bring him back. Back in the jungle, Simba saves Timon and Pumbaa from a lioness that is hunting them, only to realize that it's Nala, and the two friends reunite and fall in love. Soon, Nala tries getting Simba to return to the Pride Lands and take over from Scar (whose policy of letting the hyenas overhunt upsets the balance of the Pride Lands, and even the hyenas are getting sick of Scar's reign), yet Simba refuses, set in his new Hakuna Matata lifestyle. But when Rafiki helps him see his father's spirit, who urges him to take his place in the Circle Of Life, Simba makes his choice to save his father's kingdom and returns to the Pride Lands.

Simba sneaks into Pride Rock with help from Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa, and he confronts Scar when he witnesses his uncle striking Sarabi for mentioning Mufasa's name and questioning him. Backed in a corner, Scar starts making Simba feel guilty for Mufasa's death again and backs him up against the edge of Pride Rock, only to reveal that he was the one who murdered Mufasa. Now free from his guilt, Simba forces Scar to confess, and a great battle occurs: Simba, his friends, and the lionesses against Scar and his hyenas. Simba faces Scar at the top of Pride Rock, who tries saving his own fur by pinning his crimes on the hyenas, and attacks Simba after his nephew banishes him from the Pride Lands. A battle ensues between Simba and Scar, and Scar gets flung off to the side of Pride Rock by Simba and survives, but he's quickly killed soon after by the hyenas; they had overheard Scar blaming them for his crimes and backed away to let him deal with Simba alone.

The movie ends with Simba becoming the new king of Pride Rock, the Pride Lands being restored to its former glory, and Simba and Nala welcome their newborn cub into the world, fulfilling the Circle Of Life.


  • Johnathan Taylor Thomas/Matthew Broderick as Simba (cub and adult): Simba is the main protagonist of the movie. He is the prince of the Pride Lands, starting as an adventurous and rather cocky cub who looks up to his father Mufasa. When Mufasa dies, however, Simba feels immense guilt for this and lives in self-exile, only returning home when he realizes where his responsibilities lie. Once he returns to the Pride Lands, he learns the truth about Mufasa's death, overthrows Scar, and becomes the new king of the Pride Lands.
  • Niketa Calame/Moira Kelly as Nala (cub and adult): Nala is Simba's best friend and eventual mate. As a cub, she's just as adventurous as Simba and can easily overpower him in a tussle. When she grows up under Scar's tyrannical reign, she leaves to find help and ends up finding Simba after they fight. They spend a romantic night together as they fall in love, but the night ends with Nala trying to persuade Simba into returning to the Pride Lands and reclaim his throne; while he doesn't listen at first, he does eventually return with Nala right behind him. Once Simba becomes king, Nala becomes his mate and the mother of his cub.
  • James Earl Jones as Mufasa: Mufasa is the king of the Pride Lands, as well as Simba's father. He is wise, kind, and has a good sense of humor, though he can be quick to anger if anyone he loves is threatened. Simba looks up to him as a hero and a father, and his death devastates him.
  • Jeremy Irons as Scar: Scar is the main antagonist of the film, as well as Mufasa's brother and Simba's uncle. He had yearned to be king of the Pride Lands, only for his jealousy of Mufasa to intensify once Simba is born. Cunning, sly, and sarcastic to the point of bitterness, he would go to any length to make sure he becomes king, even if he resorts to murder and treason.
  • Madge Sinclair as Sarabi: Sarabi is the queen of the Pride Lands, as well as Simba's mother. She is shown to be a caring mother for Simba, yet she later shows that she is no pushover. Later in the movie, she coldly ignores the hyenas snapping at her heels, only giving them a stern glare with her head held high. She also confronts Scar about the way he runs things and later joins her son in the battle for Pride Rock, which results in Scar being defeated.
  • Robert Guillaume as Rafiki: Rafiki is an old mandrill shaman. He is the one who presents Simba to the kingdom on the day of his birth. While eccentric and bizarre at times, he is also very wise, an example being reading a sign of Simba's survival carried by the wind.
  • Rowan Atkinson as Zazu: Zazu is a hornbill and Mufasa's majordomo. He is the one who reports to the king about what goes on in the kingdom. While he's the target of Simba's mischief, he is still loyal to the royal family and will do his best to help them.
  • Nathan Lane as Timon: Timon is a meerkat living in the jungle with Pumbaa. Along with Pumbaa, Timon decides to adopt Simba (though at first afraid of him due to the latter being a lion) and teaches him about Hakuna Matata. He is sarcastic, wisecracking, and can be a jerk, but he's also a loyal friend to Simba and cares for him.
  • Ernie Sabella as Pumbaa: Pumbaa is a warthog living in the jungle with Timon. Along with Timon, Pumbaa decides to adopt Simba and teaches him about Hakuna Matata. Pumbaa is kind and friendly, though he can be naïve and isn't the smartest animal (though he does show rare moments of intelligence). He is also prone to passing gas and burping.
  • Whoopi Goldberg as Shenzi: Shenzi is a hyena and the leader of the hyenas. She's especially in charge of Banzai and Ed, always joining them in the jokes they make.
  • Cheech Marin as Banzai: Banzai is a hyena. He's prone to a quick temper and is quick on leading the hyenas into pun-based jokes.
  • Jim Cummings as Ed: Ed is a hyena. He doesn't talk, only communicating with giggles, cackles, and growls. While being pretty stupid, Shenzi and Banzai trust him, especially when they ask him what they can do to Scar once the lion betrays them.


Several themes in the movie include conservative values like reconciliation, faith, and heroism. One major example of honoring one's parents (which is one of the Ten Commandments) is Simba seeing his father's spirit in the clouds, who urges him to retake his place in the Circle of Life.

Totalitarian rule is condemned in the form of the film's villain, Scar. Once he murders Mufasa and guilts Simba into running away, he becomes king and sets up a controlling government of sorts, where his hyenas help themselves to all the lions' prey. But he's eventually shown to be a terrible king, lazing around and letting his hyenas overhunt; in fact, his hyena helpers even admit that in spite of the animosity between them, Mufasa was the better king than Scar. Scar even convinces himself at times that he was a much better ruler than Mufasa, displaying the same arrogance that communist rulers have displayed during and after their reigns.

Open border policies and illegal immigration are shown to be negative, shown when Scar lets the hyenas enter the Pride Lands unchallenged and the hyenas start to overhunt. Once Simba overthrows Scar and becomes the king, he works to restore the Pride Lands back to their former glory which can also mean fixing the land's borders, food and water becoming plentiful again.

Hedonism is portrayed as negative, for while Timon and Pumbaa genuinely are Simba's friends, their Hakuna Matata lifestyle of easy living and laziness does lead Simba off the path of responsibility. While the two friends themselves are comfortable with living out their carefree ways, they don't hesitate to follow Simba to Pride Rock and help him out.

Sequels and TV Shows

A sequel called The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride was released on home video in 1998, based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Simba and Nala's daughter Kiara learns about the Outlanders, a group of lions led by Zira who are still loyal to Simba's evil late uncle Scar. Things get more complicated when Kiara and one of the Outlanders, Kovu (a young male lion destined to follow in Scar's pawprints), fall in love with each other, and Rafiki (after receiving a sign from Mufasa's spirit) tries getting Kiara and Kovu to fall in love and unite the two warring prides. While most Disney sequels have had mixed to bad reviews, The Lion King 2 is considered by people to be one of the best Disney sequels.

In 2004, a prequel/parallel movie called The Lion King 1 1/2 (or The Lion King 3 in other countries) was released, based on a play called Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead. This tells the backstory of Simba's misfit friends - Timon and Pumbaa - as they meet each other and Simba, as well as exploring parts of the first movie in the eyes of the titular duo.

Two television shows were released: Timon and Pumbaa in 1995 and The Lion Guard in 2016. Timon and Pumbaa has the meerkat-and-warthog duo going on wacky adventures in their jungle and around the world. The Lion Guard - which ran for three seasons from 2015 to 2019 on the Disney Junior channel - tells of Simba's son Kion assembling a group of animals to help protect the Pride Lands and preserve the Circle of Life.

Broadway Musical

In 1995, a year after the success of The Lion King in theaters, a musical for Broadway was released. The first showing starred and included Jason Raize (Simba), Samuel E. Wright (Mufasa), and John Vickery (Scar), and it showed the same messages and themes of the animated film. Songs from the movie are in the musical, as well as including songs like "The Morning Report", "Chow Down", "Endless Night", and "He Lives In You". Several scenes that were not in the movie are shown in the play, like Simba saving Timon from falling over a waterfall and Nala leaving Pride Rock to find help for the lionesses. One such scene called "The Madness of King Scar" shows Scar's decline in sanity - believing that he sees Mufasa's ghost everywhere, for example - and even tries to force Nala to become his queen, which was going to be in the film but taken out for the implications. The tour for the play takes place in countries like the United States, making it one of the most popular Broadway musicals in the modern age.

2019 Remake

In late 2016, after the success of his remake of The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau announced that he would start making a photorealistic CGI remake of The Lion King. It was released in theaters on July 19, 2019. Stars in the film include Donald Glover (Simba), Beyoncé (Nala), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), Alfre Woodard (Sarabi), John Kani (Rafiki), John Oliver (Zazu), Billy Eischner (Timon), and Seth Rogen (Pumbaa). Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) is the only named hyena character to keep her name, while Banzai and Ed are renamed to have more Swahili names: Kamari (Keegan-Michael Key) and Azizi (Eric Andre). Out of the original cast from the 1994 film, James Earl Jones is the only one to voice a character he had voiced in the original (Mufasa).

The remake contains the same themes as the original, examples ranging from faith to reconciliation, and it also contains most of the original story from the 1994 film. The overhunting part from Scar is expanded upon, showing that Scar did this deliberately to keep his tyrannical reign in line and out of spite for Sarabi refusing to be his queen (a scene that is very similar to Claudius wedding Hamlet's mother in Hamlet and was even lifted from the Broadway musical, though the musical had Scar harassing Nala instead). Hakuna Matata is also shown in a nihilistic light in the remake - Timon and Pumbaa believing that nothing exists beyond seeking one's own happiness - and Simba follows in the same path before eventually taking responsibility. That being said, critics have said that the CGI's biggest flaw is lack of facial expressions, as well as important scenes from the original being missing (such as Rafiki telling Simba that while the past can hurt, he could either run from it or learn from it) or lacking the impact that the 1994 film created.


Ever since production and the release of The Lion King, the movie has been accused of plagiarizing Jungle Emperor Leo: a 1950s manga and 1960s anime from Japan about the adventures of a white lion cub, created by Tezuka Osamu. People had often compared Simba to Leo/Kimba due to their names sounding familiar (even though the name Kimba was created for the English dub, hence being called Kimba the White Lion in English, while the name Simba means 'lion' in Swahili), and they had done the same for the other characters and the premises themselves. Several sources, however, are certain that the two are completely unrelated, and Tezuka Osamu was even a friend of Walt Disney's, making artwork of some of Disney's works like Bambi out of admiration.

The lions from The Lion King are accused of being fascist and racist leaders due to not allowing the hyenas to come into the Pride Lands, ignoring what Scar allowing the hyenas in had done to the environment. As for the hyenas, several hyena researchers were not happy with how the hyenas in the movie are portrayed, as maniacal gluttons when real-life hyenas hunt more than they scavenge and are intelligent animals. However, this portrayal may be due to lions and hyenas being natural enemies in the wild, this movie also being more in the point of view of the lions.