The beloved tale of Simba, a feisty lion cub who cannot wait to be king, returns for a whole new generation! Disney’s The Lion King movie releases on DVD and Blu-ray later this month. In preparation of the release, we had the opportunity to sit down with the film Director and Producer for an exclusive interview about this treasured classic.
I was invited as media to cover this event. All opinions are my own.
Disney’s The Lion King Movie
Don Hahn (Producer) and Rob Minkoff (Director) Exclusive Interviews
Q: What is it about The Lion King that people want to keep revisiting?
Don said, “We had this line in Beauty and the Beast, ‘tale as old as time’. And it’s kind of that with The Lion King. It’s a hero’s journey story….a little bit the way Bambi was. It deals with those themes of growing up. And so it’s endlessly relatable that way.” Adding, “the relationship with his father and the death of his father. Even more so than Bambi, we dealt with kind of grieving after that process, and Simba going into the wilderness, which is very biblical. And I think that kind of taps into something pretty deep in people.”
Rob later shared, “There was a very healthy conversation/argument about could we… show Mufasa’s death? And how are we gonna deal with the moment when Simba finds him? Some people said we can’t… shouldn’t show this. It should be in shadow. It should be as far away from the camera as possible. So that you don’t really bring up…that level of stuff. And we’re, like…’No! Come on! It’s a modern movie!’ We have to deal with this important moment.” Also mentioning it would give families a way to talk about it after seeing the film, and having a conversation most people are terrified to talk about.
Q: What’s your favorite part of making the film?
Rob said, “My favorite part is always when you first have the idea of anything. It could be an idea for a joke, an idea for a moment, an idea for a scene, or something. Then the next biggest part is usually the struggle. The stress. The work. The frustration. Going back, having to redo it, or make it better or trying to figure it out. That moment of inspiration is always fun. And then for me, it’s always when you’re recording the music at the end. Because you’re done with the movie. It’s like, I’m finished. There’s nothing more I can do.”
Q: When you were making The Lion King movie, did you have any idea it would become the phenomenon that it did?
Don answered, “not a chance.” Rob followed up to share, “when we started on the movie, it was sort of considered a B movie within the studio. Only because the movie wasn’t based on a well known fairytale. You know? Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladin….When it came to Lion King, which, by the way, wasn’t even called Lion King at the beginning. It was called King of the Jungle. It had a big question mark around what it was. What was this movie?”
Don added, “It was hard to get people to work on it. You would take people out to lunch, and try to coax them to work on your movie. You’d say this is kind of the Joseph story from the Bible meets Hamlet, meets…Elton John in Africa. And it was just a head scratcher for most people. But the people we did get were just enthusiastic about working with four legged animals, about working with the colors and pallet of Africa.”
Q: What does it mean to you guys to be part of ushering in that whole new world?
Don mentioned, “We were talking about this earlier. You couldn’t imagine an animated movie making a hundred million dollars. That was ‘Are you kidding?’ Disney made a movie every four years. There were no other studios really making this animation. Now there’s 25 animated movies a year in a category at the Oscars. You would never dream that! You would never dream an animated movie would get a best picture nomination.” Adding, “And it’s so incredible that we’re sitting her 23 years later talking about the very same thing! Talking about owning it, and taking it home, and having it as part of your collection. But when people love a movie and love a story, you want to take it home.”
I inquired about any scenes from the film that were cut, and the two broke out in song….seriously! There was actually a different version of “Hakuna Matata”, called “He’s Got it All Worked Out.” Don and Rob then gave us a bit of the jingle.
Q: What does this mean to you with The Lion King coming back to theaters? [The Lion King is returning as a live-action film in 2019]
Don said, “I mean, part of it’s surprising that people want to see it. Not surprising, ’cause people really embraced this movie. But when you’re making it, you just never think…that day that 23 years from now, will you be sitting around talking about it?”
Q: So in the past 20 plus years, what has been your favorite comment or reaction to The Lion King movie?
Don shared a moment that occurred the previous Sunday when they did a sing along at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Sharing, “I introduced the film, and then when it started to play Circle of Life, I went back to the back of the audience…just a couple thousand people there. And he came to the last big shout chorus of Circle of Life. And there were a couple moms in the audience that stood up and held their babies up in the air.”
Rob shared that just hearing someone say The Lion King is their favorite movie is humbling, and enough for him.
We had such a great time chatting with The Lion King movie creators! While in LA for D23 Expo, I had the opportunity to sit in on a panel with some of the voice actors, like Whoopi Goldberg. You can see more of that coverage here.