Walt Disney Studios was on quite a roll, with each feature becoming more sophisticated in its animation, themes, and music. The Little Mermaid began this renaissance, followed by Beauty and the Beast, then Aladdin. Then in 1995, The Lion King debuted and proved itself as the finest example of the Disney ideal in the modern era.
Virtually the entire film features classic animation techniques without the aid of computers. The exception is the stampede of the wildebeests, a two-and-a-half-minute sequence that took five animators more than two years to complete.
While I love the wonderful humor that Howard Ashman and Alan Menken brought to the songs in Mermaid and Beauty, there’s no question that the music written by Tim Rice and Elton John for The Lion King raised the film to a higher level. “The Circle of Life” was absolutely perfect as an accompaniment to the wonderful animation of the opening scene, while “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” and “Hakuna Matata” were witty and memorable.
The Lion King achieved that elusive goal that animated movies strive for – to be entertaining to children and adults on their own levels. The box office is proof of that success. During its initial release it grossed $783 million worldwide, making it the most successful film released in 1995. Also proof are its two Academy Awards (out of four nominations) and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.