On June 14, 1994, Walt Disney Feature Animation, along with Walt Disney Picture, first released the animated musical drama, The Lion King. It was the fifth animation film that was produced during what fans call the Disney Renaissance. The ensemble voice cast included Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings. The storyline of the film takes place in Africa where a kingdom of proud lions reside and are neighbored by the menacing pack of hyenas that live in a wasteland they created due to their overactive appetites. The influence of the movie sees a mix of the Biblical stories of Joseph and Moses, along with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the movie, Mufasa (played by James Earl Jones) is the king of the Pride Lands while his jealous brother, Scar (played by Jeremy Irons) grudingly waits for his chance to rule. When Mufasa’s son, Simba (played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas), is born, Scar schemes to rip control of the Pride Lands away from the father and son combo. When he finds his opportunity to do so, he uses his hyena friends to cause a chain reaction that purposely puts Simba in danger and Mustafa comes to the rescue. Through deception, after Scar kills Mustafa, he manipulates Simba to think its his fault. Feeling guilty and taking his uncle’s advice, Simba runs off. From there the storyline focuses on a young lion cub, riddled with guilt, having to overcome his guilt, then learning the truth about what really happened and fix the catastrophe his uncle started. Adding to the dramatics of this animated film was the Lion King Soundtrack, which also performed extremely well.
Aladdin’s music composer, Alan Menken, worked along with lyricist Tim Rice and Elton John. Five of the songs in the film were written by Rice and John. The soundtrack was released on April 27, 1994 and became one of the top-selling soundtracks of all time, as well as the only to achieve a diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). To date, it is the only soundtrack belonging to an animated film that has earned this achievement. The music score involved was so inspirational that it spawned a 1995 release of Rhythm of the Pride Lands. Both the soundtrack and the second album feature music scores that have been composed by instrumental music genius, Hans Zimmer. However, Zimmer’s full instrumental score for the movie was never given an official full release until 2014 when Disney celebrated The Lion King’s twentieth anniversary and released the soundtrack to commemorate it.
The original soundtrack featured twelve songs on it while the special edition, which was released in 2003, features fourteen. Hans Zimmer produced most of the instrumental music score while Elton John provided most of the lyrical. In addition to earning RIAA diamond certification, this was also achieved in Canada. Among the nations of Australia, Germany, and Switzerland it achieved multi-platinum while it was single platinum among the nations of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK. Gold was also certified among the nations of France, Japan, Poland, and Sweden.
12. I Just Can’t Wait to Be King (performed by Jason Weaver, Rowan Atkinson, and Laura Williams)
In the movie, the young Simba (played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) already has ideas how he will run the Pride Lands in place of his father. Meanwhile, Zazu (played by Rowan Atkinson) has to contend with the youngster’s ambitious arrogance. In song, Jason Weaver sings out (I Just Can’t Wait to Be King) as a playful youngster that toys with suggestions while the annoyed Zazu tries to share his input along the way.
11. Be Prepared (performed by Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings)
The combined vocal performances by Jeremy Irons (as Scar), Whoopi Goldberg (as Shenzi), Cheech Marin (as Banzai), and Jim Cummings (as Ed) bring forth the sinister-sounding (Be Prepared). In song, the villains of The Lion King storyline share, in song, the evil intended against the king of The Pride Lands, Mustafa (played by James Earl Jones), and his young son, Simba (played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas).
10. I Just can’t Wait to Be King (performed by Elton John)
Composed by Elton John and lyrically arranged by Tim Rice, (I Just Can’t Wait to Be King) was performed pop-rock style by John for The Lion King soundtrack. Instead of the child-like performance delivered by Jason Weaver, Elton John’s lyrical version puts in a slightly more grown up version.
10. This Land (performed by Hans Zimmer)
Instrumentally, Hans Zimmer plays the music score for (This Land), which paints a portrayal of The Pride Lands, the kingdom the original lion king, Mustafa (played by James Earl Jones), reigns. Beautiful, panoramic, and dramatic, the playout of this song seems to perform with a sense of pride of home and country.
9. …To Die For (performed by Hans Zimmer)
Hans Zimmer dramatically delivers (…To Die For) as a song of urgency as trouble is upon The Pride Lands. The musical score delivers a rushed sense to get out of harm’s way, which is performed with genius as each instrument plays its part to send the message home that lives may become lost before the song is over.
8. Under the Stars (performed by Hans Zimmer)
(Under the Stars) was beautifully performed by Hans Zimmer that makes it easy to get swept away with the musical tranquility. Designed almost like a romantic, instrumental fairytale on its own, this is one of those songs to just sit and appreciated as it plays.
7. King of Pride Rock (performed by Hans Zimmer)
In the movie, (King of Pride Rock) sees a now grown up Simba (played by Matthew Broderick) returning to The Pride Lands. The playout of the song plays out a handful of emotions due to the dramatic confrontation between the returning Simba to square off against his uncle, Scar (played by Jeremy Irons). At the end of the song, when the time of triumph is at hand, the song announces on its instrumental own the clear and rightful winner has been decided.
6. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (performed by Joseph Williams, Sally Dworsky, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, and Kristle Edwards)
In the movie, the characters of Pumba (played by Ernie Sabella) and Timon (played by Nathan Lane), are contending with the reality their buddy, Simba, and his childhood sweetheart, Nala (played by Moira Kelly), are in love with each other. The lyrical delivery of this version of (Can You Feel the Love Tonight) was mainly Kristle Edwards, whose powerful voice hammered home this ballad just as well as Elton John’s radio released version. The comedic narrative at the start of the song by Sabella and Lane finishes the song off with the two weeping at what they felt was a loss of their best friend, Simba.
4. Hakuna Matata (performed by Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Jason Weaver, and Joseph Williams)
In the movie, Pumba (played by Ernie Sabella) and Timon (played by Nathan Lane), teach the young Simba (played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) how to not let daily troubles get the best of him. According to them, (Hakuna Matata) means no worries for the rest of your days. Since the release of this song, it has become a popular catch phrase alternative to “don’t worry about it.” In the movie, the singing of voice of a young Simba (performed by Jason Weaver) is replaced with the grown up version, now utilizing the vocal talent of Joseph Williams. This song also made an impressive chart appearance, given the playful content that was involved. On the US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart, it peaked at number twenty-six. Globally, it charted as high as number six in Belgium, number seven in France, number two in Iceland, and number eleven in the Netherlands. The song’s popularity has since seen a number of spawns and spoofs from it, becoming one of the most beloved and celebrated Disney songs of all time.
3. Circle of Life (performed by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M.)
At the beginning of the soundtrack, (Circle of Life) is lyrically performed by Carmen Twillie and a host of backup singers while Lebo M. served as the instrumental composer. In a celebratory fashion, this song brings into full circle how life goes for each individual. For some, it seems to be a relatively carefree life with few issues to worry about. For others, the roller coaster ride of life is somewhat bumpier. This song was composed by Elton John while the lyrics were written out by Jim Rice. According to Rice, he was impressed with how fast John was able to compose the music score for the song.
2. Circle of Life (performed by Elton John)
Elton John’s dramatic pop-style performance of (Circle of Life) made an impressive chart appearance on the billboards worldwide and earned a series of nominations that mainly lost to another song of Elton John’s that was also featured on the exact same soundtrack. On the US Adult Contemporary chart, it peaked as high as number two and was a number twenty-six hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Top 40. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it charted as high as number eighteen. Globally, it was a top twenty favorite among the nations of Canada, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. With the UK’s British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the USA’s RIAA, (Circle of Life) became certified gold.
1. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (performed by Elton John)
In 1995, (Can You Feel the Love Tonight) earned a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, thanks to Elton John’s powerful piano and vocal performance that made this song one of the most beloved of all time. When John wrote this song it was with the intent to win the appeal of adults and children. It not only won over such a huge fan base, but the music critics. He and Tim Rice also shared a Best Original Song win with the Academy Music Awards and the Golden Globe Awards, both also held in 1995. On the music charts, Elton John’s version peaked as high as number one on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, as well as in Canada and France. It was a number three hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Top 40 and at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the Eurochart Top 100. It also was, at the very least, a top twenty hit among the nations of Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, and the UK. (Can You Feel the Love Tonight) also became certified platinum with Recorded Music New Zealand (RMNZ), Sweden’s Grammofonleverantörernas förening (GLF), and the USA’s RIAA. Otherwise, the single was certified gold among the nations of Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, and the UK.