The Lion King is a 1994 American animated musical drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 32nd Disney animated feature film and the fifth animated film produced during a period known as the Disney Renaissance. The Lion King was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff (in their feature directorial debuts) and produced by Don Hahn, from a screenplay by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton. Its original songs were written by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, with a score by Hans Zimmer. The film features an ensemble voice cast that includes Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair (in her last film role), Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings. The story takes place in a kingdom of lions in Africa and was influenced by the Biblical stories of Joseph and Moses, and William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The Lion King tells the story of Simba (Swahili for lion), a young lion who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands; however, after Simba's paternal uncle Scar murders Mufasa to seize the throne, Simba is manipulated into thinking he was responsible and flees into exile. After growing up in the company of the carefree outcasts Timon and Pumbaa, Simba receives valuable perspective from his childhood friend, Nala, and his shaman, Rafiki, before returning to challenge Scar to end his tyranny and take his place in the Circle of Life as the rightful King.
Development of The Lion King began in 1988 during a meeting between Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy E. Disney, and Peter Schneider while promoting Oliver & Company in Europe. Thomas M. Disch wrote a film treatment, and Woolverton developed the first scripts, while George Scribner was signed on as director, being later joined by Allers. Production began in 1991 concurrently with Pocahontas, which wound up attracting many of Disney's top animators. Some time after the staff traveled to Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya to research the film's setting and animals, Scribner left production, disagreeing with the decision to turn the film into a musical, and was replaced by Minkoff. When Hahn joined the project, he was dissatisfied with the script and the story was promptly rewritten. Nearly 20 minutes of animation sequences were produced at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Florida. Computer animation was also used in several scenes, most notably in the wildebeest stampede sequence.
The Lion King was released on June 15, 1994, to critical acclaim, praising the film for its music, story, themes, and animation. With an initial worldwide gross of $763 million, it finished its theatrical run as the highest-grossing film of 1994 and the second-highest-grossing film of all time, behind Jurassic Park (1993). The film remand as the second-highest-grossing film until the spot was taken by Independence Day (1996) just two years later. It also held the title of the highest-grossing animated film, until it was overtaken by Finding Nemo (2003). The film is still the highest-grossing traditionally animated film of all time, as well as the best-selling film on home video, having sold over 55 million copies worldwide. On release, the film drew some controversy in Japan for its similarities to Osamu Tezuka's 1960s anime series Kimba the White Lion. The Lion King garnered two Academy Awards for its achievement in music and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The film has led to many derived works, such as a Broadway adaptation in 1997; two direct-to-video follow-ups—the sequel, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998), and the prequel/parallel, The Lion King 1½ (2004); two television series, Timon and Pumbaa and The Lion Guard; a 3D re-release in 2011; and a photorealistic remake in 2019, which also became the highest-grossing animated film at the time of its release.
In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The Lion King is the first Disney film to have been dubbed in Zulu, and the only African language aside from Arabic to have been used for a feature-length Disney dub.