To mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Disney’s The Lion King, I dug up some unbelievably fascinating facts that you literally won’t believe about this childhood classic. These aren’t just tidbits from the trivia section of IMDb. These are top-secret, tricks of the trade, inside baseball, behind clothes doors, tabula rasa, in vino vici, magnum cum laude, et al et cetera quid pro quo excelsior kind of facts. Chances are, you’ve lived your whole life and no one’s ever told you!
Here we go!
10 LITERALLY INCREDIBLE FACTS ABOUT THE LION KING TO BLOW YOUR MIND HOLE
1. When played backwards on a Sony VHS ReverserDeck™, the film is exactly the same. It is the world’s first and only cinematic palindrome.
2. Several character names are based on Swahili racial slurs. Pumbaa, Rafiki, Simba, and Mufasa translate to “white devil,” “garlic dick,” “jewiness,” and “nation exploitation,” respectively. Scar is an English word.
3. To get into character for Scar, Jeremy Irons established Blood Is Thicker Than Meow, a cat adoption service through which he was able to collect and butcher hundreds of foster kittens.
4. Sterling Holloway, known for his vocal portrayals of Winnie the Pooh, Kaa the Snake, and the Cheshire Cat, voices every character in The Lion King, and at the age of 109 continues acting, under the pseudonym “Jeremy Irons.”
5. In the original VHS release, literally every frame contained depictions of hardcore sex hidden in smoke, stars, clouds, and other textural elements.
6. Though based on no geography specifically, The Lion King‘s success led to the infamous Kenyan terraforming of 1999, wherein all of the country was reshaped to look like animated backgrounds from the film.
7. In early drafts of the script, The Lion King was actually written as the TV show that Forrest Junior was watching in the reunion scene from 1994’s Forrest Gump. Disney executives realized that the script could be extended and easily marketed, and substituted the TV material with Sesame Street. Thus, Haley Joel Osment has never seen the film.
8. The film, inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, began production in 1603 and took a single animator 391 years to complete.
9. The song “Hakuna Matata” was originally written and performed by a briefly-reunited N.W. A. But when tensions between the group ran too high, Disney scrapped the anti-establishment version and instead commissioned Sir Elton John for rewrites. In spite of the film’s success, Disney’s contract payouts to N.W.A. make The Lion King their biggest box-office failure.
10. Scar was based on Adolf Hitler, who was so fond of the film that he lobbied for a cameo until his suicide in 1945.