On this day in pop culture history: ‘The Lion King’ stepped into the sun

One of Disney”s greatest treasures has been with us for 22 years. It was on June 24, 1994 that The Lion King opened in theaters across the country.

The tale of a Simba stepping into the light and into his father”s footsteps was an instant hit with both audiences and critics, and it earned four Oscar nominations for its breathtaking music, winning two of those – one for Hans Zimmer”s score and one for Elton John and Tim Rice-penned song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

The Lion King has remained one of Disney”s most celebrated and beloved films, and that was clear when its 3D re-release hit theaters in 2011, becoming a box office juggernaut as parents who were young upon the original release of the film towed their young ones to the theater for the treat of seeing the beauty of the animated savannah on the big screen again.

But at the time The Lion King was in boards at Disney”s Burbank studio, it wasn”t expected to become a massive success with an indelible legacy. Then, what was considered a “B-Team” of animators at the House of Mouse were put on Lion King while the “A-Team” had chosen to focus on the movie they thought would be more successful: Pocahontas.

What”s arguably the greatest animated film of all time was turned into a Broadway play that”s also something special, something more than what the other Disney-to-Broadway endeavors have been, this adaptation guided by the unique vision of director Julie Taylor. Still staging eight performances a week at New York”s Minskoff Theatre, The Lion King is currently Broadway”s third-longest running show, with over 7,700 performances since its 1997 opening. With a consistently packed house, in 2013, it became the first Broadway show to cross the $1 billion mark.

June 24 has also repeatedly been a big day for Queen Bey. In 2003, Beyoncé released her debut solo album, Dangerously in Love, on June 24. In 2006, it was the day her single “Déjà Vu” was released. And five years ago today, her album 4 hit record stores.

Other notable June 24 happenings in pop culture history: 

• 1955: Fritz Lang film Moonfleet premiered.

• 1965: John Lennon”s book of stories and drawings, A Spaniard in the Works, was published.

• 1965: Sony demonstrated home TV taping. A Chicago Tribune article about the demonstration reported, “Home video tape recorders will some day be a standard feature on television sets, [the Sony president] predicted.”

• 1966: At the Hollywood Bowl”s Battle of the Bands, the winner of three trophies was the Richard Carpenter Trio (the brother-sister duo later known as The Carpenters plus friend Wes Jacobs).

• 1974: Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama” was released.

• 1981: The series finale of Charlie”s Angels aired on ABC.

• 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer attended the London premiere of 007 movie For Your Eyes Only, five days before their wedding. (Pictured below is Lady Diana at the premiere with Roger Moore and his wife, Luisa.)

• 1983: Twilight Zone: The Movie, featuring segments directed by Steven Spielberg and George Miller, opened in theaters.

• 1987: Mel Brooks” Spaceballs hit U.S. theaters.

• 1995: Pink Floyd live album Pulse was no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200, briefly dethroning Hootie & the Blowfish album Cracked Rear View from the top spot.

• 2003: Michelle Branch released her second studio album, Hotel Paper, featuring the songs “Are You Happy Now?” and “Breathe.”

• 2006: AFI album Decemberunderground hit the top of the Billboard 200.