Disney’s The Lion King is an iconic film co-directed by Rob Minkoff alongside Roger Allers and was produced by Don Hahn, who’s most known for producing successful animated films. Down to its soundtrack, fascinating animation, and epic story, Disney’s The Lion King has made such a cultural impact that it was selected last year to be preserved by the United States National Film Registry. Now Disney’s The Lion King has been selected to get a signature collection, which will be released on Digital HD on August 15th and Blu-ray on August 29th.
Screen Rant got a chance to talk to director Rob Minkoff and producer Don Hahn on press day, where we discussed how they felt about The Lion King having a signature collection, what their favorite song was from The Lion King, and what special features we can expect from the Digital HD and Blu-ray release of The Lion King.
Thank you for joining me today. First of all, The Lion King is my absolute favorite Disney film of all time. It is amazing. Every single one of the songs you can’t get out of your head. They are all so catchy. What does it mean for you guys to be the fifth film having a signature collection?
Don Hahn: Well, it’s pretty great. I mean, when you are working on a film, you’re not thinking, “Hey. Someday I want a signature collection.” You know, you’re just thinking, “Can we please get this done? Is it going to be any good? Is anybody going to want to see it?” So it’s pretty phenomenal when we can look back and not only appreciate what the audience has said in the past, but that people still want to own it is great.
And it’s also something that translates today because now that we have Lion Guard, which is still 23 years later, we are still seeing these characters which is pretty question. I have a question. Which song is your guys’ favorite individually?
Rob Minkoff: I think for me, that’s a great question, I think the ‘Circle of Life’ was always my…
That’s your go-to!
Rob Minkoff: It’s really powerful and it made such a big difference when we made the movie because we actually put that together, the opening of the movie, and until we had shown that, there were a lot of people who were doubtful about the movie. And somehow when we put that together and showed people, it had such a great impact. People just were so surprised and excited about the movie and then the rest, as they say, is history.
And how about yourself?
Don Hahn: I think I’m probably a ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ fan just because I’m a romantic guy. I don’t know. It won the Oscar that year and it’s a great love ballad, which oddly we almost cut out of the movie at one point.
I read that.
Don Hahn: We did. Yeah. In a moment of god knows what, but we were trying to fit it in because it was a moment in the film where the two characters were falling in love and you didn’t want to stop the film for that.
Rob Minkoff: Right. And it’s also because I think the movie is about a father and a son and that’s the primary relationship in the movie and it’s about his coming of age and it wasn’t as much of a romance as Beauty and the Beast was obviously about romance. Aladdin. The Little Mermaid. They were really focusing on the love story and so we thought, “Does this movie, is it really the right kind of movie to have this big love song in the middle of it?” But we were wrong because it seemed to work.
Don Hahn: It seemed to work.
Mine is Hakuna Matata. I love that song. I like how it’s all three songs in this one film. Something I did have to ask. I heard that Nathan Lane improvised some of the lines in the film. Were there any lines that weren’t on the page, but just worked in the film once you got into the recording booth?
Rob Minkoff: You know, that’s a great question, but it’s hard to think back quite that far.
Rob Minkoff: Like which ones were improvised. Usually the actors were able to improvise. You know, you’d encourage them to do whatever came to their mind and Nathan happens to be really good at improvisation and so those probably were the ones that stuck out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few that were snuck in there.
With the HD Digital release coming out on the 15th and the Blu-ray coming out on the 29th, what were some of the special features that we can look forward to and what was it like revisiting this world 23 years later?
Don Hahn: Well, a lot of it was going through the movie and make sure it looks and feels and sounds as good as it always has, which it does and the directors went through to make sure it was the pristine version of the film that they wanted everybody to see. A lot of it is on the disc trying to share moments like we went back and found the original recording video so you can see Nathan and Ernie at the microphone or see James Earl Jones at the microphone when they recorded it and cut that opposite the film, so you get a feeling of what it was like. So there’s these scratchy old videos. They’ve been sitting on a shelf for twenty three years, so you can actually see. I don’t know. We never intended to broadcast them even, but they are out there and they are apart of this collection, which is kind of fun.
Rob Minkoff: Plus there’s some actual making of the movie. Some pitch sessions that we did that sort of describes what the process is of making an animated movie because everybody always ask this. How do you direct an animated movie? How do you direct an animated character? And it’s hard for people to imagine because they are so used to thinking of a director with a megaphone, screaming action and cut. And animation directors don’t do that, so it gives you a little window into what we actually do.
Now I heard there was a scene that took three years to make, so which scene was that? And what was the hardest scene to execute in the film?
Don Hahn: Well, there were a lot of scenes that we kept revisiting. The wildebeest stampede is probably one that took a long, long time.
That’s the one I heard that was like three years I believe…
Don Hahn: Yeah because it was early days of computer animation and so the wildebeests themselves were computer generated and so that was one wrinkle into it. And then trying to, it’s an action sequence so there’s that and, in the end, it culminates in Mufasa dying and so you have this sensitive situation that you want to take the audience through and feel this empathy for Simba, but not traumatize this audience. And the thought process of that took some time.
Rob Minkoff: Sure. And then, with the wildebeests, really the technology had to be invented in order to make that work because we were going to have these computer animated characters who don’t really know what they are doing. So they don’t know where to go. You can’t tell them where to go, so what they created was called an “avoidance” program, which was as the wildebeests would run towards each other, they would naturally veer away but they would do that among all the other ones that would be stampeding. And what was so surprising is that theory turned out to be so incredibly correct and real because when you saw that shot for the first time, it looked so believable. You’re like, “My God. It looks like a stampede.”
Stay Tuned for More Coverage from the Lion King Press Event!
The Lion King Signature Edition hits Blu-ray August 29, 2017.