The Lion King is a 1994 American animated feature produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. Released to theaters on June 15, 1994 by Walt Disney Pictures, it is the 32nd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The story, which was strongly influenced by the William Shakespeare play Hamlet, takes place in a kingdom of anthropomorphic animals in Africa. The film was the highest grossing animated film of all time until the release of Finding Nemo (a Disney/Pixar computer-animated film). The Lion King still holds the record as the highest grossing traditionally animated film in history and belongs to an era known as the Disney Renaissance.
The Lion King is the highest grossing 2D animated film of all time in the United States, and received positive reviews from critics, who praised the film for its music and story. During its release in 1994, the film grossed more than $783 million worldwide, becoming the most successful film released that year, and it is currently the twenty-fourth highest-grossing feature film.
A musical film, The Lion King garnered two Academy Awards for its achievement in music and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Songs were written by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, with an original score by Hans Zimmer. Disney later produced two related movies: a sequel, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride; and a part prequel-part parallel, The Lion King 1½.
The Lion King takes place in the Pride Lands of the Serengeti, where a lion rules over the other animals as king. Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), a wise old mandrill, anoints Simba (cub by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, adult by Matthew Broderick), the newborn cub of King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Queen Sarabi (Madge Sinclair), and presents him to a gathering of animals at Pride Rock ("Circle of Life").
Mufasa takes Simba on a tour of the Pride Lands, teaching him about the "Circle of Life", the delicate balance affecting all living things. Taking advantage of the cub's naive nature, Simba's scheming uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) (who is angry because Simba's birth means that he's no longer next in line to the throne) tells him about the elephant graveyard, a place where Mufasa has warned Simba not to go. Simba asks his mother if he can go to the water-hole with his best friend, Nala (cub by Niketa Calame, adult by Moira Kelly). Their parents agree but only if Mufasa's majordomo, the hornbill Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), goes with them. Simba and Nala elude Zazu's supervision ("I Just Can't Wait to Be King") and go to the graveyard instead. There, the cubs are met by Shenzi, Banzai and Ed (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings), spotted hyenas who try to kill them, but they are rescued by Mufasa.
On the way home, Mufasa orders Zazu to take Nala home so that he may 'teach his son a lesson'. Once left alone, Mufasa tells his son how very disappointed he is in him and how he put both Nala's and his own life in danger. He further explains to Simba that being brave doesn't mean to go looking for danger, and reveals he was scared he might have lost him. Having reached an understanding, they play together in the fields, where Simba asks his father if they will always be together. Mufasa tells him that the Kings of the Past are among the stars in the sky. They will be there to guide him and, when Mufasa's time comes, so will he.
Meanwhile, Scar gains the loyalty of the hyenas by claiming that if he becomes king, they'll "never go hungry again" ("Be Prepared"). During the song, Scar tells the hyenas that for this to happen they must kill Mufasa and Simba, thus establishing his plan of regicide. Some time later, Scar lures Simba into a gorge for a "surprise from his father" while the hyenas create a wildebeest stampede. Alerted by Scar, Mufasa races to rescue Simba from the stampede. He saves his son but is left clinging to the edge of a steep cliff. Scar, instead of helping Mufasa, flings his brother into the stampede below. Simba sees his father fall and rushes down the cliff after him, only to find him dead. Scar convinces the young cub that he was responsible for his father's death and recommends that he flee from the Pride Lands to avoid punishment. Scar once again sends Shenzi, Banzai and Ed to kill Simba, but he escapes. Scar informs the pride that both Mufasa and Simba were killed and that he is assuming the throne as the next in line. Scar proclaims that "this is the dawning of a new era, in which lion and hyena come together", thus allowing the hyenas into the Pride Lands.
Once back at Pride Rock, Simba (with Timon, Pumbaa and Nala) is horrified to see the condition of the Pride Lands. Timon and Pumbaa create a diversion, allowing Simba and Nala to sneak past the hyenas guarding Pride Rock. After seeing his mother Sarabi struck by Scar for criticizing him, Simba announces his return. In response, Scar tells the pride that Simba was responsible for Mufasa's death and corners Simba at the edge of Pride Rock. As Simba dangles over the edge of Pride Rock, Scar proudly but quietly reveals to Simba that he killed Mufasa. Enraged, Simba leaps up and pins Scar to the ground, forcing him to admit the truth to the pride. A raging battle then ensures between the hyenas and the lionesses.