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Arts & Entertainment

Lion King Director Rob Minkoff Visits UCLA

UCLA Disney fans ooh’d and ahh’d in unison when the beloved characters of Simba, Timon and Scar came to life on an overhead projector at the hands of Rob Minkoff, the co-director of Disney’s The Lion King.

About 300 students showed up on Wednesday night for a Q&A session with Minkoff, organized by the Disney Club of UCLA. Minkoff answered students’ questions and shared the story of how he worked his way up from being a Disney intern and “inbetweener,” hand-drawing the frames between two images crafted by the main animators, to become the co-director of one of Disney’s most beloved movies.¬†He also belted out his rendition of the¬†opening theme song from the Lion King, much to the audience’s delight.

Below, we share some of our favorite Lion King anecdotes of the night.

  • Actor Jeremy Irons, who voices the character of Scar, not only got Minkoff to smoke cigarettes with him, but also recorded “Be Prepared” between puffs of a cigarette.
  • During the meeting when the Lion King was pitched, a member of the committee said the Lion King was like King Lear. Someone sitting in the back of the room chimed in, “No, it’s Hamlet.” Michael Eisner, Disney’s then Chief Executive Officer, then yelled “That’s it! We’re going to make Hamlet with lions!”
  • Every time Minkoff and his production team were not satisfied with the lyrics of “The Circle of Life,” they would get Tim Rice, who wrote the lyrics with Elton John, to tell Elton John that the team had changed the story (although they hadn’t) and the new story required a new song, just so that Elton John would rewrite the song. The team kept doing this until they were finally satisfied with the final product.
  • Whoopi Goldberg asked to be involved in the film when Elton John told her about the film during a meeting. The casting team decided to cast her as one of the hyenas.
  • Disney brought real lions and lion cubs into the animation studio to help the animators with their drawings.

The highlight of the night was when Minkoff did quick sketches of characters from the Lion King, The Little Mermaid and the Great Mouse Detective on the overhead projector.

“It was so amazing watching little lines, then more and more lines turn into beautiful characters with emotions behind them,” said Phuong Mai, a third-year business economics student.

Krystella Tran, a third-year chemistry student, said she really enjoyed the panel because it gave her insight into the behind the scenes processes of a film she grew up watching over and over again. “I still can’t help but cry the moment Mufasa dies,” Tran said.

What about the Lion King resonates with you? Comment below or tweet us @dbmojo with your favorite Lion King moments.

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