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The Lion King
Album Cover Art
1994 Original
2001 Bootleg
Album 2 Cover Art
2003 Special Edition
Album 3 Cover Art
2014 Legacy
Album 4 Cover Art
Score Co-Composed, Co-Arranged, and Co-Produced by:

Score Co-Composed by:
Lebo M

Co-Arranged and Co-Produced by:
Jay Rifkin
Mark Mancina

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Nick Glennie-Smith

Co-Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler
David Metzger

Co-Produced by:
Chris Thomas
Adam Smalley

Songs Composed by:
Elton John
Tim Rice
Labels Icon
Walt Disney Records
(May 31st, 1994)


Walt Disney Records
(September 30, 2003)

Walt Disney Records
(June 24th, 2014)
Availability Icon
The original album was a regular U.S. release in 1994. It fell out of print in the late 1990's. The 2003 Special Edition is a regular U.S. release. The various bootlegs began appearing on the secondary online markets in the late 1990's, but solidified in content and quantity in the early 2000's. Later recording session bootlegs began circulating in the early 2010's. The 2014 Legacy Collection 2-CD set is a regular commercial release.
The song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and the score both won Academy Awards and Golden Globes. That song was also nominated for a Grammy Award, and the songs "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" were nominated for Academy Awards as well. The song "Circle of Life" was also nominated for a Golden Globe and a Grammy Award. The score was nominated for a BAFTA Award and a Grammy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... on the impressive 2014 "Legacy Collection" album from Disney if you desire a superior new mix of the scores and songs as they appeared in the film, especially with an impressive and fresh perspective on the important Hans Zimmer score.

Avoid it... on the commercial projects solely and also seek the leaked recording sessions or other available cues from bootlegs and promos if you desire a fuller selection of the immense amount of variations on the material recorded by Zimmer for this score.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 9/24/96, REVISED 11/2/14
The Lion King: (Hans Zimmer/Elton John) The dominance of Walt Disney Pictures over its competitors could not have been any more evident than in 1994, when The Lion King proved that the studio's success within the animated genre was not limited to just the Alan Menken phenomenon that had included The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin in the prior five years. The coming of age tale for the young lion, Simba, overcame the limitations of dying two-dimensional animation techniques due to the appeal of its familiar story of family perseverance and its music, the latter a surprising departure from the normal animated musical sound of the time. The series of Disney's Menken projects continued to run its course for the studio over several more years, though after The Lion King composer Hans Zimmer and songwriter/performer Elton John defected to Dreamworks for a few attempts to muster the same success later in the decade. The realm of Zimmer's Media Ventures music production house would be tapped quite often for animated pictures in the next two decades, sometimes yielding memorably entertaining results. While their collective work for The Lion King exceeded the popularity of all the later Menken/Disney collaborations of the era, however, the 1994 entry proved to be something of a one-hit wonder given subsequent efforts' expectations. Despite their own unique qualities, The Prince of Egypt and especially The Road to El Dorado weren't as infectious to the mainstream as The Lion King, which has spawned several sequels and a Broadway production. The film also arguably marked the high point in the animated genre for both Zimmer and John, though the famed singer receives most of the credit for the music's popularity. John's songs are indeed quite catchy, but of the five that he composed for the film, only one, the "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" rendition placed during the end titles, featured his own vocal performance on screen. Two additional performances by John were recorded to assist in driving album sales.

For enthusiasts of The Lion King, the ensemble and individual cast performances of John's songs will remain far more entertaining because the vocal and instrumental arrangements of those songs fit perfectly with the tone of Zimmer's surrounding score. This continuity is one of the strongest aspects of the music for The Lion King. The cast vocals themselves are a hit and miss prospect; bless Jeremy Irons for his deep, snarling voice, but he simply can't sing. The same argument could be made about Rowan Atkinson in the insufferable song, "I Just Can't Wait To Be King." But the arrangements by Zimmer and collaborator Mark Mancina for most songs place the performers against the same bass-heavy, robust African sound that defines the entire score, and this ambience saves most of the songs and is brilliant in the bookending "Circle of Life." Both John and Zimmer won Academy Awards for their efforts on The Lion King, and while many more classically-inclined film score fans have disagreed with Zimmer's triumph over Thomas Newman and Alan Silvestri that year, this score does remain one of Zimmer's better and most popular. Its impact in the film is resounding in its majestic and beautiful instrumental accompaniment to the story's spiritual elements. For Zimmer, The Lion King represented a maturation of two of the composer's distinct early mannerisms: his knack for capturing African spirit and his love for pronounced woodwind melodies. In the case of the former, Zimmer's work on the 1992 film The Power of One directly led to his hiring on The Lion King, and the earlier work could easily be termed the more authentic sister score to the Disney favorite. Zimmer was blacklisted in South Africa for having engaged in "subversive filmmaking" after The Power of One, but the project solidified a collaboration with Lebo M that carried over directly to The Lion King. When producing the 1994 animation score, Zimmer had to bring the African solo elements to him rather than travel again to South Africa, but this didn't deter him from using his music to further define the underlying sentiments of the continent, including, for some, the simmering racial elements that his music had always addressed.

Any collector of Zimmer's early works will recognize that the composer placed panpipe and other woodwind melodies for romantic elements in some of the most bizarre places (Days of Thunder probably takes the cake), but his continuation of that technique functions beautifully in The Lion King. Joining several prominent placements for flutes and oboe are Richard Harvey's absolutely gorgeous panpipe solos throughout the score, and it has been argued that his contribution alone provides the element of grace that catapulted this score's effectiveness; Harvey's woodwind performances for famous scores are better known than his own, often impressive compositional work for films and television. One of the remarkable aspects of this score is how the African and Western influences, the latter extending to somewhat sickly waltz movements for suspenseful moments (another connection to Zimmer's past), don't conflict with each other. The Lebo M ethnicity succeeds against the Western backdrop in the same way Menken and Howard Ashman accomplished for The Little Mermaid, which spiced things up for its playful storied moments with a stylish calypso spirit. Other important choices from Zimmer in The Lion King are led by his application of traditional choir, which is dominant in many of the score's most prominent sequences. Beyond the ethnically-style performances, these varied vocals are the highlights of the score, ranging from the mixed male and female contributions for the "ascension theme" to a continuous male-only bass hum that foreshadows, along with the original album's synthetic edge, the masculine approach to the following year's Crimson Tide. Zimmer indulges his urge to brood with weighty colors in this score, but unlike his mannerisms of the 2000's and beyond, he is equally unafraid to spread out the soundscape to allow for substantial treble presence. This score's violin and flute lines are actually quite active in an accenting role at times, often embodied in the rhythmic movement of Simba's romps that will solicit some butt wiggling from listeners. While seemingly incongruous on paper, Zimmer pulls it off and the score benefits from a bright, bouncy personality in its more amiable moments.

The action and villain material is where the score for The Lion King stumbles occasionally, restraining it from a full five-star rating. The action music relies heavily on the texture of the choir, chanting and shrieking during the scene of Mufasa's death and occasionally bursting forth with sudden accents that would reappear in Gladiator. It's at times like this when Zimmer's transitions between the synthetic realm and his applications of real brass become muddy, not in the actual use of either, but rather in the harsh tones asked of, and mixed from, the real brass. There are occasional glimpses of vintage Zimmer action during "Elephant Graveyard" and elsewhere, mainly brief moments reminiscent of Black Rain, which wasn't atypical for Zimmer at the time. The villain of The Lion King is handled in very stereotypical fashion, though it's nice to hear the panpipe translated into a tolling chime for Scar's entry motif. Otherwise, Zimmer uses bassoons and saxophone in sleazy progressions to denote the villain's persona, and the slithery theme for Scar inhabits "Didn't Your Mother Tell You Not to Play With Your Food" at length before making cameo appearances early in "Hyenas in the Pride Land" and "The Rightful King." While it's interesting to hear the flute and trumpet interplays with this theme at the high end, perhaps to suggest the familial relation involved, the theme doesn't have the impact of the "Be Prepared" song melody itself. Zimmer, thankfully, does work the John melodies into his score at appropriate times, and the "Be Prepared" one in particular is foreshadowed on oboe early in the film's first score cue. Perhaps the best infusion of a song theme into the score comes at the end of "Hyenas in the Pride Land," when "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" receives an early hint on panpipes. There are several themes in the score that are independent of the songs, however, led by the aforementioned the score's main identity, the "ascension theme." This noble idea represents Simba's father, Mufasa, and in turn the position of king itself. Opening "We Are All Connected" with wondrous appeal and extending through "Kings of the Past" and the victorious finale of the score, this idea supplies all the score's majesty and yet maintains, in its primary phrases, distinct descending lines that share traits, intentionally or otherwise, with the melody of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.03 Stars
***** 5,614 5 Stars
**** 3,595 4 Stars
*** 1,571 3 Stars
** 724 2 Stars
* 727 1 Stars
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Fantastic score.
Don - December 20, 2014, at 4:34 a.m.
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Review of Legacy Collection edition
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Time to update this review! Legacy Time!   Expand >>
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The Lion King Legacy Collection - official expanded score!
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1994 Commercial Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 46:27
• 1. Circle of Life - performed by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M (3:58)
• 2. I Just Can't Wait to Be King - performed by Jason Weaver, Rowan Atkinson, and Laura Williams (2:49)
• 3. Be Prepared - performed by Jeremy Irons (3:38)
• 4. Hakuna Matata - performed by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella (3:31)
• 5. Can You Feel the Love Tonight - performed by Joseph Williams and Sally Dworsky (2:56)
• 6. This Land* (2:53)
• 7. ...To Die For* (4:16)
• 8. Under the Stars* (3:43)
• 9. King of Pride Rock* (5:57)
• 10. Circle of Life - performed by Elton John (4:50)
• 11. I Just Can't Wait to Be King - performed by Elton John (3:35)
• 12. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (End Title) - performed by Elton John (3:59)
* score track composed by Hans Zimmer
(track lengths not provided on packaging)
2001 Bootleg Tracks   ▼Total Time: 79:43
2003 Special Edition Tracks   ▼Total Time: 51:47
2014 Legacy Collection Tracks   ▼Total Time: 121:05

Notes Icon
The inserts of the 1994 and 2003 commercial albums contain lyrics and extensive credits, but no extra information about the score or film. The hardcover booklet of the 2014 2-CD set contains the same information, but with notes about the soundtrack and film art from the film's producers and quick notes from Zimmer about the demo score cues.
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Lion King are Copyright © 1994, 2001, 2003, 2014, Walt Disney Records, (Bootlegs), Walt Disney Records, Walt Disney Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 11/2/14.
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