×

Disney puts on a glitzy ‘Lion’ show

To beat the jungle drums for its summer release “The Lion King,” Disney dazzled the press with two on-lot gatherings Thursday that featured wild animals, generous clips from the film and hints about upcoming pix.

However, the highlight undoubtedly was the rare opportunity to see and hear Jeffrey Katzenberg sing.

Approximately 200 media members gathered for each of the two presentations on the Burbank studio’s Stage 1, which Disney dressed up with such touches as jungle foliage, an elephant, a giraffe, zebra and a baboon in diapers.

While the majority of the nearly two-hour sesh was devoted to tubthumping the new pic, Disney Studios chairman Katzenberg outlined the upcoming animation slate, including “Fa Mulan,” based on a Chinese folk tale, featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; “Hercules,” songs by Alan Menken and David Zippel (“City of Angels”); and “Aida,” Tim Rice and Elton John.

Before that, the studio has slated two animated pix, both with music by Menken and lyrics by Schwartz, for ’95 release: “Pocohontas” (featuring Mel Gibson’s voice as John Smith), and “Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Regarding “Lion King,” Katzenberg introduced feature animation prez Peter Schneider, the pic’s directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, animator Andreas Deja, producer Don Hahn (who, in a reference to the Nancy Kerrigan remark, opened his spiel with, “This is the corniest thing I’ve ever done”), and lyricist Rice.

Katzenberg said they were “anxious to share” what he termed a work-in-progress, the studio’s 32nd animated film, which features no humans and is Disney’s first to be based on original source material.

If the promo session was designed to drum up media interest, the studio exceeded expectations, as journalists responded enthusiastically to behind-the-scenes footage, drawings and sequences from the film — some completed, some sketched, and some a combo of the two. Similar reactions were said to have greeted presentations in New York and at NATO/ShoWest.

The animators spoke about the toon process and about their political and psychological concerns with the plot, about a lion cub anguished over his father’s death, which was arranged by dad’s overly ambitious brother. (It’s basically “Hamlet,” but funnier, and with some zippier tunes.)

Rice spoke about the seven songs he and Elton John wrote — only five remain in the finished product — and Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella came out to sing “Hakuna Matata,” with Lane introducing backup singers Katzenberg, Rice and the animators as “the Katzenberg Harlettes.”

The studio chairman brought out 650-pound lion, Poncho, (who apparently wanted to illustrate the food chain as he headed for the giraffe), and later answered questions from the press as he sat on a stool with a 4-week-old lion cub on his lap (evoking big “Awwwwws” from the traditionally heartless media).

In one of the day’s several allusions to the almost indetectible toon nudity in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” Katzenberg confided that the laserdisc version of “Lion King” will reveal “a few frames where the animals wear clothes.”

More Film

  • Florence Pugh, O. T. Fagbenle, Rachel

    'Black Widow': Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh Go Head-to-Head in First Footage

    Marvel’s “Black Widow” has only been in production for a month, but studio president Kevin Feige still delivered the goods for fans at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Filmmakers brought an intense sizzle reel of on-location shots, kicked off by a dazzling and bone-crushing fight sequence between lead Scarlett Johansson and her on-screen sister Florence [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor

    Natalie Portman Returns for 'Thor: Love and Thunder' as Female Thor

    Natalie Portman is coming back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she’s no one’s love interest this time around. The Oscar winner will play a female god of thunder in the fourth film from the Chris Hemsworth series, titled “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Portman hit the stage at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday to great [...]

  • Fantastic Four

    New 'Fantastic Four' Movie in Development at Marvel

    Marvel is going back to the Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced that a new movie based on the superhero group is in the works at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Further details, however, including a release date, were not revealed. It marks the first Fox property for Disney to mine since the [...]

  • Mahershala AliMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Mahershala Ali to Star in Marvel's 'Blade' Reboot

    Marvel is rebooting the “Blade” series, and has cast Mahershala Ali to star. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced the news at Comic-Con on Saturday as the panel’s big ending surprise. Ali also took the stage at the announcement to massive applause, donning the Blade baseball cap. Wesley Snipes previously played the half-vampire superhero in [...]

  • Doctor Strange

    'Doctor Strange' Sequel Billed as First MCU Horror Film at Comic-Con

    A sequel to “Doctor Strange” was announced as expected on Saturday at Marvel’s Comic-Con panel — what we didn’t see coming was the tone. Director Scott Derrickson said the film, titled “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” will mine the original comics and play up “the gothic, the horror.” Derrickson said it will lead [...]

  • Simu Liu Shang-Chi

    Marvel's 'Shang-Chi' Finds Its Lead

    Marvel has found its next superhero. The studio announced that Simu Liu has been tapped to star in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” during its Hall H presentation at Comic Con, joining cast member Awkwafina, who was also announced during the presentation. Additionally, Veteran actor Tony Leung has joined the film as [...]

  • Angelina Jolie The Kept

    Marvel Reveals Cast and Plot Details for 'The Eternals'

    “The Eternals” have arrived. The first film announced at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation on Saturday, unarguably the hottest ticket of the weekend, confirmed months of speculation by unveiling its cast: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Brian Tyree Henry, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff and Don Lee will star as 35,000 -year-old aliens. “This movie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content