Today is the much-anticipated release of the live-action Lion King movie, the story that is a gem in the Disney empire. It’s the highest-grossing entertainment property in history, bringing in $8.1 billion in revenue from the Broadway version alone. Add in the original movie (and soundtrack), Broadway soundtrack, spin-offs and merchandising – well, there are more dollar signs than hyenas.
Part of what made the story magical was the music, specifically the Can You Feel the Love Tonight ballad sung by Elton John. And while hindsight would make it obvious that the song would be a mega-hit – winning a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song, plus earning Sir Elton a Grammy – it wasn’t always so clear to the folks at Disney.
The producers originally slated the song to be sung by the comic sidekicks Timon and Pumbaa but Elton John vetoed that plan, stating “it was meant to follow Disney’s tradition of great love songs and that it could express the lions’ feelings for each other better than the dialogue could.” Modifications were made to have the song in the background during the “love scene” and to be fully featured during the credits. John exerted his influence again when the song was cut from one of the final screenings and insisted that it be returned to the movie, a wise move considering it went Platinum and sold over 1 million copies.
If you’re one of the many to see the new version of the movie or to hear the song again after a hiatus, remember that what in retrospect what seems like a sure hit had a rough road to greatness. If not for the persistence of its champion the ballad would have never been heard outside of the studio.
Even Disney can get some things wrong – until they have the wisdom to listen to others in order to get them right. You, too, can feel the love if you don’t dig in and let greatness pass you by — and if you don’t give up when you believe in something so strongly. Hakuna Matata!