Captain Fantastic And The Lion King - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Captain Fantastic And The Lion King

When Chris Morley says Hakuna, you say Matata. Hakuna...

While it took until last year for Sir Elton John's life story to hit the big screen in Rocketman, the story of his rise to fame, sharp fall & eventual redemption of sorts was, in a sense, a successor to his earlier composition work on animated films - the best known example of which is probably the score for The Lion King, on which he collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice to put together the likes of Hakuna Matata, Circle Of Life, Be Prepared, Can You Feel The Love Tonight & I Just Can't Wait To Be King.

The two had previously co-written Legal Boys on Elton's 1982 album Jump Up!.
It says something for the legal boys
But nothing much for us
That all we had together
Is so quickly ended thus
The legal boys have won again
And you and I have lost
They can't tell us how it happened
But they'll let us know the cost

His long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin would later hit out at the album as a whole, saying,
"It's a terrible, awful, disposable album, but it had “Empty Garden” on it, so it's worth it for that one song."
Who co-wrote that one, you might wonder? Him!

Within twelve years Rice would put a call out to Elton for a bit of help in setting his latest lyrics to music, after having been approached by Disney. The first problem that dogged the arrangement was the then-chairman of the company, Roy Disney, who wasn't a fan.
"We joke a lot that my knowledge of popular music stopped when Glenn Miller stopped recording. At least that's what my kids tell me." he said at the time.

Secondly Disney as a company never thought Elton John would take on the commission in the first place! As the man who proved them wrong later recalled-
"[Tim said,] 'Disney said you'd never do this. And you're a friend of mine and I told them you will.' I said, 'Tim, I've worked with you before. I love you. Of course I'll do it.'"
And so began the road which would end in a double whammy of awards for the pair as Can You Feel The Love Tonight walked away with Academy & Golden Globe awards for Best Original Song in the aftermath of the release & massive success of The Lion King!

Yet Disney hadn't exactly been impressed by the earlier demos of the songs, John singing them as initial rough sketches before the voice cast recorded the versions we hear in the finished film. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Rice recalled that...
"We had a lovely demo from Elton singing 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight,' but it's Elton singing at the piano.

I don't think they could quite relate to it being the voice of the characters. ... They felt like, 'Oh, we're getting Elton John tracks.' I knew they weren't, but they didn't know that."
The man at the piano had misgivings of his own. In an interview with Time magazine he revealed that initially he just couldn't get along with Hakuna Matata
"I sat there with a line of lyrics that began, 'When I was a young warthog, and I thought, 'Has it come to this? “

It would seem Elton's influence extended even to the editing suite, as he forced a change as to which pair of characters would sing Can You Feel The Love Tonight having been displeased with Timon & Pumbaa's early attempt.

Ernie Sabella - the original voice actor for Pumbaa - later revealed...
"It didn't show up because Elton John said, 'I don't want a big, stinky warthog singing my love song!'"
And so it was handed over to Simba & Nala instead, with an introductory cameo by the warthog & his meerkat friend!

All this after initally having been edited out entirely, according to Elton.
"I remember [Disney CEO] Jeffrey Katzenberg showing me The Lion King about four weeks before it came out, and it had no 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight. I was so upset, and I told him so. And he put it back in and it won an Oscar."

As well as winning him an Oscar it changed Elton's career, allowing him to move into musical theatre with adaptations of the likes of Billy Elliott, through which he would first meet & collaborate with Lee Hall, writer of the original film and the lyrics for its musical adaptation.

Hall would later write Rocketman, while Taron Egerton would step in to star as John. The pair had first met after Elton made a cameo in Kingsman: The Golden Circle sending up his own flamboyant image...

A Disney Legend award came the way of the ex-Reg Dwight in October of 2006. Six years later he returned to The House Of Mouse, in a sense, as Elton & his band provided the soundtrack to Gnomeo & Juliet...

Initially, the film was going to be produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios but was shut down by its new chief, John Lasseter, after the Pixar acquisition. Eventually it was produced by Elton's husband David Furnish through their Rocket Pictures company and distributed by Touchstone Pictures, the film distribution label of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Gnomeo & Juliet features reprises of several of Elton's former hits, alongside a selection of new songs, co-written with Bernie Taupin. None of them, though, performed by big, stinky warthogs!

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