Movie Songs

Lion King star reveals iconic song was almost completely different

May 25, 20243 Mins Read

The Lion King star Nathan Lane has revealed that Elton John made a late change to one of the film’s most famous songs.

One of the animated classic’s most well-known songs remains ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’, which soundtracks the moment that Simba and Nala begin to grow closer after being reunited as adults.

The song was mostly performed by Simba, Nala and some off-screen singers, with Timon (Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernest Sabella) both opening and closing the song.

nathan lanenathan lane

Dia Dipasupil – Getty Images

Related: Disney confirms The Lion King prequel casting for Mufasa

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lane revealed that the comedic duo were originally due to sing the entire song, but John changed his mind after wanting a more serious tone for the love song.

“Originally, we sang the whole thing,” recalled Lane. “Elton was mortified that the warthog and the meerkat were singing it. He said, ‘The reason I wrote the score was because I wanted to have a Disney love song. I didn’t want it to be sung by the rat and the pig.’

“We did [record] a version. We sang the whole thing in our character voices. It wasn’t like we were going to do our legit Broadway version. We were doing two very character-type voices. It’s hard to do that and be romantic. Elton was right.”

Lane also revealed that Timon and Pumbaa weren’t even conceived when he and Sabella first auditioned, with the characters only being written after producers were impressed by the duo’s vocal talents during an audition for the hyena roles.

Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion KingTimon and Pumbaa in The Lion King


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“They said, ‘You’re doing Guys and Dolls, and that’s the right energy for these two characters,” explained Lane. “They’re Damon Runyon-esque characters. So, Timon became a Brooklyn Jewish meerkat.

“And Ernie very cleverly did this vocal thing, which was a combination of two actors – Michael Gazzo and Wallace Beery. In the old days of vaudeville, there was a lot of dialect comedy, but now we’re not allowed to do that. But in animation, you can get away with it.”

The Lion King saga will have a new entry later this year, with Moonlight and The Underground Railroad director Barry Jenkins helming Mufasa: The Lion King, a prequel and sequel to the 2019 live-action remake of the original film.

Mufasa: The Lion King is scheduled to be released on December 20.

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