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Disney Pulls Out All the Stops for ‘Lion King' Release

6 Oct, 2003 By: Stephanie Prange

In a decade in this industry, I've never seen Michael Eisner in person – until he showed up Friday night to introduce the new digitally remastered Lion King Special Edition at Hollywood's El Capitan, which pointed up the increasing importance of DVD in the studio ledger.

Disney also brought out Elton John to perform two songs from the beloved animated hit: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” which won an Oscar, and “Circle of Life,” which the singer said he thought should have won the Oscar.

While Disney is known for its galas, I haven't seen such high star wattage for a Disney video release in a long time – if ever. The Robin Williams appearance during the 1996 VSDA convention to promote Aladdin and the King of Thieves comes to mind, but I've never before seen Eisner.

Much of it can be chalked up to the increasing importance of event marketing with the advent of sellthrough DVD, but I also think Disney has a lot riding on the Lion King release. Heretofore the highest-selling video of all time, with 25 million units sold, The Lion King has some strong competition this year from Pixar's Finding Nemo, due on video less than a month later, also from Disney. It's also probably no coincidence that Eisner, et al, is renegotiating the Pixar distribution deal. The Lion King this summer lost its animated box office title to Finding Nemo. It will most likely hold onto its title as the biggest-selling video of all time, but Disney doesn't appear to be taking any chances. The studio has a lot riding on this classic, which marked the apex of its animated hit parade under Eisner as well as a high point in traditional animation. While CGI hits like Nemo and DreamWorks' Shrek are pushing aside the old guard in more ways than one, Disney is out to prove it's still the King of the video jungle.

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