We love Disney movies. We grew up with them and they completely shaped our generation (and the ones before and after). Some of our favorite Disney characters are adorable animated animals. As many times as we've watched these movies and adorable characters, though, there's still a lot to learn about them — like these 28 things.
1. The lyrics of “Circle of Life” are actually appropriately lion-centric. They’re Zulu for, “Here comes a lion, father” and “Oh, yes, it’s a lion.”
2. Speaking of word meanings, in The Lion King, Simba’s name is really on-the-nose: It means “lion” in Swahili.
3. Oh and Rafiki’s fun “asante sana squash banana” song? It’s an old nursery rhyme in Swahili, in case you needed more fun Lion King-meets-language trivia to whip out at parties.
4. The Jungle Book has some cool name trivia too. Bhalu (or, as Disney spelled it, “Baloo”) is Hindi for bear.
5. Not everyone was happy with the portrayals of the animals in The Lion King. A hyena biologist actually sued Disney for its portrayal of hyenas as villains.
6. Rex, the anxious T-Rex from Toy Story, owes his very existence to Avengers director Joss Whedon, who introduced the character when he was brought on to punch up the script.
7. According to the Disney Animals Wikipedia, male Disney animals outnumber female Disney animals by more than two to one. The site lists 97 female animal characters and 211 male animal characters.
8. How’s this for attention to detail? There are 6,469,952 black spots in 101 Dalmatians.
9. Want more specific Dalmatian data? Pongo has 72 spots, while Perdita has 68.
10. Pocahontas as two memorable animal friends, but she almost had a third. She was originally supposed to have a Pocahontas originally had a talking turkey sidekick named Redfeather. The original plan was to have the character voiced by John Candy, but after Candy passed away, the character was scrapped.
11. Several Disney animals don’t speak in a traditional sense, but Dumbo is the only totally silent Disney animal to star in his own movie.
12. The Beast from Beauty and the Beast is based on several real world animals. Specifically, he has the head of a buffalo, the brow of a gorilla, the body of a bear, the mane of a lion, the tusks of a boar, and the legs and tail of a wolf — look for all of those next time you watch the movie (and when you see the Emma Watson-helmed reboot in March).
13. Walt Disney was a stickler for accurately animating animals. When Snow White was in production, he kept a literal menagerie of animals on the studio lot for the animators to reference.
14. When it came to adding sound to The Lion King, lions actually got shut out in a big way. Tiger roars were used because lion roars didn’t seem loud enough to the filmmakers.
15. The Lion King’s sound was almost very different in another way too. The voice actors who made it into the final film weren’t all the first choices for their roles. Sean Connery was considered to voice Mufasa and Eddie Murphy was almost asked to voice Timon. Oh and Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, who expertly brought Timon and Pumba to life, were originally considered for the Hyena roles. WHAT IS THIS WORLD?
16. Mufasa from The Lion King and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid are linked in a cool way. Samuel E. Wright, who voiced Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, played Mufasa in the original Broadway cast of The Lion King. How’s that for a crossover?
17. Sebastian from The Little Mermaid almost sounded very different too. He nearly had a British accent.
18. Bambi was a total badass in real life. True story: The kid who provided the voice of America’s favorite young deer/tearjerker actually grew up to be the youngest drill instructor in Marines history. His name was Donnie Dunagan and he served three tours in Vietnam. WHOA.
19. Another cool IRL Disney voice actor story: The voice actors who brought Mickey and Minnie mouse to life (Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor) got married in real life in 1991. They stayed married until Allwine’s death in 2009.
20. Not everything you see in a Disney movie is a good idea for real life. Turns out, more than 50 children were hospitalized with salmonella after the release of The Princess and the Frog. Life imitated art and the kids kissed frogs. However, unlike in the movie, it wasn’t a magical experience.
21. Just because Disney movies have been full of animals for years doesn’t mean they didn’t tend to act very civilized and human. In fact, Pumbaa was the very first Disney character (animal or otherwise) to fart on-screen in The Lion King in 1994.
22. Several of the dogs from Lady and the Tramp have cameos in 101 Dalmatians if you look closely during the Twilight Barking scene.
23. The Rescuers’ Bernard was bringing awareness to mental health issues back in 1997. He suffers from triskaidekaphobia — fear of the number 13.
24. Bruce, the trying-to-be-vegetarian shark from Finding Nemo, was named after the animatronic shark from Jaws. Seems fitting.
25. The Beatles *almost* made it into the Disney canon. They were originally intended to voice the vultures in The Jungle Book.
26. Remy the Rat from Ratatouille almost got his own wine. While adult fans of the movie probably would have loved it, Disney was warned by the California Wine Institute that it probably wasn’t a great idea to advertise an alcohol with a cartoon character (even if the cross-marketing would have made a TON of sense in context), so they killed the idea.
27. Do the dog barks in 101 Dalmatians sound familiar? Maybe they should because they were provided by Clarence Nash, aka the voice of Donald Duck.
28. Timon and Pumbaa were originally supposed to sing all of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” which would have been way, way less romantic.