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The Animals of Lion King in Real Life

By Shiwani PandeySeptember 18, 2022
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The Story Behind the Animals in the Movie the Lion King

Disney’s animation movies have always featured a mix of human characters along with animal characters. Even the movie The Jungle Book had Mowgli as a human character but The Lion King was the only Disney movie to have skipped using any human characters at all. The movie is based on the story of a lion cub Simba and is set in the deep jungles of Africa. All the characters in the story are animals but the question on everyone’s mind is, ‘Are the Lion King animals real?’ They do look real but these animals talk and sing as well which makes one wonder if CGI was used to augment real animals or did Disney creat these fabulous characters from scratch. Let’s answer this question and also tell you a little more about the animals you see in this movie.

The Truth About the Animals in the Disney Animated Movie the Lion King

A Still From the Movie the Lion King

How is the Movie Different From Other Disney Features?

The Jungle Book is a movie that is quite similar to The Lion King since both these movies had several animal characters that could talk and sing. However, The Jungle Book is an animated movie that featured a cast of animals created with CGI and it also had a CGI setting. Mowgli, the key character in the movie was portrayed by a real person, Neel Sethi. But the same is not the case with the new version of the movie The Lion King which skips humans entirely and has an all-animal cast, just like its animated version.

Are They Real Or Is It CGI Wonder Again?

To answer the question if real animals were used in the movie, the new Lion King movie does not feature any real animals just like its animated original. Every character in the movie is a fully-CGI character and so is the African setting. So, the company is true to its disclaimer that no real animals were harmed during the filming of the movie! This movie has been directed by Jon Favreau who believes that the animation in the movie is so realistic that audiences would have believed the animals to be real if they didn't know otherwise.

The Lion King is an animated feature created by artists in an old-fashioned way and no motion picture was used for the characters. Different actors gave their voiceovers for the characters just like in a regular animated movie. However, Disney refuses to treat it as an animation movie and calls it a live-action movie. Also, it was produced through Walt Disney Pictures rather than Disney animation which produces all their animation features.

The Animals of The Lion King in Real Life

If you’re asked to name an animal seen in the lion king, the obvious pick would obviously be the protagonist of the movie, the mighty lion Simba. But this movie had many other unforgettable characters. Who can forget Timon or Pumba or even Rafiki? While most of us remember the character names we don't know the animal names of some of these characters. Let's tell you about the animals that made The Lion King an amazing movie.

  • Lion

In the Movie: A movie titled The Lion King has to feature the king of animals, the lions for sure! The lion characters in the movie were Simba, Nala, Mufasa, Sarabi, and the villainous Scar.

In Real Life: Lions are social felines that organize themselves in groups known as pride and these pride are led by females, unlike in the Lion King films. Lions are the only species of cat where the male and the female are obviously physically different. While the males are distinguished by their lengthy manes, a sign of their sexual maturity, the females don't have manes at all.

  • Meerkat

In the Movie: Timon, the wise-cracking sidekick and partner in crime of Pumbaa


In Real Life: Timon Animal Name is a meerkat. These animals often look out for one another and many of them stand sentry (on their hind legs) to watch out for predators. This helps them warn the larger group of the presence of danger using specific calls. Female meerkats often babysit for other females, taking care of their offspring; feeding and protecting them.

  • Hyena

In the Movie: Shenzi, Kamari, and Azizi, who played Scar’s henchman

In Real Life: Because of their appearance and behaviour, hyenas aren't exactly a favourite of most people, just like their character in the movie. They are often mistaken for dogs but they are members of the feliforma (cat-like) suborder of animals.

  • Warthog

In the Movie: Pumbaa and his partner Timon adopt Simba when he's exiled following the death of Mufasa.

In Real Life: Warthogs are wild pigs and that brings the word ‘pig’ doesn't exactly spell "extremely fast runner." However, for warthogs, sprinting is actually their main means of defence against predators. They can burst into sprints of up to 55 miles per hour when in danger!

  • Mandrill

In the Movie: Rafiki, the shaman-like advisor to Mufasa.

In Real Life: Rafiki is a Mandrill, who are often mistaken as baboons because of their brightly coloured faces. These primates are the world's largest monkeys. Their males can grow up to an average weight of around 71 pounds.

  • Yellow-billed Hornbill

In the movie: Zazu, the majordomo of Mufasa is the bird in Lion King

In Real Life: During their mating season, yellow-billed hornbills build their nests in cavities in trees. With help from her mate, the female seals herself in using mud and food while sitting on eggs. The male passes food to the female through a slit that they leave in this "door"

These are just a few of the amazing animals that were a part of the large ensemble of the Disney movie The Lion King. And even though they were created using CGI, all these animals transported us all to the real jungles of Africa.