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|"Circle of Life"|
Artwork for UK CD single, also used internationally
|Single by Elton John|
|from the album The Lion King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Released||9 August 1994|
|Format||CD, vinyl record (7"), audio cassette|
Santa Monica, California
BOP Recording Studios
Mmabatho, South Africa
|Label||Walt Disney, Mercury|
|Songwriter(s)||Elton John (music)|
Tim Rice (lyrics)
|Elton John singles chronology|
"Circle of Life"[note 1] is a song from Disney's 1994 animated film The Lion King. Composed by Elton John, with lyrics by Tim Rice, the song was performed by Carmen Twillie (the deep female lead vocals) and Lebo M. (opening Zulu vocals) as the film's opening song. In an interview, Rice said he was amazed at the speed with which John composed: "I gave him the lyrics at the beginning of the session at about two in the afternoon. By half-past three, he'd finished writing and recording a stunning demo." Elton John sang a pop version (with alternative lyrics) of the song with the London Community Gospel Choir, which was included in the film's soundtrack and made into a music video.
"Circle of Life" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1994, along with two other songs from The Lion King: "Hakuna Matata" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," the latter of which won the award. The song reached No. 11 in the UK and No. 18 in the US and is featured frequently in attractions based on The Lion King, such as Disney theme parks and parades. Michael Crawford sang it as part of a medley for The Disney Album in 2001.
The song will be featured in Disney's 2019 photorealistic computer-animated remake of The Lion King and was used in the first trailer of the film, a near shot-for-shot remake of the opening of the original animated film.
In the theatrical adaption, the opening sequence is noticeably different from the opening of the film. For example, the song is sung by Rafiki instead of an off-screen female narrator.
With the sun rising over the Pride Lands, Rafiki commences the start of the production by singing the opening chant of the song and summoning the animals of the Pride Lands for the presentation of baby Simba. As the first two verses of the musical number end, a representation of Pride Rock appears on stage carrying its two reigning rulers, Sarabi cradling the small puppet representing her son in her arms with Mufasa alongside her. As the choir chants excitedly in the background, Rafiki accompanies the two monarchs to the top of Pride Rock to bless the cub before raising him high in the air, singing joyfully alongside the chorus as the gathered animals bow before their new prince.
At the end of Act II, Simba's friends and family acknowledge him as the rightful king after Scar's defeat. Rafiki crowns Simba with the mantle of kingship after his victory and Simba ascends Pride Rock. There he gives a mighty roar which echoes across the whole kingdom, and the animals come back to the Pride Lands to recognise and salute Simba as the rightful king. The musical ends as Rafiki presents Simba and Nala's newborn cub to all of the animals, followed by a blackout that finishes Act II and leads to the curtain call at the end of the performance.
The assembly of animals that appear are slightly different from the beginning of Act II. There are no wildebeests and adult elephant, only two zebras instead of three, nine gazelles instead of twelve, and half of the bird performers instead of four. Only the baby elephant, the rhino, the giraffes, three cranes, the cheetah, and the birds appear as poles on cranes as kites.
The song was re-recorded in 2003 by the Disney Channel Circle of Stars, a group of actors and actresses who have appeared in Disney Channel television series and original movies, for the album DisneyMania 2. The line-up was significantly different when their next rerecording, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," was released two years later.
In 2017 American boyband 98° recorded a cover version of the song to help promote a re-release of The Lion King on Blu-ray as part of the Disney Signature Collection. The single was released as a digital download on 22 September 2017.
With the usual number of dubs normally released by Disney, for The Lion King, a special Zulu dub was made in South Africa. This is not just the only Zulu dub ever made by Disney, but also the only dub made in any African language, other than Arabic.
Beside the official dubs, several local TV stations made their own dub of the movie, or re-dubbed an existing version, in local languages. Namely: Arabic, Armenian, Austrian German, Crimean Tatar, Kabardian, Nogai, and Tamil.
|"Circle of Life" in other languages|
|Arabic||نينا جول (Nina Jul) '94
جالا الحديدي (Jala El-Hadidi) '03
|"دائرة الحياة" ("Dâ'iratu-l Hayât")||"Circle of Life"|
|Brazilian Portuguese||Zezé Motta||"O Ciclo Sem Fim"||"The Endless Cycle"|
|Bulgarian||Стефка Оникян (Stefka Onikyan)||"Свят и вечен закон" (Svyat I Vechen Zakon)||"A Holy And Eternal Law"|
|Cantonese||甄楚倩 ("Yan Choh-Sin"; Yolanda Yan)||"旋轉的世界"||"Spinning World"|
|Castilian Spanish||Táta Vega||"El ciclo de la vida"||"The cycle of life"|
|Croatian||Jadranka Krištof||"Život teče u krug"||"Life goes in circles"|
|Czech||Jitka Zelenková||"Život proudív nás"||"Life is flowing"|
|Danish||Lise Dandanell||"En verden af liv"||"A World of Life"|
|Dutch||Barbara Dex||"De Levenscyclus"||"The Circle of Life"|
|Estonian||Silvi Vrait||"Eluring"||"Life Circle"|
|European Portuguese||Ana Paulino||"O ciclo sem fim"||"The endless circle"|
|Finnish||Anneli Saaristo||"Elämän tie"||"The road of Life"|
|French||Debbie Davis||"L'histoire de la vie"||"The story of life"|
|German||Jocelyn B. Smith||"Der ewige kreis"||"The endless circle"|
|Greek||Βιβή Κίτσου (Vivi Kitsou)||"Ο κύκλος ζωής" ("O kyklos zois")||"The circle of life"|
|Hebrew||Ruti Holtzman||"גלגל החיים" ("Galgal Hachayim")||"The wheel of life"|
|Hindi||Unknown||जीवन का चक्र ("Jeevan Ka Chakra")||"The survival of life"|
|Hungarian||Andrea Szulák||"Az élet az úr"||"Life is the master"|
|Icelandic||Berglind Björk Jónasdóttir||"Hringras Lifsins"||"Call Grass life"|
|Indonesian||Unknown||"Roda Kehidupan"||"Circle of Life"|
|Italian||Ivana Spagna||"Il cerchio della vita"||"The circle of life"|
|Japanese||宮園ゆかり (Miyazono Yukari)||"サークル・オブ・ライフ" ("Sākuru Obu raifu")||"Circle of Life"|
|Korean||이현저 (Lee Hyun-ju)||"끝이 없는 길" ("kkeuchi eomneun gil")||"The Endless Path"|
|Latin American Spanish||Táta Vega||"El ciclo sin fin"||"The endless cycle"|
|Malaysian||Unknown||"Kitaran Kehidupan"||"The cycle of life"|
|Norwegian||Marianne Antonsen||"Livets sirkel"||"Circle of Life"|
|Polish||Joanna Dark '94
|"Krąg życia"||"Circle of Life"|
|Romanian||Andreea Poruțiu||"Povestea-i a ta"||"The story belongs to you"|
|Russian||Анна Вавилова (Anna Vavilova)||"Жизни вечный круг" ("Zhizni Vechnyj Krug")||"Eternal circle of life"|
|Serbian||Александра Радовић (Aleksandra Radović)||"Životni krug"||"Circle of Life"|
|Slovak||Jana Kocianová||"Kolobeh Života"||"Circle of Life"|
|Slovene||Diana Lečnik||"Krog Živjenja"||"Circle of Life"|
|Swedish||Meta Roos||"En värld full av liv"||"A world full of life"|
|Taiwanese Mandarin||Unknown||"生生不息" ("Shēngshēng bù xī")||"Endless"|
|Thai||สายสุนีย์ สุขกฤต (Saisunee Sukkrit)||"วิถีแห่งชีวิต" ("Wit̄hī h̄æ̀ng chīwit")||"Circle of Life"|
|Turkish||Zuhal Olcay||"Hayatın Çarkı"||"The Wheel of Life"|
|Ukrainian||Наталя Єфименко (Natalia Efimenko)||"Коло життя" ("Kolo zhyttya")||"Circle of Life"|
|Zulu||Mara Louw||"Indlela impilo"||"Way of life"|
Like it happened with the movie, when the musical was translated into other languages, the song also was translated. The versions below are those that are available for the public through cast recordings of the respective productions. The Brazilian and Korean productions were the only non-English productions of the show that didn't have a cast recording released at the time the show played in the respective countries.
|"Circle of Life" in other languages|
|Dutch||Nomvula Dlamini (2004 studio recording) /
Gugwana Dlamini (2016 live recording)
|"Alles ademt en leeft"||"Everything breathes and lives"|
|English||Tsidii Le Loka (Broadway cast recording) /
Buyi Zama (South African cast recording)
|"Circle of Life"|
|European Spanish||Brenda Mhlongo||"El ciclo vital"||"The vital cycle"|
|French||Zama Magudulela||"L'Histoire de La Vie"||"The story of life"|
|German||Velephi Patricia Mnisis||"Der Ewige Kreis"||"The endless circle"|
|Japanese||N/A||"ザ・サークル・オブ・ライフ" (Za sākuru Obu raifu)||"The circle of life"|
|Latin American Spanish||Shirley Hlahatse||"El ciclo vital"||"The vital cycle"|
Due to the film's impact on popular culture, the song "Circle of Life" is often referenced in other media.
The opening to The Lion King was parodied in an episode of the 1990s cartoon Animaniacs, in which the theme of "Circle of Life" was parodied with "Surprises in Life", with vocals by Jim Cummings and Cree Summer as lead singer.
The Tenth Doctor finds himself subconsciously quoting "Circle of Life" during a confrontation with the Sycorax leader in the 2005 Christmas special of the revived Doctor Who series, "The Christmas Invasion".
In one of Disney's many self-references, "The Circle of Life" appeared as a false beginning of the film Chicken Little, when Buck was trying to open the movie. In the 1998 movie A Bug's Life Hopper explains to Flit's colony that his protection in exchange for food is one of those "Circle of Life" kind of deals.
It is currently the main theme song for Disney's Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort. Disney's Epcot park currently features a cinema-type film called Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable from 1995 with Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba discussing environmental topics at the Walt Disney World Resort as well.
At the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner, President Barack Obama jokingly claimed he was going to show his long-form birth video, spoofing an earlier controversy about refusing to show his long-form birth certificate to prove he was, in fact, born in the United States. The opening chant was played from the film, and Simba was seen being lifted to the skies. This was used to poke fun at Obama's alleged Kenyan heritage.
The Japanese band Da Pump recorded a cover version of the song in 2003.
It is used in the Modern Family pilot when Mitch and Cam introduce Lily to the family.