The stage version of The Lion King has a lot of things going for it: a universal story, sing-a-long songs, childhood nostalgia for the animated movie, and relatively affordable tickets.
But it’s safe to say that without director Julie Taymor’s knack for awe-inspiring spectacles — plentifully evident in the live production’s dancing, costumes, movements, puppetry, and the conversion of Rafiki the baboon from a man to a woman, because the Disney movie lacked any substantive female characters — the musical adaptation wouldn’t have become the record-breaking pillar of Broadway that it is today.
Along with a fascinating film-directing career, Taymor can now boast that she is the visionary behind the top-earning work of any media in history. With 75 million viewers and $6.2 billion in ticket sales over its 17-year existence, The Lion King has surpassed the The Phantom of the Opera, the longest running show on Broadway, as the world’s most popular piece of entertainment. The film world’s biggest moneymaker, in comparison, is the $2.8 billion-earning Avatar.
There are currently ten productions of The Lion King worldwide. Taymor’s next film is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a film version of her acclaimed stage production. It enjoyed its world premiere at TIFF 2014.