Back in the early nineties, Disney made deals with developers to make video games based on their upcoming films. When Capcom’s deal with Disney expired with the Super Nintendo version of Aladdin, Virgin Interactive took on the mantle. Three of the games they published, The Lion King, Jungle Book, and the Sega Genesis version of Aladdin, have now been re-released DRM free on GOG.com
Aladdin is an interesting case because as mentioned before, the SNES and Genesis versions of Aladdin are completely different games. The SNES version was made by Capcom and it’s sort of a parkour platforming game reminiscent of titles like Prince of Persia. While the Genesis version is more akin to games such as Earthworm Jim and features sword combat and hand-drawn animation by Disney staff. Shinji Mikami, the lead developer of the SNES version and creator of the Resident Evil series, has expressed his preference towards the Genesis version. The SNES version was also ported to the Game Boy Advance to coincide with the DVD release of the film. The version on re-released on GOG is, of course, the Genesis version.
The Lion King was developed by Westwood Studios, the same developers of the Command and Conquer games. Disney was tight-lipped about the production details of the film and refused to show footage to Westwood. Because of this, the team had to develop the game with only storyboards and some concept art. Like Aladdin, actual Disney animators drew the sprites. One level in the game almost didn’t make the cut. The level was based on a deleted section from the film that detailed Simba’s adventures he had growing up in the jungle. Jeffrey Katzenberg cut the scenes for pacing purposes but allowed Westwood to incorporate elements of them for the Hakuna Matata level.
Lion King was also notorious for its difficulty. Louis Castle, co-founder of Westwood Studios, explained that the difficulty curve was deliberately osculated because of the Blockbuster rental program. As such, the second level’s monkey puzzle and ostrich challenge were made more difficult to ensure an increase in rentals.
Like the Genesis version of Aladdin, The Jungle Book was developed by Shiny Entertainment. Key members behind Earthworm Jim were involved, including Doug Tennapel, Ed Scofield, Mike Deitz, and Dave Perry. The game also had the composer from Earthworm Jim, Tommy Tallarico, compose 16-bit versions of the Sherman Brothers songs from the film.