Why The Smart Mom Of The Boy Who Sang Young Simba's Songs In 'The Lion King' Turned Down $2 Million For The Role

$2 million is life-changing money for most. But his mom decided to play the long game instead.

why jason weaver mom turned down 2 million for lion king simba songs Vlad YouTube / Disney 

Hollywood is the place where dreams come true if you're lucky, and for Jason Weaver, that's precisely what happened at the ripe old age of 12. 

But for Weaver, it all came together in a counterintuitive way that seemed downright bonkers at first but ended up being legendarily astute in the end.

Jason Weaver's mom turned down $2 million for 'The Lion King' when he was asked to sing the role of Young Simba.

"The Lion King" is, of course, iconic on a level few other Disney movies are. Released in 1994, it is to this day the highest-grossing traditionally hand-drawn animated film of all time and the best-selling home video release ever as well. 


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And it's gone on to continue minting money ever since, from its long-running Broadway incarnation which itself broke the record for the highest-grossing week in Broadway history over Christmas 2022, to the 2019 remake starring none other than Beyoncé that grossed more than $1 billion. 


And Jason Weaver, the now 44-year-old former child actor who sang all of Young Simba's songs in the original, has made money off of it all along, thanks to an incredibly astute instinct his mother had back in 1994 to turn down Disney's initial offer for the film.

Weaver was tapped to sing Young Simba following his roles as a child actor and was offered $2 million for the job.

Weaver has had a prolific career in Hollywood. Beginning in 1990, he starred in the TV series "Brewster Place" and the film "The Long Walk Home" alongside Whoopi Goldberg. As an adult, he appeared in films like "Drumline" and sang for artists like rapper Chingy.



But it was his role as a young Michael Jackson in the 1992 TV mini-series "The Jacksons: An American Dream" that really kicked his career into high gear and got him noticed by rock legend Elton John. 


John was reportedly so impressed by Weaver's singing in the TV movie that he tapped Weaver to sing for "The Lion King," for which John wrote the Oscar-winning music. And the rest is history. When you hear "Hakuna Matata" and "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," you're hearing Weaver's singing voice.

Producers and execs at Disney were so over the moon about Weaver's singing they made Weaver an offer of $2 million for his work. But his mom had another, much better idea. 

Weaver's mom, sensing 'The Lion King' would be a phenomenon, demanded royalties instead and it paid off.

In a recent interview, Weaver shared just how much that $2 million offer meant to him and his family. "You know, that amount of money to an average middle-class family in Chicago in the early 90s, that's something."



But as thrilled as Weaver was, his mom wasn't having it. "Immediately my mom goes, 'Wait a minute,'" he said. "After… the initial excitement wore off," Weaver said his mom started thinking about the ins and outs of the $2 million deal. 


"That's all he'll ever get for the remainder of his life?" she asked the execs in charge of the deal. And when they confirmed it was indeed a one-time payout, "she was like, 'no, let's negotiate royalties, let's negotiate based off of royalties.'" 

Such deals are more common nowadays, but back in the 90s it wasn't really a thing, and it's not implausible that Disney thought they were getting a much better deal by taking Weaver's mom's counteroffer. If so, they were dead wrong. 

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Weaver's mom struck a deal instead for a $100,000 payout, plus royalties that have paid him vastly more than $2 million over the years.

"It was relatively low," Weaver said of the initial payout his mom negotiated, "I think it was like 100,000," which he said was by far the biggest paycheck he'd ever gotten at the time. But turning down the other $1.9 million proved to be a life-changing move on his mom's part. 


Royalties mean Weaver has gotten a piece of the profits of everything that has stemmed from the original movie, from its video sales to its product tie-ins and theme park iterations. And the Broadway show and 2019 remake ensures the original continues to generate sales, which means the checks keep coming.


"Honestly, that income, that residual income that I generate? That [money] is so helpful!" Weaver exclaimed, going on to say that he cheers whenever he sees a "Lion King" check arrive in the mail because he knows it's going to be a chunk of change.

It just goes to show the power of listening to your gut. Even as certain as Weaver's mom was that "The Lion King" would be a hit, even she probably couldn't have guessed what a decade-spanning phenomenon it would be or that trusting her instincts would pay off so handsomely for her son.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.