Actor and singer Jason Weaver's unique contract for his role in Disney's 'The Lion King' has come into the spotlight, shedding light on the exploitative practices in Hollywood.
The actor and writer's strike in Hollywood, has made words like "residuals" and "royalties" commonplace terms for people all around the world. Artists have come forward expressing, how they feel cheated getting next to nothing when their projects are earning network giants and companies hundreds of millions. All of this exploitation is allowed to happen because of loopholes present in the contract, that artists sign during the inception of the show. Jason Weaver would have also found himself in such a disappointing state of affairs concerning his part in Lion King if his mother had not showcased far-sightedness and renegotiated his contract, as reported by Business Insider.
In 2019, on the occasion of the original "Lion King" turning 25, actor and singer, Jason Weaver gave an interview to VladTV detailing his experience and how his mother set him up for life with this movie. The negotiations done by his mother led to the actor receiving royalties from the project every time it was released in any format. In the movie, his voice has been featured in iconic songs like "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" and "Hakuna Matata."
Weaver further elaborates on why his mother was able to secure a contract like that for him. He explained that it was during the heyday of Disney when they could spend any amount of money to get the right artist for their movies. He shares, "You've got to remember, they're coming off of 'Beauty and the Beast.' They're coming off of 'Aladdin.' You know what I'm saying? Disney had brain."
Weaver was hired exclusively for the singing parts of Simba while the voiceover was given by Jonathan Taylor. The executives offered him 2 million dollars to participate in the movie. His entire family was beyond ecstatic with the news, as it was a huge paycheck for a middle-class family. But, after his mother researched a bit on the recent trends undertaken by the company, she decided to reject the offer and give the production company a new proposition.
Weaver remembers his mother saying, "Let's negotiate based on royalties." She understood very well that Disney was very keen on getting her son on board, and therefore felt confident in pushing the envelope a bit when it came to negotiations. The actor was shocked at his mother asking for such a thing, "This was definitely at a time when Disney wasn't doing those kinds of deals unless you were like Peabo Bryson or somebody like that, like already an established, huge pop star that they had recruited." This showcases, how his mother was so much more confident in his abilities than he ever was at that point in time.
Ultimately Disney and his mother decided that Weaver would receive $100,000 upfront for his work and then a portion of the revenue the movie would make every time it was released. Weaver's mother took this route after seeing Disney re-releasing many of their previous titles in theatres every time they had something new lined up. "So she was able to see the playing field and go, 'Wait a minute, this is going to make a lot of money over time. So what happens when my son turns 40? Like, is he still going to be able to get a check from this when they eventually rerelease this?'" he added. "And sure enough, she was absolutely right."
By 2019, the actor had earned more than $1.9 million (the amount he had initially foregone to get a royalties deal) through the royalties. This has the potential to increase every time the movie is released on a large or small scale. He will be able to pass it on to future generations and live the life of his dreams. His mother quite literally left him with a fund that will continue to propel him for eternity. "If she hadn't done that, that would've been one of the biggest mistakes of my career," he said.