He is the original singing voice of The Lion King, and he’s made a pretty penny out of it. Jason Weaver, one of the most underrated artists in Hollywood and also an incredibly smart entertainer, voiced Young Simba in the original 1994 Disney movie. It was recently revealed that Weaver refused a hefty one-time paycheck from the movie for a steady stream of royalties. And it made him rich enough to build his net worth to an estimated $4.0 million in 2019. Just how rich is Jason Weaver? We’ve traced his rising career right here.
Jason Weaver’s Mother Sang TV Jingles
Jason Michael Weaver was born on July 18, 1979 in Holland, Michigan. His mother, Marilyn “Kitty” Haywood, is the key member of the Chicago-based female vocal group Kitty & the Haywoods.
The group was made up of Kitty, her sisters Vivian and Mary Ann, and, later, Vivian’s daughter, Cynthia. They started as commercial singers for TV jingles before serving as backup singers for artists like Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, and Aretha Franklin.
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Mama, you already KNOW what time it is because I try to show you EVERY day in some kind of way just how much you mean to me. I love you with all of my heart @marilynhaywood16. I wish I could’ve been down there in ATL to celebrate this day with you, but don’t trip because you know what I’m outchea doin. I’m right there with you in spirit, so it’s all good. Have an amazing day today with the rest of the family, and don’t eat anything today due to celebrating that’s gonna cause your blood pressure to skyrocket through the roof! Aight?!! 😂😂😂 J/k.. Love you, Ma! Happy Mother’s Day! 😘😁 #MothersDay #ILoveMyMama
They released their debut album, Love Shock, in 1977, which was written and produced by the Ohio Players. After their moderate success and a second album, Excuse Me, I’ve Got a Life to Catch, Kitty & the Haywoods stepped away from the business.
But for Kitty Haywood, it wasn’t the end of her connection to the music industry. It would be her son, Jason Weaver, who would start his entertainer career at a young age.
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Weaver Started as a Child Artist
When he was only five years old, Jason Weaver jump-started his career as a child model. Back then, he featured in commercials for a beverage company and a fast-food chain.
He soon graduated to bigger acting roles like the 1990 TV movie The Kid Who Loved Christmas and the old Oprah Winfrey TV show, Brewster Place. He went on to portray a young Michael Jackson in the 1992 miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream.
He had a recurring role in the ‘90s sitcom Thea, during which Jason and his mother had moved to California. He balanced school with his rising career while in the entertainment capital.
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Weaver Earns Royalties from The Lion King
Sir Elton John visited the set of The Jacksons: An American Dream and heard a young Weaver sing. The composer of Disney’s 1994 blockbuster The Lion King then selected a 13-year-old Weaver as the voice of young Simba, giving him his big break.
The movie was the first big paycheck of Weaver’s career. And considering the iconic movie is still a cult favorite more than two decades later, he’s still raking in the royalties.
That wouldn’t have happened if he had taken Disney’s initial offer. As Weaver told Vlad TV recently, he was offered a flat $2.0 million for the movie.
“I remember it was like $2 million,” said Weaver. “You gotta remember, they’re coming off of Beauty and the Beast. They’re coming off of Aladdin. Disney had bread.”
However, Kitty Haywood, who was negotiating on behalf of her then-minor son, decided he would benefit from a long-term remuneration plan.
“Disney had a reputation for re-releasing stuff,” recalled Weaver. “I think at that time they had put out Sleeping Beauty and some of their old catalog from when Walt Disney was alive. They were releasing that stuff when they were releasing the new Disney stuff, so she [Weaver’s mother] 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? Is he going to be able to get a check for this when they eventually re-release this.”
Thanks to Haywood’s supreme negotiation abilities, Weaver walked away with $100,000 upfront and a share of royalties for a lifetime. Though his exact cut is not known, he has reportedly earned over $1.9 million—eclipsing the $2.0 million he was offered.
Haywood had excellent foresight because Disney re-released The Lion King several times in the last 25 years, including in 2002 for IMAX and in 2011 in 3D. To show his gratitude to his mom, he gives her a share of the royalty earnings.
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Weaver Released His Debut Album in 1995
While the Lion King revenue kept rolling in, Weaver followed his singing and acting interests. He appeared in movies like Drumline, The Ladykillers, and ATL. He also appeared in music videos for “Rock Yo Hips” by Crime Mob and “Make Up Bag” by The-Dream.
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Please allow me to share a little bit of personal history with y’all real quick on this #TBT. I wanted to share this pic of my mom (@marilynhaywood16) and the FIRST producer to EVER give me a professional shot behind the microphone at the age of 4 years old. That producer’s name is Paul David Wilson of Herschel Commercial Inc. This pic was taken of him and my mother at one of the many jingle sessions back in the late 70s/early 80s that he recruited my mom and other members of my family to participate in when they worked as some of the most successful Black jingle singers in the city of Chicago. That said, I cant mention this amazingly talented and accomplished gentleman without mentioning the advertising company that was responsible for providing so many opportunities to Black entertainers in Chicago back in those days.. That advertising company’s name was Burrell Advertising, headed up by Mr. Tom Burrell. I’m posting this because THESE were the people that gave me my start in the business. These are some the people responsible for helping me to get to where I am today. I wouldn’t be in this game if it weren’t for some of these people that I’m mentioning right now. Paul Wilson gave me an opportunity at 4 years old to sing on a national McDonald’s commercial that was geared to pay tribute to Dr. King. It was a great spot that I coincidentally made a lot of money from too. Lol I was so small to where Paul had to stack apple boxes on top of one another so that I could be able to even reach the microphone to sing. Lol! I thank my mom all of the time for everything she’s done for me, but I’ve NEVER been able to to publicly thank Paul David Wilson as well for helping me to start my career in this business. Thank you, Paul! Thank you to Mr. Tom Burrell as well for holding it down and providing opportunities to ALL of us back in the day in Chicago. I’m posting this because I feel it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the creative contributions that people have put forth that ultimately helped to provide opportunities to and feed a lot of Black families during that time. So, thanks to the architects that helped to start and build my career. Salute! 😁✌🏾 #tbt
Weaver released his debut album, Love Ambition, under Motown Records in 1995. In 2003, he was a featured artist on Chingy’s “One Call Away” and even appeared in the music video for the same.
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