This year, The Lion King returns to cinemas through Jon Favreau’s remake of the 1994 animated classic. Using some of the most advanced CGI animation and virtual-reality technology seen in a blockbuster, the remake brings some of the most beloved talking and singing animals back to the big screen for a new generation of viewers to enjoy.
While the movie is tightly written as it is and leaves few rooms for inconsistencies, some of the more interesting facts and backstories of the characters have been left out. This may have been done due to time constraint or their stories were better left where they were first written. Here are 10 things you may not know about the characters in The Lion King that are worth giving a look.
Based on his age alone, it’s easy to guess that Rafiki has been by Mufasa’s side for a long time. Their history, however, is a lot richer than that as the mandrill knew Simba’s father even before he became king.
In the book A Tale Of Two Brothers, Rafiki was a traveling scholar of sorts who was studying Africa. When he arrived in the Pride Lands, Rafiki was ambushed by hyenas (a younger Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed) before Ahadi – Mufasa and Scar’s father – saved him. He stayed by the lions’ side ever since as a form of gratitude.
It’s no secret that The Lion King is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, although watered down for children. Mufasa is this adaptation’s version of King Hamlet – the titular character’s father – but is considerably more benevolent.
In the play, King Hamlet is an angry ghost who orders his son to avenge him by killing his uncle Claudius for stealing his throne. Conversely, Mufasa is a kind father who looks out for his son even after death. Also, Mufasa’s wife Sarabi is fiercely loyal to him, whereas King Hamlet’s queen (Gertrude) is in love with his traitorous brother.
Inspired by King Claudius’ counselor Polonius, Zazu is Mufasa’s loyal adviser but more competent. Like Rafiki, Zazu’s service to the king was born out of gratitude.
In the book Friends In Need, Zazu was about to be eaten by hyenas before Mufasa saved him. Much to the lion’s annoyance, Zazu stuck around but the hornbill proved his worth when he alerted the king that Sarabi was stuck in a pit. Mufasa repays the bird by keeping him as his adviser. But in How True, Zazu?, Zazu claims to come from a bloodline of royal feathered advisors to the lions.
Shenzi, Kamari, and Azizi – originally Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed – are always seen with Scar and do his bidding. This isn’t just because the scarred lion promised them more prey and territory but because they go a long way back.
When Scar was just a cub, his father Ahadi scared the hyenas off to protect the then-newcomer Rafiki. Intrigued by their presence, Scar meets up with the hyenas later on and gets some life advice from them. From then on, the unlikely group became inseparable despite the animosity between their races.
The villainous lion is named “Scar” because of his iconic injury but he wasn’t born with it as some fans may jokingly suggest. As mentioned above, Scar – previously named Taka – asked the hyenas for some suggestions on how to make Mufasa look bad while propping himself up.
The hyenas recommended that Taka incite a fight between his brother and some angry buffalo. Taka eagerly does so, but things go awry and he gets attacked by the buffalo herd where he gets slashed across the face. He renames himself “Scar” as a reminder of his first failure.
Based on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Timon and Pumbaa are inseparable best friends from the very first moment they appear in The Lion King. What’s not shown is how they first met, which was a chance meeting.
The Lion King 1 ½ shows that Timon and Pumbaa met after the former got sick of life in the meerkat colony while the warthog stalked Timon because he was concerned for the lonely meerkat’s safety. The two then set out to find their dream home while discovering the true meaning of their unforgettable motto: Hakuna Matata.
While The Lion King spawned countless sequels, spin-offs, and other canonical material, its true stars are arguably Timon and Pumbaa. The two have appeared in more Lion King sequels than Simba himself and even popped up in other Disney features like Leroy and Stitch and House of Mouse.
Their fame reached new heights when they got their own show separate from all of the happenings of the Pride Lands. Titled Timon & Pumbaa, the show followed their globetrotting adventures after the movie’s events. The series lasted three seasons and was adored internationally if not so much domestically.
In the remake, Nala escapes Pride Rock with the help of Zazu in a desperate effort to find some help. This is a new scene added into the story that wasn’t shown in the animated original, although it would’ve played out differently.
In an early draft that was eventually scrapped, Scar propositioned that Nala becomes his queen so she could live an easier life. Nala refuses and is banished as punishment. This subplot is passed on to Sarabi in the remake, though she isn’t exiled by Scar following her rejection and biting insults.
In the finale, Simba bests Scar and throws him off Pride Rock, where he’s devoured by his formerly loyal hyenas. While this may be a bit morbid for a kid’s movie, Scar’s demise was considerably more horrifying in the alternate animated ending.
Originally, Scar defeated Simba in their duel and threw the lion off the cliff. Simba survived but, thinking he finally won, Scar laughs victoriously as the fires of Pride Rock consume him. This ending was scrapped and not used in the remake due to being deemed too dark. Being eaten alive is somehow better than dying while laughing mad.
Nothing spells true love in The Lion King better than Simba and Nala, but the fact that they could be siblings dampens the romance. This isn’t just some Game of Thrones reference, but something seriously plausible.
In real-life lion prides, there are usually many females and only a single (or very few) male lions, leaving procreation to just one of the latter. The only logical conclusion that can be derived here is that Simba and Nala are siblings because outside of Scar, who’s off in his own corner of the Pride Lands, Mufasa’s the only father in the pride. Neither version of the story addresses this issue.