'The Lion King': The Original Ending Was Really Dark for a Disney Movie

Disney’s 1994 animated feature film The Lion King is considered by many to be one of the, if not the, best of the studio’s animated films. However, it’s no secret that Disney’s massive collection of animated features have a bit of a dark side. After all, we’re talking about the studio that killed Bambi’s mother and disposed of many of its story’s villains in a very gruesome manner. So, it doesn’t exactly come as a shock that the original ending to their former highest-grossing animated feature was a little less than family friendly.  

Keep reading to learn more about the dark alternate ending to one of Disney’s most cherished classics, The Lion King.  

The theatrical ending of The Lion King is considerably less gruesome than its alternate counterpart. In case you need a recap before we delve into just how messed up the alternate ending is, here’s a quick summary of how the original film ends: 

Simba rushes back to Pride Rock to face both his uncle Scar and all of his fears surrounding returning home after living in exile for so long. Simba offers Scar peace at first, but the prideful lion refuses the offer and throws red hot coals into his nephew’s face. Scar and Simba fight as Pride Rock erupts into flames around them. Simba, at last, clears his name by forcing Scar to confess that he was the one that killed Mufasa. The two battle it out while the rest of the pride fights off Scar’s band of hyenas. Simba spares Scar’s life and leaves his fate up to the hyenas, who aren’t exactly merciful. In a stroke of poetic irony, Scar is eaten alive by his own gang of cackling, four-legged followers. 

Once order has been established again, a healing rain sweeps across the valley and restores Pride Rock to its glorious former self with Simba as the rightful king. 

In the alternate ending, Scar defeats Simba. 

Storyboards reveal a much darker conclusion to The Lion King we know and love. 

During the battle of Pride Rock, Simba gains the upper hand and throws Scar over the edge. A moment later, Simba hears a cry for help. Scar survived the fall, having grabbed on to the side of Pride Rock for safety. Simba is conflicted for a moment, knowing fully well Scar murdered his father and just moments ago would have murdered him. Still, Simba upholds his moral compass and helps his uncle to safety. Before attacking, Scar whispers to Simba, “Goodnight, sweet prince,” in a very Hamlet fashion and throws his nephew into the burning abyss below. 

Simba was revealed to have survived the fall, unbeknownst to Scar, who is gloating over his victory by laughing maniacally on top of Pride Rock. His hubris distracts him from the rising flames surrounding him, which eventually consume him entirely. 

Disney producers ultimately decided to scrap this ending on account of it being far too terrifying for children and figured that having Scar confront the hyenas one final time would be poetic enough of an ending, albeit still disturbing. 

As if The Lion King’s alternate ending wasn’t upsetting and traumatizing enough, The Lion King II introduces yet another horrifically dark and unnecessary villain death in yet another alternate scene. 

The Lion King II welcomes a new league of antagonists known as The Outsiders, a group of lions who still follow Scar as fanatics and loathe Simba for his part in their leader’s demise. Their new leader, an especially obsessed fanatic named Zira, attempts to use her son, Kovu to get close to Simba and kill him. However, things don’t exactly go to plan when Kovu falls in love with Simba’s daughter, Kiara. 

Like the first film, the climax of The Lion King II is a second vicious battle pitting lions against lions. Zira attempts to kill Simba, but Kiara saves him before Zira falls into a flooding river and drowns. In the alternate ending, Zira’s death isn’t as much of an accident. 

Kiara attempts to reach Zira and save her life, but instead, the lioness smiles evilly at Kiara, saying, “No! Never!” before letting go of the rocks and falling to her death. Yikes.

For a franchise so centered around the Circle of Life, it’s amazing just how much of The Lion King’s story is cloaked with death, but we digress. For the sake of all of our childhoods, we’re glad animators decided to stick with the theatrical ending of both films. Hakuna matata.  

Revisit Pride Rock by checking out both The Lion King and its sequel The Lion King II (with their original non-nightmare inducing endings) on Disney+.  

Read more:Here’s How the Original Animators of ‘The Lion King’ Feel About The Remake

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