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The Lion King is a classic Disney film that many kids born in the late 80s, 90s, and beyond grew up enjoying time and time again. The movie was recently recreated into a live-action film, featuring Donald Glover, Beyonce, and several other stars, though it wasn’t met with great reviews from critics. The original film is a beautiful animated film, though the final version we are all familiar with was completely different from the original script in many ways. Learn more about The Lion King‘s plot, characters that were cut, and an interesting plotline that was ditched before the movie was released below. 

The premise of ‘The Lion King’

The Lion King was originally released in 1994, and it became an instant hit. Elton John and Tim Rice famously wrote the original songs for the film, and it featured the voices of Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas among several more stars, according to IMDb

The film follows the adventure of prince Simba (Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Taylor Thomas) the lion as he grows up with his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones), who rules over the kingdom. When Mufasa is killed by his own brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), Simba escapes and embarked on an exciting adventure across Africa after being taken under the wing of Timon (Nathan Lane) the meerkat and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) the warthog, a pair of fun-loving creatures that teach Simba to enjoy life and relax. The two teach him the phrase “hakuna matata”, which means “no worries” in Swahili. 

His childhood friend, Nala (Moira Kelly, Niketa Calame-Harris) the female lion, eventually finds Simba and encourages him to return to the kingdom to confront Scar. The two battle it out with Simba emerging victorious and making Nala the queen of the kingdom. 

Cut characters from the original script

Stephanie Cozart Burton, LeVar Burton, and Michaela Jean Burton
Stephanie Cozart Burton, LeVar Burton, and Michaela Jean Burton | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

The Lion King comes stocked with plenty of interesting and dynamic characters, but many fans would be surprised to learn that there were plans to have even more characters in the film. One of the most notable cut-out characters was Nala’s brother, Mheetu. According to the Disney Fandom Wiki, Mheetu would have been Nala’s younger brother that was innocent, gullible, and regularly causing trouble. 

In the original story, Nala would have had to protect Mheetu from Scar and the hyenas, which could have had a major impact on the story. Additionally, a rhino with a tickbird on his back was supposed to be in the film, but the bird evolved into Zazu and the rhino was scrapped. Finally, a bat-eared fox named Bhati was set to be in the movie, but some speculate that the presence of these additional characters would have taken much of the film’s focus away from Simba. 

An interesting plotline that was abandoned

IMDb reports that one original plotline didn’t make the cut. Scar was to pursue Nala romantically, and she would not have shown interest. Scar would then have sent Nala away from Pride Rock because she did not comply with his wishes, though this type of sexual harassment was deemed inappropriate for young audiences. It would have given the film a PG-13 rating and would have taken too long to finish. 

Interestingly, this plot line made it into the stage musical as a way to add to Nala’s backstory thanks to the efforts of Julie Taymor, the director of the show. 

Clearly The Lion King was made with plenty of thought and intention, as there is no shortage of cut characters and abandoned plot lines that were originally supposed to make the cut. Even still, what was left became one of the most successful movies of the year, second only to Forrest Gump

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