As well as being a two time Oscar winner, one of the highest grossing animated films of all time (and the highest grossing 2D-animated film of all time), and a Broadway sensation, The Lion King is simply iconic. A gem, a classic, a marvel.
Recently we learned that the characters Mufasa and Scar are not actually brothers and now another revelation in relation to the 1994 Disney movie has emerged.
In an interview with Collider, co-director Rob Minkoff discussed how the film took a risky move in killing Mufasa (played by the brilliant James Earl Jones) halfway through the movie. Such a structure had never been used before in an animated film (although Alfred Hitchcock infamously killed lead Marion Crane early on in Psycho).
Recalling a conversation he had with Jon Favreau, who is set to direct the live-action remake of The Lion King, Mirkoff said: “One of the things [Favreau] said, which I found really fascinating, he said to me, “If we made this movie for the first time today, the studio never would have let us kill Mufasa the way we did.” Because it’s not in the first reel.
“So in a movie like Finding Nemo, mom gets killed, but it happens in the first scene, and then it becomes kind of a prologue, but we don’t have any emotional attachment. To actually kill as important a character as Mufasa is, in the middle of the movie, I mean literally in the third reel, is not typical. It’s just not what you do. You don’t necessarily do that.
“So we had, not by design, but by the fact that it wasn’t based on something, and it was kind of an original story, and nobody knew what the rules were. So we said, ‘Well, I guess we’ll try.'”
Disney, of course, have a rep for killing off parent characters, arguably most famously in Bambi. But as the director points out, killing a character at such a relatively late stage in the film was risky. As we all know though, it had a huge emotional payoff.
One thing is for sure – as Favreau steps up to direct the remake, he has his work cut out.