In case you hadn’t noticed, I love talking about Disney villains. The more devious they are, the better I like them, and there are few more devious, more conniving and more loathsome than Scar, Mufasa’s evil brother in The Lion King (1994).
Scar (voiced to perfection by Jeremy Irons) holds an eternal grudge that Mufasa is King of Pride Rock instead of him, and when the birth of Simba makes it certain that he’ll never be king, Scar decides to take matters into his own hands. First, he simply tries to get rid of Simba by tricking him into visiting the elephant graveyard (which also happens to be the home of the hyenas, and a place Mufasa had warned the young cub to never go).
After Mufasa saves Simba and Nala in the nick of time, the battered hyenas reconvene in their lair and are shortly joined by a disappointed Scar. The cubs had been perfectly set up to be killed, but the hyenas still blew it. However, as the hyenas are quick to point out, there wasn’t much they could do against Mufasa, did Scar expect them to kill him too?
Shenzi, Banzai and Ed: continuing a long tradition of smart villains having dumb henchmen
Well as a matter of fact, yes that’s precisely what Scar wants. He proceeds to lay out his plan, which is the basis of “Be Prepared” (one of my favorite villain songs ever!!)
Before I get started with the song itself though, I have something of a bombshell to drop. I’ve heard two versions of how this song was recorded, but they both equal the same thing: that is NOT Jeremy Irons’ voice once the song begins (not for all of it at least).
The first version of the story I heard is that Jeremy Irons DID record a portion of the song, but threw his voice out after the line “You won’t get a sniff without me!” And the rest was subsequently recorded over by Jim Cummings (noted voice artist extraordinaire). However, several months ago, I read an article about dialogue dubbing and Jim Cummings told the story of how he recorded the ENTIRE “Be Prepared” song because (no offense to Jeremy Irons), the final product was simply not that good, so they asked him to dub it over and so he did. As Cummings as no reason to lie, I’m inclined to believe that this version of the story is probably the true one. Who knew???
Anyways, back to the song. Scar has apparently been planning this for years, looking for his best opportunity to take Mufasa (and now Simba) out of the picture, leaving him as king. Scar won’t be able to do it alone though, he needs the help of the hyenas, and he has the perfect inducement for them to join him: “Stick with me” he says “And you’ll NEVER go hungry again!” The hyenas are thrilled, and in a shocking moment, the camera reveals that there are actually HUNDREDS of hyenas, all cheering “Long live the king!” (We’d previously only seen Shenzi, Banzai and Ed). With an army of hyenas at his command, the odds are squarely in Scar’s favor. And speaking of Scar, the conniving lion is promising these hyenas the moon and then some, telling them everything they’ve ever wanted to hear. They’ll have more food then they’ve ever had before, but they’d better stick with him or they won’t get anything!
It all sounds good, except what Scar is proposing will completely destroy the balance of the Pride Lands (and lead to the dire conditions seen later in the film). The hyenas aren’t aware of this though, so they happily pledge allegiance to King Scar, rejoicing in all the food they are about to enjoy. The song ends in a grand display of flames and hyenas, all villainously laughing over their impending victory (“Be Prepared” is the recurring theme of this song, as well as its title). Scar clearly loves to put on a good show, and he talks a really good game. And deep down, I’m sure Scar truly believes that he’ll be the best king ever (the final verse includes a line about how Scar will be “seen for the wonder I am.”)
And the whole time I watched this in the theater (20 + years ago), I was thinking that there’s no way Scar was going to get away with this. That somehow, Mufasa was going to figure it out and put a stop to everything (I was five, I was really naive). Of course Scar’s plan is going to work, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a plot *sighs.*
“Be Prepared” is a great Disney villain song, relatively short and to the point. It establishes Scar as one of the more despicable Disney villains (I mean plotting to kill your own brother and nephew is pretty dastardly) and is all around really enjoyable. I hope you like listening to it.
For more great Disney songs and films, check out the main page here: Disney Films & Soundtracks A-Z
For more of The Lion King, see also:
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*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios