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“King of Pride Rock” takes place at the climax of the film. After a little persuasion from Rafiki (not to mention a spine-tingling heart to heart with his father’s ghost), Simba has returned to the Pride Lands…only to discover that his once beautiful home is practically a desert. When Scar allowed the hyenas to move en masse into the Pride Lands, it upset the delicate balance of life and now all the herds of elephants, antelope, giraffes, etc. have moved away, leaving the pride (not to mention a very large group of hyenas) close to starvation. Simba is quickly joined by Nala, Timon and Puumba, who are all willing to help Simba claim his rightful place as king.
And Simba hasn’t come home a moment too soon: Scar wants to have a word with Sarabi, Simba’s mother. He accuses the lionesses of not doing their jobs of hunting for food, despite Sarabi’s calm replies that there isn’t any food because the herds have all left. Scar vehemently denies the truth (he can’t accept that he’s a terrible king) and when Sarabi tells the delusional lion that they have to leave Pride Rock if they want to survive, the furious Scar explodes in rage, ultimately striking Sarabi across the face, provoking an enraged roar from Simba.
The music during all of this is mournful (the melody is led by an oboe and backed by a choir). Usually in a situation where the villain is in charge, there’s a theme that suggests “evil triumphant” but that doesn’t really happen here (unless you count the brief fanfare when Scar assumes the throne). Scar has mismanaged the Pride Lands so badly that there is nothing to be proud of. Deep down, he probably knows this, but his arrogance won’t let him admit he’s done all the wrong things.
Speaking of doing wrong…Scar almost betrays himself when Simba appears out of nowhere. For a brief moment, his nephew resembles his late brother so much that Scar whispers “Mufasa…no, you’re dead!” I don’t think anyone else heard him though, because doesn’t it sound awfully suspicious to be afraid of what you think is your brother’s ghost? Even Sarabi believes that this is her husband until Simba corrects her, much to Scar’s surprise:
“Why Simba…I’m so surprised to see you…alive” *angry glare at Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, who slink away for safety*
Simba is ready for war (“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart”) and the music backs up Simba’s anger. Listening to this part, Simba can be represented by trumpets and brass. Scar, on the other hand, is more in the woodwinds, and “his” music slinks and wiggles, while Simba’s is (initially) bold and confident. And I say “initially” because Scar has one last trump card to play: the “truth” about who really killed Mufasa. All these years Simba has believed this tragedy was his fault, and now he confesses it to everyone as the “truth” and Scar promptly denounces his nephew as a murderer
“If it weren’t for YOU Mufasa would still be alive, it’s YOUR fault he’s dead, do you deny it? “No” “Then you’re GUILTY!”
And while he distracts Simba with these accusations, Scar surreptitiously begins backing the young lion towards the ledge at the end of Pride Rock, ultimately trapping Simba as he nearly falls over the edge! At this point, the soundtrack skips to the aftermath of the final fight, but I’m going to keep going.
Now, history is about to repeat itself: Scar finds himself standing over Simba, in much the same way he stood over Mufasa right before his death. And at this moment, Scar makes one of his final mistakes (though not the one that gets him killed, that comes in a little bit): he leans down close to Simba and tells him the REAL truth: *I* killed Mufasa….this admission triggers an avalanche of pain and rage in Simba, who in one swoop jumps up and pins SCAR to the ground, demanding that everyone know what he just told them. Cornered, Scar finally admits to the entire pride that HE killed Mufasa and the war is on!! Well, I say war, but it wasn’t THAT big of a fight. At this point, most of Pride Rock is on fire from a lightning strike, and if you watch closely, most of the hyenas are running for their lives (from the flames as much as the wrath of the lion pride). Simba isn’t about to let Scar get away though, and when he spots his uncle trying to slink away, Simba chases him all the way to the top of Pride Rock. As the two lions begin to square off, neither notices that Shenzi, Banzai and Ed have crept in to listen.
Simba is ready to kill Scar where he stands and the desperate Scar is pleading any excuse he can think of to keep his nephew from cutting his throat. He pleads for mercy, he pleads blood relations, and finally, he pleads the excuse that the HYENAS are the real enemy here, that this entire scheme was their idea, not his (As Shenzi, Banzai and Ed hear this, they growl in anger and slink away, but they’re not done with Scar yet). Simba doesn’t believe a word, but he won’t kill Scar either (as that would lower him to Scar’s level). Instead (oh, the delicious irony!!) he tells his uncle to “Run, run away Scar, and NEVER return” (the exact words that Scar used to make Simba run away). The older lion seems like he will accept this and leave, but just as everything seems over, Scar swipes some coals into Simba’s face and one last fight ensues.
In the dramatic climax, Simba and Scar (in dramatic slow motion), tear and claw at each other, and Simba is ultimately knocked to the ground. But when Scar lunges for the kill, Simba takes a page from Nala and kicks upward, propelling his uncle over the edge of the cliff! But Scar isn’t dead, not yet anyways. He pulls himself up as Shenzi, Banzai and Ed come forward out of the flames.
“Ah…” he smiles “My friends….”
And Shenzi laughs “Friends?? I thought he said we were the enemy…Yea, that’s what I heard, Ed???” As this conversation goes on, Scar’s eyes become horror filled as he realized that he’s surrounded by a horde of angry hyenas who no longer trust him, and are very, very hungry!! Scar pleads for his life right until the very end, when the hyenas (and the flames) overwhelm him. As Disney villain deaths go, this one is pretty gruesome. As I noted in Beauty and the Beast, this ending was originally intended for Gaston (who was supposed to survive his fall from the tower and be cornered by a pack of wolves).
To be honest, I was going to keep going through Simba’s triumphant accession of the throne, but this has gone on really long so I’m going to split this post in two and post the rest later this week 🙂 The Lion King has a pretty awesome climax, proving why it is one of the greatest films of the Disney Renaissance.
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