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Lion King’s original ending would have been way too dark for kids

The Lion King originally had a much darker ending involving a fiery death, but the writers storyboarded it and concluded it was a bit much for kids

The Lion King

The Lion King is famously based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet – as was 2022 horror movie The Northman, which was based on a Viking version of the same legend. As we all know, Hamlet is a tragedy in which pretty much everyone – including Hamlet himself – dies. So when it came time for the Disney movie version, things got pretty dark before they realized that its – y’know – a kids movie.

According to Buzzfeed, “The Lion King was originally planned to end in a fashion guaranteed to traumatize kids — with a final battle where Scar appears to toss Simba off Pride Rock to his death. Oh, and then Scar is overwhelmed by flames and burns to death while cackling about killing Simba, totally unhinged.”

This ending also included a direct reference to Hamlet, making it more explicit that this was a movie based on a book (or in this case, play). Scar, before attacking Simba, said “Good night, sweet prince” (the line famously uttered by Horatio in Hamlet).

This unsettling ending made it to the storyboard phase, but the filmmakers weren’t satisfied and continued massaging the scene, which was common. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton told Forbes, “Things evolve with storyboards…then you go back in and you rewrite again or you actually rewrite again on the board itself…it starts to evolve from there.”

Eventually, it became the ending we know and love today – thrilling and dramatic – but not likely to cause a theatre full of kids to collectively pee their pants. Of course, some kids like to be scared, but maybe not the young’uns – aye?

Check out our guide to the best family movies – which we promised won’t cause any unnecessary Scar-ring (ta dum tish). Check out our guide to the best feel-good movies for more happy fun times.