Creators of The Lion King Say Mufasa and Scar Aren't Related
Tensions run high between parents, children, and siblings throughout the Disney canon, but The Lion King (1994) may present the studio's most extreme example of a dysfunctional family. The plot is the same in the new live action remake coming out July 18, 2019 as it is in the original: Determined to rule the lions of Pride Rock, Scar mercilessly kills Mufasa by flinging him into a stampede and then leaves Simba, Mufasa's heir, for dead. The fact that Mufasa and Scar are presented as brothers makes the murder all the more gut-wrenching, and it mirrors the murder of Hamlet's father by his uncle Claudius in Hamlet, upon which The Lion King was based.
But in 2017, the makers of the animated film revealed that this dynamic isn't as straightforward as it seems. Speaking with HelloGiggles, The Lion King director Rob Minkoff and producer Don Hahn revealed that Mufasa and Scar likely wouldn't have been related by blood. In the real world, male lions rarely survive to adulthood. When the sole male in a pride of lions gets old, he's usually taken out by a younger rogue male, who then assumes his place as head of the pack. The new male in charge nearly always kills all the cubs in the pride, thus wiping out the gene pool of his successor. If males aren't killed as cubs, they're kicked out of prides when they reach adolescence and forced to wander the savanna looking for a new group to take over. Most of them will die or be killed before finding a new home.
It turns out the politics in The Lion King aren't too far off from the brutal reality actual lions face in the wild. While lions murdering each other to gain power may be true to life, Mufasa and Scar's status as siblings is less accurate. Situations like we see with those characters—a pride with two adult males—do exist, but they're rare. In prides with two to three males, the males are usually unrelated and were born in separate packs. (Not to mention the fact that in real life, Simba's mom would be the one in charge—lion prides are matriarchal societies.)
"We were trying to use those animal truths to underpin the story so we sort of figured Scar and Mufasa couldn't really be from the same gene pool," Hahn told HelloGiggles. "In fact, that's what [Scar] says. There's a line, he goes, 'I'm from the shallow end of the gene pool.'"
An early version of the script avoided this problem all together. Scar was originally meant to be a rogue lion with no relation to Simba or Mufasa, and he was in charge of a pack of baboons instead of hyenas. The version they went with may make the relationship between Scar and Mufasa slightly more confusing, but it does make for one of the more twisted family dynamics in animated film history.