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The Lion King: How Mufasa's Death Is Different In The Remake

The newly released photo-realistic take on The Lion King might seem like a shot-for-shot remake of the animated original, but there are some crucial differences that audiences have already spotted concerning the way Mufasa dies.

Spoilers are ahead!

In the Jon Favreau-directed re-imagining, during the scene in which Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) tries to escape the herd of wildebeests, the film's team added an effect to make it clear that the rocks Mufasa must scale to save himself are slippery and breaking away, making the whole thing even more dangerous. Not only that, but they also changed the way Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) actually kills his brother: instead of digging his claws into Mufasa's paws as he clutches to the side of the cliff, Scar actually strikes his brother in the face, definitively pushing him into the stampede below.

Arguably the most emotional moment of the entire original film is Mufasa's death at Scar's hands — er, paws — while Mufasa's young son Simba watches helplessly. After leading Mufasa and Simba to a cliff overlooking a dangerous pathway, Scar tricks his brother and nephew into going into a ravine just as a pack of wildebeests (which Scar himself sent running) round the corner, forcing Mufasa to give his life to save Simba. The lead-up to the moment remains mostly the same in the new Lion King, but the way Scar goes about killing Mufasa in the original film is certainly different than the way it happens in the 2019 remake. 

There could be any number of reasons for this change, including a few plot holes from the original Lion King – for example, why would the super-strong Mufasa need his weaker brother's help scaling the cliffside? –– but it's most likely due to the super-realistic CGI approach, which might be pretty but cuts out a lot of the emotional heft and heart people loved in the 1994 film. Plenty of critics and fans have noted how much less expressive the animals are in the remake (some have gone so far as to call the remake "soulless" just for this reason), so the claw attack probably wouldn't have worked. However, some have said that the moment feels empty overall. The folks at Collider, in particular, lambasted the scene, saying Mufasa's death was almost "funny" thanks to the odd contrast between James Earl Jones' vocal performance and the expressionless lion he voices.

Twitter, naturally, has a lot of feelings about this change. Veteran and transgender activist Charlotte Clymer tweeted, "Mufasa's death, in particular, was very poorly done," while Twitter user @SpaceyMcSpacer bluntly said, "Disney really ruined the Mufasa death scene." 

No matter why Disney changed this particular moment, in the aftermath of middling reviews for the film, the Lion King remake is likely to stand out as a critical miss for the Mouse House regardless of how much money it ends up making during its theatrical run.