- "Pumbaa, are you nuts?! We're talking about a lion. Lions eat guys like us!"
- —Timon protests Pumbaa's sympathy for young Simba
Lions (scientific name Panthera leo) are the main characters in The Lion King film series and franchise (with the exception of the third movie and the TV show). They are the second largest big cat after the tiger.
- Shenzi: "You know, if it weren't for those lions, we'd be runnin' the joint!"
Banzai: "Yeah! Man, I hate lions!"
Shenzi: "So pushy!"
Banzai: "And hairy!"
Shenzi: "And stinky!"
Banzai: "And man, are they..."
The appearance of lions differ within the main pride. There are two distinctive types of lions in the film series: Pridelanders and Outsiders (or Outlanders), who both have their own common appearance.
For Pridelanders, the males are usually portrayed as being bigger and more muscular than the lionesses, and are also identifiable by their manes. They tend to have brightly-colored fur with goldish undertones. Their manes are most often brownish-red. The only exception to this is Scar, who is darkly-colored and has a coal-black mane. The lionesses, meanwhile, are more slender, built for hunting and speed. They tend to have duller and/or paler colors than the males, with the exception of Kiara, who inherits her father's golden pelt.
For Outsiders, there are only two males in the pride, Nuka and Kovu. Both males take on Scar's color scheme, though it is never stated whether they have a direct relation to him or not. Nuka has lighter fur, but makes up for it in his black mane. Kovu, however, is darkly-colored in both pelt and mane. On the other hand, the lionesses are lightly-colored. They share the Pridelanders' dull-colored pelts, but are noticeably lighter. They are also much skinnier, though this could be due to their conditions in the Outlands.
In the Real World
Lions are found in southern Africa, Asia, and India, though they are considered critically endangered in India. In Africa, they are considered "vulnerable." Lions used to be plentiful in Western Asia and the Middle East, but they have long since decreased in these regions. A lion usually lives around ten to fifteen years in the wild, and have been known to live for up to twenty years in captivity.
Cubs are born to a harem of females, which are usually related via sisters or cousins and sired by an unrelated male or males of the pride, who are commonly brothers and/or cousins. Usually one to eight (usually related) males protect and dominate a pride. A common misconception is that the male(s) of the pride 'rules' or 'controls' the females, but the reality is that the females must accept the males before allowing them to spread their genes.
When lions reach the age of 2 or 3, it isn't uncommon for the dominant male(s) to see their sons and nephews as a threat and oust them. A reason for this is to prevent incest amongst their sisters, mother, cousins, and aunts. Sometimes, however, fathers may let their sons stay forever, akin to daughters who only leave the pride if it's too crowded. Female lions have been observed leaving when their males have been ousted in order to save his cubs. Daughters will usually follow their mother.
- "Yet, out of the ashes of this tragedy, we shall rise to greet the dawning of a new era... in which lion and hyena come together, in a great and glorious future!"
- —Scar letting the hyenas take over the pride
In The Lion King, lions are portrayed as the rulers of the animal world. They hold the main power in their African homeland, the Pride Lands, and strive to maintain balance among their subjects. They reside in Pride Rock. In the movies, the majordomo to the lion king is Zazu and the chief adviser is Rafiki.
At the start of the movie, the king of the Pride Lands is a powerful male lion named Mufasa. A great ceremony is held for Mufasa's newborn son Simba. The animals of the Pride Lands journey to Pride Rock to see the future king held up before all the animals. This appears to be a common ceremony among the lions, as this is done for Simba (as well as Kiara in a later film). The animals bow before the young king as he is held up by the adviser of the lion kings, Rafiki. After the ceremony, Simba is reared by his mother Sarabi and grows up among his father's pride.
When Simba has grown into a young cub, Mufasa shows him his future kingdom from atop Pride Rock. He explains to Simba that, though lions are the most powerful predators in the Pride Lands, they must always respect the lesser creatures, "from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope." Mufasa teaches Simba an important story in "the great circle of life."
Later on in the film, Mufasa's wicked younger brother Scar plots to kill him and Simba in order to obtain the throne for himself. He makes an agreement with a pack of hyenas, who are shown to be the primary enemies of the lions. They have a special grudge against lions, as they are the main predators in the Pride Lands and have forced the hyenas to live in a barren wasteland where prey is scarce. With Scar's help, they will gain hunting rights in the Pride Lands and won't have to worry about the lion pride driving them out.
After Scar's plan succeeds and Mufasa is dead, his hyena minions chase Simba out of the Pride Lands. Though they don't initially carry through with their plan, they leave him for dead. Scar then gains control of the pride and brings in his hyena minions for a "great and glorious future." The lionesses have no power to object, for Scar is king and his hyena minions are too many.
Meanwhile, Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa and joins them in their jungle oasis. Years pass and he grows into a young adult lion, slightly resembling his father. In the same time span, Scar's poor rule has ravaged the Pride Lands. Hunting is poor and the lionesses, who hunt for both the hyenas and for Scar, are finding it harder and harder to find prey. Finally, desperate for prey, they send Nala to go for help. She finds Simba in his jungle oasis and tries to convince him to come back with her. But it is Mufasa's ghost who finally convinces Simba to take his place as rightful king of the Pride Lands.
Upon returning to Pride Rock, Simba challenges Scar. But the murderous tyrant isn't willing to give up his title as king and a battle instigates. Scar and his hyena minions take on Simba, the lionesses, Timon, Pumbaa, Zazu, and Rafiki. Eventually, Simba corners Scar on a precipice. The two fight and Simba throws Scar off the cliff. His hyena minions betray him at the last second and he is devoured among the flames of his own great rule.
After Scar is dead, Simba ascends Pride Rock and roars over his new kingdom. The lionesses roar in return, accepting him as their rightful king. Simba's rule brings the Pride Lands back to what they once were. After his kingdom is restored and a wise ruler is set on the throne, Rafiki holds up Simba and his now mate Nala's newborn cub before the rest of the Pride Lands, assuring the pride of a great future and continuing the tradition of the great circle of life.
- "That's like saying you don't want to be a lion. It's in your blood."
- —Simba to young Kiara
At the beginning of the film, the same ceremony that is performed in the first movie is performed for Kiara, the future queen of the Pride Lands and the daughter of Simba and Nala. She is held up by Rafiki for all her future subjects to see. During the ceremony, the spirit of Mufasa watches over her presentation. After the ceremony is complete, it is assumed that Kiara is reared by her mother, Nala, and raised within her pride.
When Kiara has grown into a lively cub, it is revealed by Simba that there is a rift within the lion world. Two prides have grown to be common enemies, though it is hinted that they all used to be one. Because of their remaining loyalty to Scar, the Outsiders (also known as Outlanders) have been banished from the Pride Lands by Simba, who is king of the Pridelanders. Zira is the respective leader of the Outsiders.
Later on in the film, Kiara meets Zira's son Kovu. The two become friends, despite their parents' enmity. But as they're befriending each other, they are interrupted by Simba and Zira, who roar in protection of their respective offspring. The two argue over possession of the Pride Lands, but Simba finally orders her and her cub to leave. Zira then reveals to Simba that Kovu was the hand-chosen heir of Scar, the one who was expected to follow in his paw prints and become king. Still in stubborn denial, Simba orders them away and leads his own pride back to Pride Rock. Upon returning to the Outlands, Zira comes up with an evil scheme to regain the Pride Lands through her son, Kovu. She sings My Lullaby, foretelling the Outsiders' rise to power.
Years later, when Kiara and Kovu are young adults, Zira has successfully trained her son to kill Simba and gain his place as king of the Pride Lands. In following her plan, she uses her other cubs, Nuka and Vitani, to set the Pride Lands alight while Kiara is hunting. Kovu is sent to "save" her. After he saves her, he claims to be a rogue and asks for a place in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. At first, Simba is reluctant, but he finally follows the laws of his father, that all debts must be paid.
The main rift is present throughout the rest of the movie, but the two prides are most important in one of the final scenes. Kovu, now a traitor to his mother's cause, has joined the Pridelanders. But Zira is in rage over the death of her son, Nuka. Because of both revenge and perfect timing, she orders her pride to attack the Pride Lands. Meanwhile, Zazu has warned Simba of the attack and the Pridelanders have assembled, ready to meet Zira and her pride. A fight instigates and the Outsiders are shown to be well-trained, cruel warriors. But it finally comes down to a showdown between Simba and Zira.
But before the fight can go forth, Kovu and Kiara jump in front of their parents and demand for the rift to end. After Kiara successfully convinces her father that the Outsiders are no different from them, Zira's pride walks across the battlefield and joins Simba's pride, leaving Zira alone on her own side. Loyal to the end, Zira leaps at Simba, but is blocked by Kiara. They fall off a cliff and Zira dangles over a raging river below. Though Kiara offers her aid, Zira refuses and ultimately falls to her death.
At the end of the movie, an assumed mate ship ceremony takes place over Kovu and Kiara. The Outsiders and Pridelanders are now a single pride, and Simba and Nala are the accepted rulers. Together, Simba, Nala, Kovu, and Kiara ascend Pride Rock and roar in acceptance of their kingdom.
Even though the role of lions is much smaller in this movie, they play the same general role they did in the first movie.
Mates are pairs of creatures who have mated and successfully brought forth offspring.
In the Real World
When lionesses come into heat, the male lion will indiscriminately mate with all of them to increase the chance of spreading his genes via offspring. Cubs may be born to different mothers or share a father if only one male is present. Cubs born in the same litter may also have different fathers, especially if the pride that they and their mother are a part of is dominated by more than one male. Even if the litter consists of only two cubs, there is still a chance that they may only be half-siblings, whether their mother mated with a rogue male in addition to the pride male or if the pride consists of two males and the mother mated with them both.
In The Lion King Universe
Male lions are rare in the movies, and only two are known to have mates. Throughout the movies and franchise, the male lions choose one mate and remain loyal to them throughout the movie. Males who have successfully brought forth offspring include Mohatu, Ahadi, Mufasa, and Simba.
At the end of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, it is assumed that a mate ship ceremony is performed over Kiara and Kovu, pronouncing them as both a couple and the future king and queen of the Pride Lands.
List of Known Mates in The Lion King Universe
- There is a constant error regarding lions in The Lion King movies. At least once in every film, lions can be heard purring. Lions can purr, but only when they exhale. Cheetahs and Mountain Lions are known for purring the most often.
- In the first movie, hyenas take on both lions and lionesses. In reality, hyenas only take lionesses if there is a 3 or 4-1 advantage. However, male lions are avoided at all costs. Even if the hyenas outnumber a male say 20-1, the hyenas will give him a wide berth.
- According to the directors of the first Lion King, male lions were given whiskers and females were without them during finalization. Sub canon material such as comics and books - who are prone to mistakes - have done surprisingly well at mimicking this intention; Kopa, Tojo, Chumvi, and Malka are all male cubs who have whiskers - Tama, Boga and Kula are female cubs who lack whiskers.
- The Lions in the Lion King may not age like real lions do, as Scar states he's been denied the Pride Lands throne for decades -- at least 20 years -- when a lion's normal lifespan is 15-18 years (25-30 in captivity). If he was 20 or older, he should've been dead by the time Simba was an adult ( 4 or 5 years), but shows no signs of graying. This all indicates the lions not only think like humans, can talk like humans, but age like them. Then again, decades to a lion may not be the same as decades to a person, similar to how 1 human year allegedly equates to seven dog years (The Xoloitzcuintle breed having a similar lifespan to a big cat).