The Lion King

Inciting Event: In an attempt to regain his heirship to the throne, denied him by Simba’s birth, Scar goads the young Simba into exploring the forbidden Elephant Graveyard to prove his bravery. Simba encounters a pack of hyenas, which Scar hopes will kill him. The plan fails, and Scar hatches a new plan to kill both Mufasa and Simba, and make it look like an accident.

First Plot Point: Scar executes his plan, and uses Simba as unknowing bait to lure Mufasa into a wildebeest stampede. Scar personally kills Mufasa and convinces Simba that Simba caused his death. Scar tells him, “Run away and never return.” Simba believes him and exiles himself. This closes the door on Simba’s life ever being the same and brings him inextricably into the main conflict, which is whether he will claim his right to kingship or spend the rest of his days hiding from the shame.

First Pinch Point: As the only remaining heir to the throne, Scar takes over the Pridelands, reducing the lands to a desolate waste through a reign both negligent and tyrannical.

Midpoint: After years of escaping his pain by living a “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle with his new friends Timon and Pumbaa, Simba is still haunted by his past. Rafiki divines that Simba is alive, finds him, then leads him to a reflecting pool to show him that his father Mufasa “lives in” him. There, a vision of Mufasa in the clouds reminds him, “Remember who you are.” Rafiki follows up with a quick lesson on how to move beyond the pain of the past by learning from it instead of running from it. Simba shifts into proactivity, heading back to save the Pridelands.

Second Pinch Point: The antagonistic force is shown through Simba’s reaction to the desolation of the Pridelands and seeing his mother abused by Scar. It’s a very brief pinch immediately followed by the Third Plot Point, making them nearly indistinguishable from each other.

Third Plot Point: Scar falsely exposes Simba as Mufasa’s murderer and attempts to kill him in a similar way to how he killed Mufasa. At this moment he whispers in Simba’s ear that he killed Mufasa.

Climax: Scar’s gloating confession enrages Simba, who overpowers him and demands he confess to the pride. The pride does battle against Scar and the hyenas.

Climactic Moment: Simba corners Scar and offers to let him live in exile, but Scar blames the hyenas as “the real enemy” and tries to kill Simba once more. Simba counters the attack in a move that sends Scar into the midst of his former allies, the hyenas, who kill him.

Resolution: Simba takes his place as the rightful king, and the land is restored.

Comments: This movie has a good chiasmic symmetry, resonating over every theme it introduces, whether it is Simba’s roar, Nala’s pouncing skills, taglines such as “run away and never return,” or even silly things like Timon and Pumbaa’s buzzard bowling.

It follows the plot structure waypoints almost to a T. The Third Act is a bit crammed structurally, but it doesn’t feel that way thanks to the timing of the action scenes and the smooth (though quick) lead-up into the Climactic Moment.

I based my plot structure analysis on identifying the question of the main conflict as “Will Simba become the king?”

(Submitted by Aaron McCausland.)

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