How is The Lion King like Star Wars? 

Star Wars and The Lion King are both iconic works that have left a lasting impact on global culture, particularly in popular culture. Despite being fundamentally different in genre and medium, they share some intriguing similarities and cultural significance.  

The Lion King is part of Disney’s Renaissance era, which began with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and ended with Tarzan in 1999. This period was marked by a resurgence of critically and commercially successful animated films. The Lion King, inspired by the grandeur of lions and enriched by themes from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, has become a timeless classic. Its only sequel, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, drew inspiration from another Shakespearean play, Romeo and Juliet.

Star Wars, released in 1977, predates The Lion King and has a much broader franchise. The first film was so successful that it spawned two sequels, forming a trilogy and was later followed by a backstory of another trilogy, creating an extensive narrative universe. Additionally, like Star Wars which expanded its story through books and other media known as ‘Expanded Universe” which includes novels, comics, and games that explore stories beyond the films, The Lion King has done so too although only two stories seem to form the main basis of this franchise apart from the elements that tell stories not found in the films. 

Star Wars drew inspiration from a variety of mythological stories and historical events, blending them into a unique sci-fi fantasy epic. The Lion King, while rooted in the animal kingdom, drew thematic inspiration from Shakespeare, creating a story that resonates on multiple levels. These parallels highlight how both works have drawn from historical and literary sources to create rich, enduring stories. While The Lion King and Star Wars belong to different genres and cater to different audiences (although without question they appeal to audiences of all ages), their storytelling techniques and cultural impacts show a fascinating overlap in the ways they engage and inspire audiences worldwide. 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Setting and Universe
Though it is not explicitly stated, The Lion King is widely believed to be set in the Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem in Tanzania. In contrast, Star Wars, takes place in a galaxy far, far away, separate from our own.

Iconic Locations
Pride Rock in The Lion King, the symbol of the Pride Lands, is reminiscent of the planet Coruscant in Star Wars. Coruscant serves as the capital of the Republic, the governing body of the galaxy, and is home to the Jedi Temple, the centre for the guardians of peace and justice who are known as the Jedi.

Symbolism of Rulership
Lions have long been symbols of rulership, a theme retained in The Lion King. Similarly, Star Wars features various rulers, including Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses. While Kings and Princes primarily appear in the expanded Star Wars universe, Queens and Princesses are prominent in both the films and literature.

Character Comparisons
Rafiki, the wise magic-practicing baboon in The Lion King, can be likened to Jedi Grand Master Yoda from Star Wars. Additionally, Bib Fortuna, the Twi’lek majordomo to the crime lord Jabba the Hutt, parallels Rafiki’s role as a majordomo to the Lions of the Pride Lands despite Bib’s association with a criminal family (since all of Jabba’s family were criminals much like Jabba himself).

Voice Actors and Production
James Earl Jones, who voiced Darth Vader in Star Wars, also lent his voice to Mufasa in The Lion King. After completing the first three Star Wars films, George Lucas began developing the story of how the central character of Star Wars, Darth Vader became evil the same year that The Lion King was released.

Villain Parallels
Scar, Mufasa’s jealous brother, reveals his evil intentions later in The Lion King, similar to Darth Sidious (Palpatine) in Star Wars. Sidious maintains his identity as a senator representing his homeworld Naboo and later becomes Chancellor of the Republic before revealing himself as a Sith Lord and transforming the Republic into the Galactic Empire exterminating the Jedi in the process. Scar’s betrayal and murder of his brother followed by his takeover of the Pride Lands mirror Sidious’s rise to power.

Exile and Survival
When Scar takes over, it is implied that many of the lionesses from Mufasa’s pride go into hiding, akin to the Jedi who flee after the order is decimated by Darth Vader. Rafiki also exiles himself, similar to how Yoda and Vader’s master Obi-Wan Kenobi go into hiding. Unlike Vader, who seeks to kill his former master, Scar wishes to have Rafiki serve him, but Rafiki remains loyal to Mufasa’s legacy and helps Simba reclaim the throne.

 

 

 

 

 

Origin from hate
A major theme in Star Wars is overcoming hate, which can lead to the dark side. This theme is echoed in The Lion Kings sequel, where Scar’s jealousy and hatred for Mufasa ultimately lead to his downfall even after he kills his brother when Simba ultimately avenges his father’s death. Similarly, many Jedi struggle with the temptation of the dark side but are saved by their senses or others. The evil Sith Lord Darth Vader was once a former Jedi known as Anakin Skywalker who was tempted by the dark side and due to fear, anger and hate became Darth Vader. Before The Lion King began, while not told on screen, it was revealed that Scar’s jealousy and hatred towards Mufasa began when their father considered him their favourite child and the one who was to serve as King after their father. At that time he was known as Taka and when he met the hyenas who he would later lead, he was told by them that if Mufasa was made to look like a failure, then Scar would become a better choice to succeed his father. Taka then tricking his brother into fighting a buffalo called Boma. Mufasa gets away with the help of Rafiki, and Boma goes after Taka instead due to realizing he was set up by him. Mufasa runs back and sees Taka being assaulted by Boma’s herd. Although Taka is saved by his brother and his father, he receives a scar on his eye due to the buffalo, and renames himself “Scar”, as a reminder of his mistake, and joins the hyenas to lead them. 

 

 

Betrayal among enemies and doing the right thing
Darth Sidious, also known as Emperor Palpatine, is the ultimate villain in the Star Wars saga. He is not only a powerful and ruthless adversary but also shows complete disregard for those who serve or trust him. His apprentices, who must be limited to one at a time according to the Sith rule of two, face similar treatment. When an apprentice is killed, Sidious must find a replacement, sometimes even choosing the one responsible for the death of the previous apprentice. Similarly, Scar from The Lion King is a master of betrayal. He tries to shift the blame for Mufasa’s death onto the hyenas, leading them to turn against him after Simba defeats him. In Star Wars, Palpatine’s betrayal is evident when he urges Luke Skywalker to kill his father, Darth Vader, and take his place. Luke’s refusal puts him at risk of death by Sidious’ hand. However, Vader, recalling the loss of his wife and many Jedi friends due to his allegiance to Palpatine, decides to save his son by returning to his true identity as Anakin Skywalker, destroys Palpatine, restores peace to the galaxy, and brings balance to the Force, the energy field that binds the galaxy together.

 

Comic Relief and Best Friends
In The Lion King, Timon and Pumbaa are a dynamic duo similar to the iconic droid pair R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars. Timon is a meerkat from Southern Africa, known for his cleverness and quick wit, while Pumbaa is a warthog from both East and Southern Africa, recognized for his strength and loyal nature. This mirrors the contrast between R2-D2, an astromech droid skilled in mechanics and navigation, and C-3PO, a protocol droid fluent in languages and etiquette. Both pairs balance each other with their distinct personalities and abilities, creating a harmonious equation.

Spiritual Guidance
In the Star Wars universe, when Jedi die, they transcend into the Force, allowing them to continue communicating with the living. For instance, after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death, he appears as a spirit to guide Luke Skywalker, offering wisdom and support. This concept is similar to what we see in The Lion King. After Mufasa’s death, he communicates with his son, Simba, as a spirit, providing guidance and watching over Simba and his family from the afterlife. Both stories highlight how loved ones can continue to influence and support us, even after they are no longer with us. 

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