We've all seen the Lion King. (And if you haven't, I suggest you go do so immediately, because your childhood was not complete.) Most of us have seen the sequel, Simba's Pride, as well. (And the midquel, Lion King 1 1/2, but we all consider that more of a parody film.) But not many outside the Disney/Lion King fandom realize... there is more to the Pridelands than the films (and the likewise parody television show, Timon and Pumbaa) explore. And in this article, I aim to introduce you to some of the other entries into Lion King lore, some of which might just answer some of the burning questions you've had about the films!
Kopa: The Lost Prince?
Published in 1994 by Grolier Enterprises, Inc, Lion King: Six New Adventures was a collection of spin-off books to go along with the release of the first film. While the set was approved by Disney (who had no plans for sequels when the first film was released) at the time, they are not considered canon by the company, which was why their content was ignored in the second film. Regardless, the fans still include them in many fan-art and fan-fiction entries. There were, of course, six books in the set, each telling a different story. And these books introduced one of the most popular characters outside of the films: Kopa.
Kopa is the main character of the series. And as you might have guessed from the picture above, he is indeed Simba and Nala's son. Like his father, Kopa is adventurous, curious, boastful, and... well... a little naive. He idolizes his father, but finds that spending time with the King is rather difficult; Simba is always busy with Kingly matters in the Pridelands. This leaves Kopa to get into his own mischief, and more often than not, he learns a life lesson along the way. In several of the stories, he meets up with wise old Rafiki, who offers wisdom and tales from the Pridelands of the past.
Since the cub at the end of the first film was a confirmed male (many of the books released along with the original movie spoke of Simba's SON continuing the Circle Of Life, and not a daughter. In addition, Kiara's ceremony in the opening of the second film is clearly different from the one in the original's finale), many fans consider Kopa to be a canon character, even if Disney themselves do not. But this leaves us with an important question: what happened to him? After all, he is not present in the second film.
The most popular theory and answer to this question ends up answering ANOTHER question from the films...
Why were Zira and the Outlanders banished?
We meet the followers of Scar in the second film, but we don't get much of an explanation as to where they come from or why they were banished. After all, it looked like all of the lionesses at Pride Rock were fighting AGAINST Scar and the hyenas in the first film. So where did these lionesses come from? Some say they could have been a hunting party out seeking rare prey, and did not return in time for the battle. Some say they initially fought against Scar, but later ended up not caring for Simba and his rule and changed their ways. Maybe we just didn't see them during the battle. Whatever the case may be, we know that Zira had a thing for Scar, and she produced a heir for him: Nuka. And one look at a runty Nuka probably had Scar dismissing him immediately. But Zira's devotion for Scar never wavered... even after his death. Revenge became her life's mission, and her goal was to end Simba's bloodline in order to return Scar's to the throne. And the easiest way to get this ball rolling? Eliminate the heir.
Thus, that popular theory about what happened to Kopa. Most believe that Zira killed Kopa, and was banished to the Outlands as a result. Kopa's death would then set the stage for the overprotective Simba that we see in the second film with Kiara, as he would not want to lose her the same way. This theory ultimately ties up the mysteries of the male cub presentation vs Kiara's presentation, the disappearance of Kopa, Zira's banishment, and Simba's newfound overprotective nature. But more about those Outlanders...
Who is Kovu's father?
While Nuka is Scar's biological son, Kovu and Vitani have an unknown father. Originally, all three WERE to be Scar's cubs... until Disney realized the incest factor that would play in once Kovu and Kiara became mates. (Despite the fact that this is A-Ok with lions in the wild.) So most likely, their father was a rogue that Zira stumbled upon. But thanks to the Lion King Extended Universe, there are a few theories which delve into this a little deeper, and offer up a few potential daddies for the cubs...
Introduced in one of the Six New Adventures stories, Chumvi is one of Nala's close friends in the Pridelands. He, along with Nala and another cub named Kula, are seemingly the only cubs left after Simba's supposed death. Chumvi's dark coloring could be where Kovu got it from, and that mop of mane tuft makes one think of Vitani. Scar would have eventually banished Chumvi for being a threat to the throne, so who's to say Zira didn't come across him as a rogue at some point? Always planning ahead, she could have seen his coloring and spotted an opportunity to produce a cub who looked enough like Scar to pass as a suitable heir after Nuka's failure.
Malka was introduced in a Lion King comic, titled "Simba's New Brother". He is from a neighboring pride, and comes across Simba and Nala one day after getting lost. Malka is unique in that he has ear tufts, which are a dark brown/black in color -- the same colors as Kovu's eventual mane. This crazy unique hair (and his coloring) could again lend itself to Vitani as well. He returns to his own pride by the end of the comic, but for the same reasons above with Chumvi, it's possible Zira came across him.
But are they even Zira's?
Another theory floating out there is that Kovu and Vitani aren't even Zira's cubs. This one is a bit more farfetched, as Zira has always been identified as the mother of the two, but the theories are plausible all the same. Some think that Kovu and Vitani belonged to some other lioness, and that Zira cubnapped them. Or, perhaps, the mother died without Zira's influence, and she took them in.
The main reason for this theory? Meet Tama, one of Simba and Nala's childhood friends from the comic "Trouble In Paradise." Tama is more mature than her two playmates, and is even more of a tomboy than Nala. She doesn't care for Simba, finding him annoying, but tolerates him. Does her personality (and appearance) remind you of anyone? Right: Vitani. So some fans theorize that she is the true mother of Vitani and Kovu, and that somehow Zira got her paws on them at a young age.
Speaking of parentage...
Who is Nala's father?
There are only two adult males in the Pridelands during the events of the first film: Mufasa and Scar. In a real lion pride, the male would father all of the cubs in the pride. But since this is Disney, and Simba and Nala become mates at the end of the film, having Mufasa as both cubs' father wouldn't quite work out. And while Scar isn't really any better, he is one of the top contenders for the role of Nala's father. Which, given the events of the broadway show (where Scar tries to take Nala as his queen) is kiiiind of creepy. (This scene was also to be in the original film, but was ultimately cut. See below.)
So the Disney safe answer? It was a rogue that Sarafina met. And yet, at the Tenth Anniversary panel, when asked about it, Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers (the directors) "began laughing, ribbing each other, making little sidelong jibes." Eventually, Minkoff pointed at Allers, jokily calling him the father. They concluded their answer with Minkoff muttering into his sleeve that the general assumption was that Nala's father was "either Scar or...Mufasa." So there you have it.
What was Scar's name BEFORE the scar?
Let's continue talking about Scar, everyone's favorite backstabbing drama king. His name wasn't ALWAYS Scar, you know, as he didn't always HAVE that scar. In Six New Adventures, the "Tale Of Two Brothers" story tells of Mufasa and Taka, who were the sons of King Ahadi and Queen Uru. Fun fact: in Swahili (the film's native language), Taka means "dirt/garbage" and "want" -- not a great name, for sure. Taka was always jealous of his older brother's right to the throne, and the stampede from the film was not the first attempt made on Mufasa's life. It was in one of these attempts gone wrong (thanks to an angry buffalo) that Taka received his famous scar, and he takes on his new moniker soon after.
Other Extended Universe characters?
There are many other characters from various forms of media that the Lion King fandom have embraced into the expanded canon. Here are a few of the favorites!
As mentioned previously, Kula is one of Nala's friends. She is only found in "Nala's Dare", a story in the Six New Adventures. She is far more cautious and safety-concerned than the other cubs in the Pridelands... and she has a giant appetite and love for food. She is often either paired with Chumvi, or else considered to be his sister.
Mohatu is a former king of the Pridelands, from the children's book "The Brightest Star." He is either Uru or Ahadi's father, though it is never specified which. The royal bloodline is thus Mohatu > Uru/or Ahadi > Mufasa > Simba > Kiara.
Tojo, another comic character, can be found in "The Orphaned Birds." He is actually fairly original looking, unlike some of the other cookie-cutter male cubs. He has a unique fur color, bright blue eyes, and an injured leg at the time of the story. He also becomes an adoptive father to a bunch of blue birds, as pictured above.
Mheetu is Nala's little brother. He was created for the original 1994 film, but was ultimately cut from the story, along with some other friends (including a bat-eared fox) created for Nala to have during Scar's reign. He was to be a tagalong on most of his sister's adventures, hence his name. ("Me too!")
What's next for The Lion King?
In 2016, the Lion King will be brought to our screens again, this time in the form of a show on Disney Junior. The Lion Guard will feature Kion, the son of Simba, and younger brother of the now adult Queen-to-be Kiara. Kion's 'lion guard' will consist of a honey badger, an egret, a cheetah and a hippo. Thus, the characters of the Lion King will be introduced to the new generation... and the Circle Of Life will continue on.
Extended universes are a great thing. For those of us who love to world-build and expand upon our favorite stories, they are great tools and tidbits to keep our imaginations running wild. But for those who simply want to enjoy the films for what they are, without all the added extras? They can be completely ignored. But there's no doubt that the Disney fandom is a creative one, and we love to theorize and discuss! I hope you enjoyed this article, and maybe even learned something from it too. What's your favorite of the above theories? Favorite expanded universe character? Do you have a Lion King question that WASN'T answered above? Please post in the comments with your thoughts!
Have an Hakuna Matata day!