The circle of life necessarily contains life’s opposite.

That seems to be what the writers of acclaimed Disney hit The Lion King were hinting at when they originally planned the climactic ending scene. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and our childhoods weren’t totally ruined by the traumatic ending that might have been.

Let’s review the actual end of The Lion King, by way of comparison. So, as you’ll recall if you watched your VHS copy of the children’s movie until the tape disintegrated, a common experience for lots of children of the ’90s, the final sequence features Simba and the villainous Scar confronting one another on Pride Rock.

Scar admits to Simba that he took down Mufasa, Simba’s dad and Scar’s brother. The lions fight, Simba wins the battle, then Scar’s posse of evil hyenas finally turn on him, and it’s lights out for the bad guy. All is well; Hakuna Matata.

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Disney Wikia

Storyboards for the original ending tell a much darker story.

In this version, the battle on Pride Rock goes very differently. At some point, as flames grow around the battling lions, Simba tosses Scar off the ledge. He’s sure he just won and regained his rightful place as king.

Then he hears a sound from down below, a pathetic plea for help. Scar has not plummeted to the ground. He’s just barely hanging on to the lip of Pride Rock. Simba is conflicted; after all, this is the twisted villain who robbed him of his father. Finally, though, Simba gives into his inner goodness and stretches out to pull Scar to safety.

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Disney Wikia

But, true to his evil nature, Scar takes advantage of this act of mercy. He grabs Simba by the mane and throws him off the ledge to the burning jungle below. Simba’s fall is broken by a tree, but he’s surrounded by spreading flames. He runs for his life.

Scar, unaware that Simba actually survived, takes the time to gloat over his victory…big mistake. He’s too busy laughing to notice that the flames surround him. The burning wall closes in on Scar, finally consuming him entirely.

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Pinterest

That’s pretty dark for Disney.

The producers of The Lion King thought so, too, so they replaced this ending with the one we all know and love today.

Something is lost in the current version, though. The Lion King is a retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet—,at least in part. The dialogue in the alternate ending gives Scar one of the Bard’s most famous lines.

“Goodnight, sweet prince,” Scar tells Simba before attacking.

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Daily Motion

That’s exactly what Hamlet’s friend Horatio says in Act 5, Scene 2 of the famous Shakespeare play. “How cracks a noble heart!” Horatio says as Hamlet succumbs to the poison. “Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

Check out the storyboards for this chilling alternate ending here.

What do you think? Did the producers make the right decision when they changed the ending to have Scar’s end come in the teeth of his hyenas? Or do you wish they would have stuck with this darker version?

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