Disturbing and Gruesome Cannibalistic ‘Lion King’ Theory Confirmed by Disney

Disturbing and Gruesome Cannibalistic ‘Lion King’ Theory Finally Confirmed by Disney
Credit: Disney

Disney fans love their movie theories. Whether connecting dots in Pixar films or guessing the next steps for Marvel or Star Wars, the internet is full of fan-fueled information waiting to be verified by Disney. It’s understandable that Disney movie fans would relentlessly dig deep and overanalyze films.  Disney is well-known to interconnect stories or hide easter eggs. Sometimes fan theories can be way out there, but other times, they’re much closer to reality than you’d think. Even though Disney often masterfully hides details, you’d never expect a widely popular yet seriously dark theory from The Lion King (1994) to turn out to be true, would you?

The dark theory in question that concerns Disney’s The Lion King is a gruesome one. It’s hard to swallow, no pun intended. Now it’s important that you realize we aren’t talking about the live-action remake with Beyonce here. Instead, the original animated film that gave us Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and Simba (Matthew Broderick/ Jonathan Taylor Thomas) has some well-documented, dark undertones that, as children, we simply missed. Although the movie overall is serious as it toys with concepts of death, murder, and the cruelty of the animal kingdom, many fans missed one disturbing detail as they were singing along to “Hakuna Matata.”

Things Aren’t What They Seem Outside of the Pridelands in The Lion King

Pumbaa The Lion King

Credit: Disney

As The Lion King follows the exile and return of Simba following the murder of his father by Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons), we meet a large cast of loveable, laughable, but sometimes scary characters. These include Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), two unlikely friends who take Simba under their wing and teach him the value of “not sweating the small stuff.” We also meet three funny, yet up-to-no-good hyenas that work for Scar. Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (Cheech Marin), and Ed (Jim Cummings). These hyenas have been at the center of a fan-favorite theory that is dark and sinister in nature, but also in reality. And recently, Disney revealed to fans that they were right about this upsetting detail all along!

Residents of the Elephant Graveyard Took Drastic Measures

ScreenRant recently suggests cannibalism was an active practice among those memorable animated hyenas. The idea seems too heavy for a kid’s movie, but as The Lion King deals with other mature topics in a way that stays true to the harshness of wild animals, the theory has been widely accepted by Disney fans. The basis of the theory is concrete as the film begins with the hyenas having been banished away from the Pridelands and confined to the Elephant Graveyard. Their excommunication from the Pridelands has made food scarce and hunger a driving force behind their eventual partnership with Scar. This is where things get interesting.

scar kills mufasa, "Long live the king"

Credit: Disney

Although the hyenas mention having no food, they are still alive and look well-fed. Also, they maintain large numbers, enough for Scar to build an army. So, how were they eating? The short answer is that they ate each other. We know it’s shocking to hear, but keep in mind that it isn’t uncommon for hyenas to attack and eat other hyenas in the wild. As Disney is a master storyteller, authenticity is always crucial. Although this hyper-realisitic detail isn’t flaunted in front of the viewer’s face, it’s still apparent if you’re paying attention. 

Disney Villains Comic Book Confirms the Cannibalistic Theory

Disturbing and Dark Cannibalistic ‘Lion King’ Theory Finally Confirmed by Disney

Credit: Disney

If you didn’t know, Disney is no stranger to comic books. In fact, they have an entire series dedicated to Disney Villains. In this particular series, one storyline revolves around the main antagonist from The Lion King, Mufasa’s brother, Scar. This comic storyline teaches much about the Pridelands and “shadow region’s.” The series offers a deeper look at the happenings before Simba’s “coming of age.” Much of the information included pertains to those three hyenas who are the focal point of the fan theory in question. Not just any hyenas however.

The Lion King Theory is Confirmed By Scar

The new series from Chuck Brown, Trevor Fraley, Chiara Di Francia, and Jeff Eckleberry delves further into the events of what was going on in the Elephant Graveyard prior to Mufasa’s demise. One highlight is Shenzi, the character that Whoopi Goldberg made famous in the original film.

In issue number 3– as Scar is spying on the potential army of Hyenas he hears their leader suggest that Shenzi will be the next meal (sacrifice) for the starving clan of predators. Shenzi is told by the “Queen of Bone Eaters” that she (Shenzi) too has partaken in a feast just like the one that is about to happen when the army of hyenas attacks her. It’s a difficult read when you think back to the original characters who were almost charming, but menacing at the same time. However, the plot here remains true to what actually happens in nature, and ScreenRant made some fabulous points about how verifying that the hyenas in The Lion King are cannibals was an intelligent and real decision for Disney to make.

Dark and Disturbing Disney thoery Lion King

Credit: Disney

Ultimately, confirming the hyenas are cannibals is smart in several ways. First, it’s true to nature, where hyenas have been known to attack and eat their own. Second, it cleverly identifies the hyenas as existing outside Mufasa’s famous Circle of Life, turning them into an unnatural closed loop. Third, it shows how desperate the hyenas were and why they’d throw in with Scar despite distrusting lions. It may even explain why Scar’s forces destroyed the Pride Lands so quickly – if the hyenas overindulged before their exile, then years of starvation and cannibalism likely made them even worse. Finally, it adds an extra level of irony to Scar’s eventual fate; consumed by the scavengers he promised to feed.

More Dark Disney Theories Like This Please

The Lion King is widely considered to be kid-friendly. However, I think that we can all agree that to a certain extent, watching Simba try to wake-up his dead father ruined a lot of us for good. Some of us got the help we needed, others didn’t. Either way, this now confirmed dark theory lends itself even more to the widely successful original story. It compliments what we know and didn’t know about The Lion King rather well actually. The desparate choices of the hyenas in hopes of survival lends itself to their ill-fated alliance with Scar. It makes more sense as many have questioned the partnership due to the conflict often seen between lions and hyenas in the wild. Question = answered.

Although Disney isn’t known for upfront gorey detail, when dealing with animals and their behaviors, sometimes things aren’t as cute and cuddly as we’d like them to believe. Personally, I like that Disney put the whispers to rest and verified this ongoing rumor. I appreciate that they did so in a medium that really isn’t suited for younger audiences. Ones that maybe aren’t yet ready for such harsh reality. Their verification of this quiet detail also makes me wonder what else is hiding out there in the “Wonderful World of Disney.”


About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!