Lyin' King? U expert says Disney movie gets lion life all wrong

Simba’s mom would really be running Pride Rock, not Mufasa. But that's not all.

A sign at the world premiere of "The Lion King."
The live-action "Lion King" is out in theaters now. It should be no surprise that the film gets a few things wrong about lion life.
Alberto E. Rodriguez | Getty Images for Disney

There's no easy way to say this, but "The Lion King" sits on a throne of lies.

We're not talking about the obvious stuff, like all that singing and dancing. Lions and meerkats and warthogs, as far as we know, cannot and do not harmonize to Elton John songs, no matter how catchy the tune is.

No, we're talking about day-to-day lion life, like who's actually in charge of the pride (it wouldn't have been Mufasa or Simba) and whether Scar would've have really been out to get Mufasa ( not really -- but what's the fun in watching two brothers get along instead of one plotting murder and mayhem?).

The live-action version of “The Lion King” hits theaters Friday. Here's a fact-based buzzkill about some of the things it gets wrong.

1) Simba's mom would really be running the show

Maybe the movie should actually be called "The Lion Queen" and it should be all about Sarabi.

“Sarabi who?” you might ask.

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That's Simba's mom, the real MVP of the lion pride. In the original 1994 version, Sarabi is basically a supporting character. In reality, she'd be the Queen Elizabeth to Mufasa's Prince Philip.

That's because male lions have a tendency to come and go, said Craig Packer, founder and director of the Lion Center at the University of Minnesota.

"Who stays with the land year after year after year? The females," he told All Things Considered host Tom Crann. "And so if anybody is going to be handing on that territory to the next generation, it's going to be mom."

Female lions also nurture the cubs and take care of each other's young. They want to make sure everyone survives.

"They're not just selectively looking after their own, they're looking after the whole cohort of youngsters," Packer said.

So really, female lions are the heart of the pride.

That's not to say male lions just sit around — they patrol the territory and protect the pride. But in general, they spend their time fighting nomadic males and teaching male cubs how to survive before they leave.

2) Simba would not have come back

Speaking of transients, Simba would not have returned home after running away.

Packer told National Geographic that males can’t stay in the pride they’re born into because they’re related to the rest of the lions there. Which means Nala is actually Simba's sister, which means they wouldn't have gotten together at the end of the movie and had their own cub.

So in real life, Simba would've left and found a new pride in the name of genetic diversity.

Or just lived out the rest of this days with Timon and Pumbaa.

3) That feud between Mufasa and Scar? Nope

Male lions are actually very cooperative, Packer said. They even travel with one or more other males in order to protect one another and retain their pride.

"In a real male coalition, the two partners need each other desperately in order to hold onto their pride in competition with those outside males," he said. "So if you have a partner, he's really your lifeline."

So in reality, brothers Mufasa and Scar would've been working together to ensure their own survival — and that of their offspring, because a new male would just kill all the existing cubs.

4) Scar, not Mufasa, is the sexy one

In the 1994 animated version, Scar —- who has no children as far as we can tell —- has a black mane while doting dad Mufasa has a regal red mane.

But that's backward. Mufasa would likely not be feeling the love tonight.

Scar, with his dark mane, would actually be more attractive to females because it would signal that he's healthier and stronger, Packer said. (Either that, or Mufasa should've been the one with a black mane. Neither one appears to have a dark mane in the live-action version.)

"It turns out the more testosterone a male has in his blood when we sample him, the darker the mane,” Packer told MPR News in 2004.

“We also found out that these black-maned males, besides having more testosterone, also had a better ability to withstand being wounded,” he added. “So that if they got bitten in a fight, they had a much better chance surviving the next year than a blond-mane male.”