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Scar (The Lion King)

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The Lion King character
Scar as he appears in The Lion King.jpg
Scar as he appears in The Lion King (1994)
First appearance The Lion King
Created by Irene Mecchi
Jonathan Roberts
Linda Woolverton
Andreas Deja
Voiced by Jeremy Irons
Jim Cummings (singing)
Species Lion
Occupation King of the Pride Lands
Family Mufasa (brother)
Simba (nephew)
Kiara (great-niece)
Sarabi (sister-in-law)
Children Kovu

Scar is a fictional character who appears in Walt Disney Pictures' 32nd animated feature film, The Lion King. In The Lion King, the character's first appearance, Scar is voiced by English actor Jeremy Irons while his singing voice is provided by both Irons and American actor Jim Cummings; Cummings was hired to replace Irons at the behest of Disney when the actor damaged his singing voice. The character also briefly appears in the film's sequels The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998) and The Lion King 1½ (2004), in both of which he is voiced by Cummings, as well as the Broadway musical adaptation of the film, in which the character was originally portrayed by American actor John Vickery.

The film's main antagonist, Scar was created by screenwriters Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton, and animated by Andreas Deja. The Pride Lands' unsatisfied heir presumptive, Scar is the evil, conniving uncle of Prince Simba and envious younger brother of King Mufasa. First-in-line to Mufasa's throne until his nephew Simba, heir apparent, is born to Mufasa and Queen Sarabi, by whom the character is inevitably displaced, a power-mad Scar decides to lead a Nazi-like army of hyenas in scheming against his family, committing both regicide and fratricide by murdering Mufasa and exiling Simba, ultimately blaming the king's death on his innocent nephew.

Scar is loosely based on King Claudius, the antagonist of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, while his tyranny was inspired by German politician Adolf Hitler. As the character's supervising animator, Deja, renowned for having animated some of Disney's most famous villains, based Scar's appearance on that of Irons himself, specifically inspired by the actor's facial expressions and British accent, as well as his starring role as Claus von Bülow in the film Reversal of Fortune (1990). A recent Academy Award-winner at the time, Irons was initially reluctant to voice an animated character; the directors had also considered actors Tom Hulce and Malcolm McDowell for the role.

Scar has garnered universally positive reviews from film critics, who also praised Irons' vocal performance. The first Disney character to successfully commit murder, Scar sparked considerable controversy due in large to his violence, appearance, personality and mannerisms, which some critics perceived as disturbing, racist and homophobic. Nevertheless, Scar, revered as one of the greatest Disney villains, has ultimately achieved iconic status, topping The Huffington Post's "best Disney villains" list and placing within the top-ten of Yahoo! Movies, the Orlando Sentinel and E!'s lists. Scar has also gone on to be exalted by Digital Spy and Entertainment Weekly as one of history's greatest villains.



Marketed as an "original" story1 and "Disney's first completely original feature-length cartoon,"2 The Lion King was conceived in 1988.3 Originally entitled King of the Jungle, corrected when the directors discovered that lions do not live in the jungle,4 the film was eventually pitched to Disney executives, one of whom observed similarities between author Thomas M. Disch's treatment5 and William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet.6 Citing the similarities as unintentional, co-director Rob Minkoff explained that "there was always the need to anchor [the film] with something familiar."7 While making The Lion King, Minkoff and co-director Roger Allers wanted to create "an animal picture based in a more natural setting,"8 describing the film as "More true-life adventure than mythical epic"9 and nicknaming it "Bambi in Africa,"10 a term coined by development executive Charlie Fink.11 Inspired, screenwriter Irene Mecchi began referring to the film jokingly as "Bamblet," a portmanteau of Bambi and Hamlet.12 Although not the first time Disney based one of its films on Shakespeare's work,13 The Lion King remains the most prominent example14 because "The characters in The Lion King closely parallel Hamlet;"15 Scar is based on King Claudius, the antagonist of Hamlet.16 According to Slate, while Hamlet's Claudius is mostly "a second-rate schemer ... consumed by anxiety and guilt," Scar very much "delight[s] in his monstrosity."17 Character-wise, both Scar and Claudius share jealousy.18

According to The Daily Beast, The Lion King initially revolved around a rivalry and "face-off between the lions and the baboons"19 with Scar, a baboon himself, originally having been conceived as the treacherous leader of the baboons.20 Therefore, in early scripts, Scar and Mufasa were not depicted as brothers; the writers eventually felt that establishing a blood relationship between Scar and Mufasa would make the story more interesting.21 An abandoned character, Scar was originally envisioned with a sidekick, a python.19 Additionally, because the film was originally much more adult-oriented, Scar was originally infatuated with Simba's childhood friend and love interest Nala,22 eventually banishing her when the lioness ignored his romantic advances.19 This concept was to have been exhibited via a reprise of Scar's song "Be Prepared," entitled "Be Prepared (Reprise)."23 The idea was abandoned because it was deemed too "creepy."22

In a further effort to emphasize Scar's malevolence, villainy and tyranny, the writers drew inspiration and loosely based the character on Adolf Hitler.4 According to The Jerusalem Post, the song "Be Prepared," in which Scar voices his plan to assassinate Mufasa, "features goose-stepping hyenas in a formation reminiscent of a Nuremberg rally," an idea first suggested by story artist Jorgen Klubien.24 "A patronizing quality [was] key" to the character's appeal.25 Minkoff told the Los Angeles Times, "When Scar puts the guilt trip on Simba, that's an intense idea ... probably something that is not typical of the other Disney pictures, in terms of what the villain does."25 Consciously, Scar is a departure from preceding Disney villains, many of whom "came off at least as buffoonish as they were sinister."25 As the film's main antagonist,26 Deja believed that, story-wise, "villains work really well when they're subtle," explaining, "then you wait for that moment where they explode, maybe, and lose it. But to see them think and scheme and plot is much more interesting than showing them beating somebody up."25 By eventually blaming Mufasa's death on the innocent Simba, "This sets in motion a cycle of guilt, flight, denial and redemption, as the hero goes into self-imposed exile before finally reconciling with his father's memory, returning to face his wicked uncle and generally coming of age."27 The character's very first line essentially summarizes and foreshadows the film. It reads, "Life’s not fair is it? You see I-well, I…shall never be King. And you …shall never see light of another day," exposing "the upcoming plot and the reason why he decides to murder his own brother."18


Originally, American actor Tom Hulce and English actor Malcolm McDowell were both considered for the role of Scar. However, the role ultimately went to English actor Jeremy Irons.4 Hulce would eventually go on to voice Quasimodo in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).28 Successfully recruiting Irons was considered an unprecedented achievement for the studio because, at the time, it was quite rare for a dramatic actor of Irons' caliber to agree to voice an animated character, especially, as in Irons' case, "so soon after winning an Academy Award."25 In fact, the Oscar-winning actor nearly declined because, in fear of jeopardizing his successful career, he was "Hesitant to jump from a dramatic role to an animated feature."29 The Lion King has since become notorious for its cast of well-known, award-winning Hollywood actors.30 Before The Lion King, Irons was famous for starring as villains and antagonists in several live-action films "geared towards adults."31 Although he had starred in a children's film before, the actor admitted that it did not mirror the success of The Lion King.31

Actors Tom Hulce (left) and Malcolm McDowell (center) were both considered for the role of Scar. Ultimately, the role went to recent Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons (right).

As directors, Minkoff and Allers "work[ed] very closely with the actors to create their performance."32 Describing Irons as "a gentleman and a brilliant actor," Allers revealed that the actor was constantly offering "extra interpretations of lines which were fantastic."7 Producer Don Hahn recalled that Irons "really wanted to play with the words and the pacing," referring to a scene in which Irons' Scar coaxes Simba onto a rock and encourages the cub wait for his father: "a father and son ... thing." According to Hahn, "The comedy in [Irons'] inflection comes from Scar sounding so disdainful he can barely summon the will to finish the sentence."25 A critic observed that the actor "must have worn a mustache into the recording booth to voice Scar" because "There’s a mustache twirl in every treacherous line."33 Because Irons' physical appearance and mannerisms served as inspiration for Scar's supervising animator Andreas Deja, Deja was subsequently inspired to draw the character flicking his paw in disgust.25

While recording Scar's song "Be Prepared," Irons encountered vocal difficulties. Consequently, Disney recruited American voice actor Jim Cummings, who had also been providing the voice of The Lion King's laughing hyena Ed at the time,34 to impersonate Irons and record the song's remaining third.35 Cummings told The Huffington Post that "Stunt singing" is actually something the actor does regularly, having done the same for American actor Russel Means, who voiced Chief Powhatan in Disney's Pocahontas (1995).36 Critics observed that Irons "fakes his way ... through 'Be Prepared' in the grand tradition of talk-singing," likening him to American actor James Cagney and English actor Rex Harrison.37 Deja revealed that, during a recording session, Irons' stomach was grumbling. Deja joked, "The growling sound could be heard in his recording, so we had to record that part of his dialogue all over again."38 As a result of Irons' strong British accent, critics have drawn comparisons between both the actor and Scar to another antagonistic big cat: Shere Khan, the villain of Disney's The Jungle Book (1967), voiced by English actor George Sanders.25

Design and characterization

Because The Lion King was initially considered a "risk" because it was believed at the time that "all the best movies were about people."39 Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg decided to split the studio into two separate films: The Lion King and Pocahontas, deeming the latter "the home run." Because Pocahontas was expected to be the more successful of the two projects, "thinking that the historical roots of the film would make it the more likely to succeed,"19 naturally, Disney's more experienced animators gravitated towards it. However, Allers received this as an opportunity for "a lot of newer animators a chance to step up to leadership roles."40 Among them was animator Andreas Deja, who became the supervising animator of Scar. Recognized for animating several Disney villains, Deja described the experience as "more fun than drawing heroes" because "You have so much more to work with in terms of expressions and acting and drawing-wise than you would have with a nice princess or a prince, you know, where you have to be ever so careful with the draftsmanship."41 Deja explained, "What happens at Disney is that if the people responsible for each movie see that you are good at animating a specific type of character, they will keep giving similar characters to you."

"[A]t Disney ... the people responsible for each movie see that you are good at animating a specific type of character, they will keep giving similar characters to you. Also, I animated a couple of those villains because I asked to. I told the studio that I could do something good with these characters, since they really spoke to me. I showed that I had a passion for it, which I believe to be very important. Villains are very interesting characters, they have the most 'juice' in them, and they invite you to explore them. So, if something fascinates you, then you should probably explore it."
— Supervising animator Andreas Deja on animating Disney villains.38

Prior to animating Scar, Deja had served as the supervising animators of Gaston and Jafar, the villains from Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992), respectively. With The Lion King, Scar became the animator's third Disney villain.25 Initially, Deja had contemplated doing "something different than villains" for The Lion King,38 initially considering animating Simba instead.42 However, he was immediately drawn to Scar upon hearing Jeremy Irons’ voice, determining, "I knew that I had to animate that character"38 because "That kind of voice would be so much fun."42 Eventually, it turned out that even before Deja approached the directors, asking them for permission to animate Scar, Minkoff and Allers had already had Deja in mind for the character.42 Because Scar, the only lion in the film to have visible claws,19 is an animal, resulting in limited movement and expression, the animators experimented with "just tr[ying] to do something with a look," specifically "the way he tilts his head as he's literally talking down to this kid," in addition to raising his eyebrows, lifting his chin and "cocking his eyes to one sinister side."25 Minkoff said, "The main challenge ... was to tell an anthropomorphic story about animals. I think the level of anthropomorphism in the film exceeds many of its predecessors, which is something we were very proud of. We decided to take a different approach to other movies like Bambi, which was very naturalistic. Our characters had a more human feel to them ... Despite being animals, they look and act very human indeed."43 It is implied that Scar's scar resulted in his name, indicating that "Scar" is actually the character's nickname or alias as opposed to his given name.44

Deja admitted that Scar's appearance is very much based on Irons', specifically "us[ing] the actor’s mouth shapes and facial expressions."38 Appropriately, the animators modified Scar's "character design ... to appropriate some of the actor's facial characteristics in nearly imperceptible ways."25 Additionally, Deja studied Irons' film Reversal of Fortune (1990) in return for inspiration on facial expressions.25 Scar's iconic line "You have no idea" is a reference to a line that Irons uttered in the former film.19 In Deja's opinion, "Voice makes a huge difference. If you have a great voice to work with, [the animator's] work is half done." On Irons, Deja praised the way in which the actor "has a way with words and phrasing," making it easier to determine an "acting pattern."45 In addition to this, live lions were brought into the studio to serve as creative reference for the animators. Inspired by Bambi, Minkoff explained that this process allowed "The artists [to] see how the animals looked up close and they could observe how they moved around, so it was a great way to study the wildlife."46 Deja refused to watch Disney's The Jungle Book in fear of being influenced by the film's villain, tiger Shere Khan.47

Deja remains best-known for animating several of Disney's most famous villains, admitting to preferring animating villains as opposed to heroes, joking, "You don't say 'no' when you get offered a villain."25 However, after The Lion King, Deja finally decided to take a break from animating villains.25 Ultimately "worried about repeating himself,"48 Deja refused to animate villain Judge Claude Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) in favor of working on hero Hercules from Hercules (1997).42 Prior to Hercules, Deja traveled to Paris, France to animate Mickey Mouse in the animated short Runaway Brain (1995).49 Deja has since gone on to animated Lilo from Lilo & Stitch (2002), his first heroine.50 Comparing Scar to other villains that he has played, Irons said that he "measures very highly," having "charm," "Machiavellian qualities" and being "iconic in some of the things he says."31

"Be Prepared"

The film's "darkest" song, described as a "pompous,"2 "fascistic paean to usurpers,"51 "Be Prepared" is performed by Scar while contemplating Mufasa's death. The musical sequence depicts scar "as a big-cat fascist."52 According to Business Insider, in addition to loosely basing the character on Adolf Hitler to further emphasize Scar's tyranny, the filmmakers very much directly based his song "Be Prepared," during which the Nazi's are referenced by having his army of hyenas goosestep while addressing them from a high ledge – similar to the way in which Hitler would have from a balcony –4 on the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1935),53 a film that documents Nazi Germany during 1934.54

According to Entertainment Weekly, the concept originated from a sketch by story artist Jorgen Klubien, in which Scar was depicted as Hitler. Although hesitant that Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg would approve, the filmmakers ultimately decided to pursue it, describing the sequence as a "Triumph of the Will-style mock-Nuremberg rally."51 The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reviewed, "those goose-stepping hyenas seem a little much in hindsight,"55 while Film School Rejects coined it a "hellish gathering."44


The Lion King

Scar's first appearance was in The Lion King (1994), in which the character, the Pride Land's heir presumptive, refuses to attend the christening of Prince Simba, his newborn nephew. When confronted about the matter by his elder brother Mufasa, king of the Pride Lands and Simba's father, Scar voices that his absence was due to his dissatisfaction with the fact that, as a result of Simba's birth, he has been displaced as next-in-line to the throne. When Simba grows into a young lion cub, Scar cunningly tricks him into venturing to the dangerous Elephant Graveyard, where he has hired three hyenas to kill the young heir. Scar's plans, however, are thwarted by Mufasa who rescues Simba but remains unaware of Scar's malevolent actions.

Enraged, Scar devises a plan to rid himself of both Simba and Mufasa so that he can become king by coaxing Simba into a gorge and triggering a wildebeest stampede, trapping Simba. Simba is, however, rescued by Mufasa who returns Simba to safety, only to be pulled into the gorge by stampeding wildebeests. Weakened, Mufasa is unable to pull himself up the steep slope so safety and asks Scar to help him. However, Scar releases Mufasa's grip, forcing him to fall back down into the gorge to his death. Consoling a distraught Simba, Scar subtly convinces the cub that Mufasa's death is his own fault and encourages him to run away and never return, sending his three hyena henchmen, Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, to kill him. With Mufasa killed and Simba presumed dead, Scar ascends to the throne, becoming king of the Pride Lands.

In Simba's absence, Scar ultimately proves to be a cruel, tyrannical leader, sending the Pride Lands into a state of famine by squandering its resources while the hyenas reek havoc on the kingdom. Meanwhile, an adult Simba is visited by Mufasa's ghost who encourages him to return to the Pride Lands, defeat Scar and take his rightful place. Aided by his childhood Nala, a wise baboon named Rafiki and his wise-cracking friends Timon and Pumbaa, Simba storms Pride Rock, forcing Scar to admit to the pride that he has been lying all these years and that he, in fact, killed Mufasa, initiating a grueling battle between the lionesses, now led by Simba, and Scar's hyenas. Scar fights back Simba fiercely, but is eventually defeated. Having recently betrayed his loyal hyena followers while being confronted by Simba, blaming Mufasa's death on them, Scar is eaten by his own army of hyenas and dies.

The Lion King: Simba's Pride

Having perished in The Lion King, Scar's appearance in its sequel The Lion King: Simba's Pride is limited in comparison. However, being the adopted father of Kovu, his role is vital nonetheless. It is revealed that, following the events of the first film, an outlandish pride of lionesses known as Outsiders remained loyal to Scar, led by his most faithful follower Zira, by whom his antagonistic role is replaced.

Scar makes a brief cameo appearance in the film in one of Simba's nightmares, in which he transforms into Kovu and hurles Simba off the same cliff from which Mufasa met his death.


Reception and legacy

Critical response

As a character, Scar has garnered widespread critical acclaim, inspiring universally positive reviews from film critics who also received Irons' "snarling"56 vocal performance with similar enthusiasm. Some critics have even deemed Scar a better, more "interesting" character than main character Simba.57 Janet Maslin of The New York Times called Scar a "delectably wicked" antagonist. Maslin went on to laud Irons' voice acting, writing that the actor "slithers through the story in grandiose high style, with a green-eyed malevolence that is one of film's chief delights."58 The Austin Chronicle's Robert Faires hailed the character as "a chilling villain."59 While Variety's Jeremy Gerard described Scar as "a dangerous mix of jealousy, murderous intent and bitchiness,"60 Desmond Ryan of The Philadelphia Inquirer hailed Scar as "the most vivid villain in Disney features in generations, largely because of Jeremy Irons," writing that the actor "doing something akin to a pastiche of his plummy tones as Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, is as hilarious as he is heinous."61 Leah Rozen of People wrote, "Uncle Scar, mangy-coated and bony-shouldered, is a flawless realization of Irons' special talent, which is to suggest wickedness born of neurotic suffering."62

In addition to extolling the character himself, film critics have awarded Irons' performance as Scar with praise.

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune hailed Scar as the film's "best character," jokingly describing him as "Irons' Claus von Bulow with fur."63 Similarly,'s Joshua Starnes wrote that "Iron's Scar" is "the best part of the film." Extolling both Irons' performance and Scar's characterization, Starnes continued, "He switches so quickly and easily from campy to deadly its like a showcase for how to do an over-the-top villain right."64 Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly deemed Scar "a figure of both pity and evil, and of treacherous comedy," with "Irons ... filling this devious coward with elegantly witty self-loathing."65 Acknowledging that "Villains are often the most memorable characters in a Disney animated film," Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times hailed Scar as "one of the great ones." Ebert continued, "With a voice by Jeremy Irons,and facial features suggestive of Irons' gift for sardonic concealment, Scar is a mannered, manipulative schemer."66 James Berardinelli of ReelViews reviewed, "Gone is the buffoonery that has marked the recent trio of Ursula, Gaston, and Jafar. Scar is a sinister figure, given to acid remarks and cunning villainy." Berardinelli concluded, "The cold-hearted manner in which he causes Mufasa's death lets us know that this is not a lion to be trifled with."67

"Simba is also influenced by his delectably wicked uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons). Scar arranges Mufasa's disturbing on-screen death in a manner that both banishes Simba to the wilderness and raises questions about whether this film really warranted a G rating ... For the grown-ups, there is Mr. Irons, who has been as devilishly well-captured by Disney's graphic artists (Scar's supervising animator: Andreas Deja) as Robin Williams was in "Aladdin." Bored, wicked and royally sarcastic, Mr. Irons's Scar slithers through the story in grandiose high style, with a green-eyed malevolence that is one of film's chief delights. "Oh, and just between us, you might want to work on that little roar of yours, hmm?" he purrs to Simba, while purporting to be a mentor to his young nephew. Scar, who also gives a reprise of Mr. Irons's best-known line from "Reversal of Fortune," may not be much of a father figure, but he's certainly great fun."

Several critics have singled out Irons' vocal performance for praise. Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle complimented Disney for "nail[ing] the voice talents," specifically Irons.68 The Philadelphia Daily News' Bill Wedo described Irons' voice as "silken,"69 while Graham Young of the Birmingham Mail hailed the actor's performance as "magnificent."70 Radio Times' Tom Hutchinson wrote, "Jeremy Irons [is] a vocal standout as the evil uncle Scar."71 Annette Basile of Filmink echoed Hutchinson, writing that Scar is "voiced with relish by stand-out Jeremy Irons."72 The Guardian's Philip French opined, "Jeremy Irons is excellent as the suavely villainous lion Scar, who comes over as a representative of old-style European imperialism."73 David Sterritt of The Christian Science Monitor extolled Irons' voice acting, describing him as "positively brilliant ... at once insinuating and insufferable."74 Also calling the film's cast "incredible," Desson Howe of The Washington Post highlighted Irons as a "standout" who "imbues Scar with memorably unctuous spirit."75 Praising the film for combining "grand-opera melodrama and low-comedy hi-jinks," the Orlando Sentinel's Jay Boyar concluded that "One reason they work so well together is that even most of the serious sections contain an undercurrent of humor, provided ... by the deliciously droll voice-performance of Jeremy Irons as Scar."76 Mathew DeKinder of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined that Irons successfully "handle[s] all of the dramatic heavy lifting."55

Interestingly, film critics who generally disliked the film tended to enjoy Scar's characterization and Irons' performance. Terrence Rafferty of The New Yorker wrote, "Among the celebrity voices on the soundtrack, two performances stand out," namely, "Jeremy Irons, as the villainous lion Scar, does an elegant, funny George Sanders impersonation."77 Similarly, Stephen Hunter of The Baltimore Sun described Irons' voice as "plummy-rich with rancid irony."16 Television Without Pity's Ethan Alter admitted to liking Scar, praising the character as "a fantastic villain and easily the most fully realized of the film's characters, thanks both to Jeremy Irons' marvelously wicked vocal performance and some clever character flourishes on behalf of the animators."78 In one of the character's sole mixed reviews, Anthony Quinn of The Independent described Irons' performance as campy: "more Liberace than George Sanders."79

Awards and accolades

Scar has been revered as one of Disney's greatest, most famous and most iconic villains, with several critics accrediting this honor with the fact that the character "will do anything to become King of the Pride Lands, even if it means killing his brother and his nephew Simba."80 In 2013 Entertainment Weekly included Scar among the "10 Over-the-top Animated Movie Villains," writing, "you could only expect over-the-top when you pair such a grasping, conniving character with Jeremy Irons' seductive voice."81 Similarly, Digital Spy's Alex Fletcher wrote of the character in his article "Who is Disney's greatest ever villain?" that "With his jet-black mane and a permanent mark across his left eye, not to mention brilliant voice work from Jeremy Irons, Scar looks and sounds the real deal." Fletcher continued, "The scene in which he lets Mufasa .. fall into a stampede of wildebeests left lasting emotional trauma on an entire generation."82 In 2014 the Orlando Sentinel included Scar among "The 30 greatest Disney villains of all time," ranking the character sixth. Citing his crimes as "Murder, Attempted murder,"83 author Matt Mauney wrote, "Scar murdered Mufasa in The Lion King so that adds to his credibility as a ruthless villain."84

Scar walks the fine line between gravitas and camp, and most of the credit has to go to Jeremy Irons’ superb sarcastic drawl. His main complaint is simply that life isn’t fair, and that his status as Mufasa’s younger brother makes him ineligible to rule over Pride Rock. Anyone with siblings, royal or not, can relate on some level. And although it’s honestly a little cringe-worthy to watch Scar mince his way through 'Be Prepared,' he proves himself an adept orator, inspiring legions of goose-stepping hyenas to throw off the shackles of the oppressive lions. Of course, his manipulative and opportunistic nature is also his undoing; he’s a bit too quick to turn on the hyenas after the final battle, and they literally rip their former leader to shreds.'s Sarah Tolf on Scar's legacy.85

In 2014 The Huffington Post deemed Scar the greatest Disney villain in its "Definitive Ranking Of 25 Classic Disney Villains." Describing the character as "full-throttle evil," author Lauren Duca joked that "Even his Hamlet doppelgänger King Claudius was less ruthless than that."86 Similarly, BuzzFeed ranked Scar the best Disney villain in its article "A Definitive Ranking Of The Top 20 Disney Villains," with author Javi Moreno writing, "He single-handily took away the innocence of an entire generation by murdering his brother." The author also cited this as the character's most "Most Evil Deed."87 The character also topped's list of the "Top 10 Disney Villains." Author David Nusair opined that "There are few figures within Disney's body of work that are as deliciously reprehensible and vile as Scar, as the character, so named for the mark on his face, callously murders his own brother and then orders the execution of his adorable nephew ... heightened by Jeremy Irons' gloriously smug voice work."88

In 2012 Scar came in sixth on the Animation World Network's ranking of "The 10 Best Cartoon Villains," with author Joe Strike awarding specific praise the character's song "Be Prepared," haling it as "definitely not boy scout-approved" while "Jeremy Irons' plummy delivery and sarcastic personality are on the money as Scar imagines himself a fuehrer in the song's Triumph of the Will-style imagery,"89 while ranked the character sixth in 2012, writing, "He's the kind of cowardly villain who has his minions do most of the dirty work for him, which makes him half-scary/half-pathetic."90 In commemoration of the release of Maleficent (2014), Yahoo! Movies ranked Scar second on the website's list of "the 12 most famous Disney villains from worst to best," with author Will Perkins describing him "one of Disney's most iconic baddies."91 In 2014 Moviefone ranked the character the sixth "Top Disney Villain." Praising Irons' performance, who "play[ed] him like you were playing Claudius in Hamlet," author Gary Susman wrote, "Here's a guy who kills his regal brother, then ruins the kingdom out of sheer spite. That's evil."92 E! ranked Scar fifth. Similarly extolling Irons' acting, authors John Boone and Jenna Mullins explained, "he plotted one of the most painful deaths in Disney history, so you know he'll never be forgotten."93 Additionally, "Be Prepared" is considered one of the greatest Disney villain songs.9495 Official Disney Blogs wrote that with "hyena backup singers, and the best bone-rattling percussion of all the villains’ songs," Scar proves himself "an expert crooner of villainous plots."96

According to CNN, Scar is often reveled as one of "Disney's scariest characters,"97 responsible for one of the "darkest Disney animated movie moments."98 Ranking the character fifth, The Stanford Daily wrote, "From his habit of sadistically toying with his prey to his dumb hyena coven to the way he leads the kingdom of Pride Rock into a period of starvation and sorrow, he’s a backstabbing dictator of an uncle."99

Apart from Disney and animation, Scar is frequently included among the best movie villains of all-time.100 Digital Spy included the character, who, according to author Simon Reynolds, "underlined the sheer blackness of his heart by ruthlessly killing Simba's father,"101 among the "25 greatest movie villains."102 Similarly, in 2012 Entertainment Weekly ranked the character the twenty-fifth "Most Vile Movie Villain" of all-time,103 while Total Film ranked Scar sixty-seventh on its list of the "100 Greatest Movie Villains" in 2014. Author George Wales wrote, "As if killing his own brother wasn’t enough, Scar won’t rest until every last threat to his throne is eliminated, focusing his malignant attentions upon newly-orphaned heir Simba. Wales joked, "you’d have to concede, he wears the crown rather well."104


Scar became the first Disney villain to have actually succeeded in killing one of his main adversaries.105 Like Disney's Bambi before it, The Lion King – labeled the studio's "darkest" film –53 was unprecedented at the time of its release due to its violent, serious themes, namely murder, guilt, revenge and death, specifically the on-screen assassination one of the film's most virtuous characters,106 with The Washington Post predicting that "the death of the heroic Mufasa will be the most widely debated aspect of The Lion King, with people taking sides as to whether such things are good or bad for kids just as they did over the killing of Bambi's mother."53 Similarly, Variety opined, "a generation that remembers the death of Bambi’s mother as traumatizing should bear that experience in mind when deciding who goes to The Lion King."60 Film critics and audiences alike, namely concerned parents, were worried that Scar's malevolent, violent ways and ambitions would ultimately frighten and disturb young viewers.107 Referencing Scar's on-screen murdering of Mufasa and subsequent banishment of Simba, The New York Times questioned "whether this film really warranted a G rating."58 In hindsight, critics also cautioned Scar's death. Movieline warned that the film "shows a fairy tale's dark sense of justice," such as when "a little girl at my screening wailed when Scar was eaten by his hyena allies after betraying them."108 ReelViews' James Berardinelli commented:

"Death, something not really touched on in the last three animated Disney tales, is very much at the forefront of The Lion King. In a scene that could disturb younger viewers, Mufasa's demise is shown. It is a chilling moment that is reminiscent of a certain incident in Bambi. The film also contains a fair share of violence, including a rather graphic battle between two lions. Parents should carefully consider before automatically taking a child of, say, under seven years of age, to this movie."

—James Berardinelli, ReelViews

The Los Angeles Times advised that "The on-screen death of Mufasa and a violent battle at the finale may disturb small children,"109 while The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, "It should be said right here that parents of younger children ... have a difficult call with The Lion King."61 Critics also felt that Disney's treatment and characterization of Scar tread too delicate a balance between dramatic and comedic, with the Deseret News complaining, "a climactic battle between Simba and his evil Uncle Scar ,,, is [a] very bad choice near the end, as Simba and Scar battle in slow-motion, a serious moment that seems unintentionally comic."110 According to The Seattle Times, "Some critics have complained that the movie is too funny and good-natured to accommodate the rather grim story it's telling," while "some parents are worried that this story of murder, guilt and exile is too strong for a G rating."2 Considered "an odd mix of deadly seriousness and slapstick humor ... Simba fights Scar to the death" while "intercut with ... Poomba sic ... doing a parody of Travis Bickel."111

There was also considerable controversy surrounding Scar's design, appearance and mannerisms in comparison to the film's other characters, specifically his darker-colored fur. The Washington Post felt that "Scar clearly is meant to represent an evil African American because 'while Simba's mane is gloriously red, Scar's is, of course, black."112 Meanwhile, The Lion King's characterization of Scar has also been labeled homophobic by some critics because, according to The Independent, "the arch-villain's gestures are effeminate"113 while, in addition to the film being "full of stereotypes,"114 the character "speaks in supposed gay cliches."115 Additionally, "Even though [Scar] would be expected to mate with one of the lioness, he is never seen intimated by any."105 While Disney executives ignored these claims, Slant Magazine defended the studio, explaining that Scar's black mane is simply an example of "the animators' elementary attempts to color-code evil for the film's target audience."116 Similarly, author Edward Schiappa wrote in his book Beyond Representational Correctness: Rethinking Criticism of Popular Media wrote that Scar was simply meant "to convey the sort of upper-class snobbishness evinced by George Sanders's performance as Shere Khan in The Lion King."117


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