The idea for The Lion King came in late 1988 when Roy E. Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Peter Schneider had the idea to have an animated film set in Africa. The screenplay went through numerous stages, and over time, it became the classic film millions of people love today with heartfelt quotes, lovable characters, and an emotionally-satisfying ending.

What can we learn from The Lion King script?

The Lion King Script

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Lion King Script - Irene Mecchi Headshot - StudioBinder
Lion King Script - Jonathan Roberts Headshot - StudioBinder
Lion King Script - Linda Woolverton Headshot - StudioBinder


Written by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton

Numerous writers were involved with The Lion King 1994 script initially in the development phase. However, the three credited writers for the film are Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton.

Irene Mecchi started working with Disney in 1992 when the studio was interested in her animated short film, Recycle Rex. Disney soon hired her to write The Lion King and would also go on to develop screenplays for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Herculesand Fantasia 2000

Jonathan Roberts was a co-writer on the film, and his filmography includes James and the Giant Peach, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Jack Frost

Linda Woolverton also wrote the screenplay for Beauty and the Beast. She also wrote the script for the 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland, making her the first female screenwriter with a sole writing credit on a film grossing over one billion dollars.

The Lion King Original Story

Story Beats in The Lion King Script

What is The Lion King based on? The film is noteworthy because it was the first feature-length animated Disney film not based on a pre-existing property. However, it did incorporate elements of Hamlet as well as the lives of Joseph and Moses in the Bible.



1. Exposition (Beginning)

The Lion King script is interesting because the first line of dialogue does not come until page 5. For the first few pages, we just get that epic opening shot of the Serengeti, ending with Rafiki lifting Simba into the air. Over this scene, the song “Circle of Life” plays. The scene sets up how the lions rule over this land, and the song sets up the themes the movie will explore.

2. Inciting Incident

After we learn more about the characters, the inciting incident occurs on page 16. Here, Scar goads Simba into exploring the elephant graveyard. His goal is to kill the young Simba so that he may one day take control of the throne. His plan fails, and this leads into the next plot point. 

3. Plot Point One

Scar lures Simba into a wildebeest stampede. Mufasa saves Simba’s life, but at the expense of his own. 

4. Rising Action

Simba runs away, but Scar believes him to be dead. Scar returns to Pride Rock and takes control of the pride. 

5. Midpoint

After Simba escapes from the hyenas, he meets Timon and Pumbaa. This occurs page 56, so in the middle of The Lion King script, we receive a tonal shift. Simba is no longer concerned with one day assuming the throne, and he chooses to live the “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle with no worries. 

6. Plot Point Two

Simba meets with Rafiki later, who teaches the lion that he can’t allow himself to be defined by his past. It’s the next step in Simba learning his destiny. 

7. Build Up

This build-up is further amplified when Simba speaks to Mufasa in the clouds. It’s an emotionally-charged conversation, and it’s the driving force that allows Simba to return to Pride Rock and assume his destiny. 

8. Climax

The climax is the final confrontation between Simba and Scar. Simba gets Scar to reveal to the rest of the pride that he was the one who orchestrated Mufasa’s death. The two battle it out with Simba ultimately giving Scar the option to leave Pride Rock and never return. Scar double-crosses Simba, but this leads to him falling and being torn apart by the hyenas. 


The finale only lasts for a couple of pages at the very end, but it’s a perfect mirror to the beginning of the screenplay. All the animals in the Serengeti return to Pride Rock, this time to see the cub of Simba and Nala. Timon and Pumbaa are now there on the rock, embracing their new roles in the lions’ lives. Rafiki lifts the lion cub up into the air, and the circle of life continues.

The Lion King Script Takeaway #1

The Lion King Quotes

It’s worth nothing the very first line of Lion King is delivered by the antagonist, Scar. It’s a great piece of dialogue because we immediately understand Scar’s villainous intentions. He talks about how he’ll never be king not that Simba is born, and his motivations later in the screenplay, while horrible, make sense.

Read The Lion King I Shall Never Be King Scene

The ensuing back-and-forth between Scar and Zazu serves dual purposes. Not only is it funny, in part due to Jeremy Irons’ great delivery, but it also tells you everything you need to know about Mufasa and Scar’s relationship.

The Lion King - Scar and Mufasa

Here are some of the best The Lion King lines. 

“Remember who you are.”

“I laugh in the face of danger.”

“What’s a motto?” “Nothing, what’s a motto with you?”

“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”

However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t dissect The Lion King monologue where Mufasa talks about the circle of life to Simba. 

“The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.”


“Yes. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.”

It’s an important line because it foreshadows the big moment to come later. One day, Simba will talk to his father in the clouds. It further encapsulates the theme of the circle of life while providing for a fun bit of foreshadowing for savvy watchers to catch. 

The Lion King Script Takeaway #2

The Lion King Characters

Despite having the entire cast be animals, each character has personalities and attitudes that make them relatable. Just look at the character descriptions given to Timon and Pumbaa.

Read The Lion King Timon and Pumbaa Descriptions

Note the use of the phrase, “Perceptive but slow-witted.” He may seem dumb, but he’s prone to occasional bouts of insight. It’s an appropriate description seeing as how the film has heavy Shakespeare references, who was known to include characters like the “wise buffoon.” 

Later, Timon is described as “trusty.” This indicates that the two are friends and have likely been friends for a while.

The Lion King - Timon and Pumbaa

The first scene we see these two in, we immediately understand who they are and where they will likely lead Simba. All of the characters in The Lion King original script receive a similar treatment. The screenwriters make economic use of the movie’s runtime by giving us concise examples of what these characters stand for.  

The Lion King Script Takeaway #3

The Lion King Ending

Ending on Scar’s death would not be too satisfying. Instead, the screenplay ends with a couple of pages basically recreating the opening sequence.

The Lion King Ending Scene

We see the same actions as before except this time, Simba and Nala are the parents. Rafiki sprinkles dust in the same way as before, and he lifts the cub up for all of the other animals to see. 

The circle of life plays a crucial role throughout the film. It’s the most important theme and motif. Mufasa passed away, but he will continue to live on in Simba, who similarly, passes on his lineage to his child. The Lion King script shows those who pass away are never truly gone.

The Lion King - Ending

The movie ends on the renewal of life rather than the celebration of the villain’s death. It’s a more upbeat way to end a children’s film, and it drives home the point the film has been trying to make. Everything in nature is connected.

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The Lion King truly is the pinnacle of Disney animation. If you want to read more great scripts, we have CocoFrozen and Shrek in our screenplay database. Great screenwriters read lots of scripts. Get started today!

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