The Lion King Beat Sheet: Plot Guide for Writers

One of the great coming-of-age stories of the 20th century, The Lion King reimagines the plot of Shakespeare’s Hamlet for a younger audience—with some great animation to boot.  Use this The Lion King beat sheet to see how the plot of Disney’s famous movie matches up to the beats of classic Three Act Structure.

Table of Contents

Act 1: Setup

Beat 1 – Exposition

Mufasa, the king of the Pride Lands, introduces his son Simba to the animals of the kingdom. Simba is curious and energetic, and Mufasa teaches him about the “circle of life,” which refers to the natural order of the animal kingdom.

Beat 2 – Inciting Incident

Mufasa’s younger brother Scar, who covets the throne, plots to kill Mufasa and Simba so that he can become the new king. He convinces Simba to visit the forbidden Elephant Graveyard, where Scar hopes he will be killed. His plan fails, and he makes a new one, intending to make Mufasa’s death look like an accident.

Beat 3 – Plot Point 1

He succeeds in his plan by using Simba as bait and tricking Mufasa into trying to save his son from a wildebeest stampede. After Mufasa is killed, Scar convinces Simba he is responsible for his father’s death. He promises to spare him if he runs away and never returns. Scar becomes the new king of the Pride Lands. Due to his selfishness and inept leadership, desolation, hunger, and poverty result.

Act 2: Confrontation

Beat 4 – Rising Action

Simba runs away from the Pride Lands and nearly dies in a wasteland before being rescued by a meerkat named Timon and a warthog named Pumbaa. He ends up going with them and living in the jungle with a group of outcast animals. Simba grows up living a carefree “Hakuna Matata” life, leaving behind his responsibilities as a prince.

However, he cannot forget his past entirely and is still haunted by it. A young lioness from the kingdom, Nala, arrives and tells him how bad things are back home. Simba resists any thought of returning home.

Beat 5 – Midpoint

While Nala fails to convince Simba to return, Rafiki, the shaman from the Pride Lands, discovers that Simba still lives and comes to find him. He leads the reluctant prince to a reflecting pool. There, Simba is visited by the spirit of Mufasa, who tells him that he must return to the Pride Lands and take his rightful place as the king. Simba still resists, but Rafiki reminds him that his father lives in him and that the kingdom needs him.

Beat 6 – Plot Point 2

He eventually agrees and sets out with Nala and his new friends to reclaim his kingdom. When he arrives, he sees the desolation of the Pride Lands and discovers that Scar has abused his mother. Simba reacts with a new determination to make things right.

Act 3: Resolution

Beat 7 – Pre-Climax

With the help of his friends and Nala, Simba confronts Scar, who falsely accuses Simba of killing his father in front of everyone. Scar then attempts to kill Simba, nearly mirroring the way he killed Mufasa. While Simba’s life hangs in the balance, Scar leans closer to him and issues a whispered confession that he killed Mufasa.

Beat 8 – Climax

Outraged by the confession, Simba overcomes Scar and forces him to confess to the pride that he killed Mufasa. He tries to blame his old allies, the hyenas, but Simba does not believe him. He sends Scar into their midst, and they kill Scar for his betrayal.

Beat 9 – Denouement

Simba takes his place as the new king of the Pride Lands. The land is restored, and peace and prosperity return to the kingdom. Simba and Nala marry and have a son of their own, and the Pride Lands are happy and secure, at least for now.

The Lion King Beat Sheet (Plot Guide) - Plottr

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