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Scar (The Lion King)

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Scar
The Lion King character
Scar lion king.png
First appearance The Lion King
Created by Irene Mecchi
Jonathan Roberts
Linda Woolverton
Voiced by Jeremy Irons (Original 1st Movie)
Jim Cummings (singing, The Lion King; speaking, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, The Lion King 1½ and The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure)
James Horan (Kingdom Hearts 2 and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom)
Information
Species Lion
Gender Male
Occupation

King of the Pride Lands (usurper ; formerly )

Heir presumptive to the Pride Lands ( formerly)
Family King Mufasa (brother, deceased)
Relatives Prince Simba (nephew)
Kiara (great-niece)
Prince Kion (great-nephew)
Queen Sarabi (sister-in-law)

Scar is a fictional character who appears in Walt Disney Pictures' 32nd animated feature film The Lion King (1994). The character is voiced by English actor Jeremy Irons, while his singing voice is provided by both Irons and American actor Jim Cummings, the latter of whom was hired to replace Irons when the former damaged his singing voice. Subsequently, Scar makes minor appearances in the film's sequel The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998) and The Lion King 1½ (2004), in both of which he is voiced entirely by Cummings, as well as appearing in the Broadway musical adaptation of the film, in which the role of Scar was originated by American actor John Vickery.

Scar was created by screenwriters Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton, and animated by Andreas Deja. The Pride Lands' reclusive heir presumptive, Scar is introduced in the first film as the conniving uncle of Simba and jealous younger brother of Mufasa. Originally first-in-line to Mufasa's throne until he is suddenly replaced by nephew Simba, Scar decides to lead an army of hyenas in his plot to usurp the throne by murdering Mufasa and exiling Simba, ultimately blaming his brother's death on his innocent nephew. Loosely based on King Claudius, the antagonist of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Scar's villainy was additionally inspired by German politician Adolf Hitler. As the character's supervising animator, Deja based Scar's appearance on that of Irons himself, as well as the actor's Academy Award-winning performance as Claus von Bülow in the film Reversal of Fortune (1990). Before Irons was cast, the directors had considered offering the role to actors Tim Curry and Malcolm McDowell.

As a character, Scar has garnered widespread acclaim from film critics, who greeted Irons' performance with equal enthusiasm. However, Scar's violence, dark color palette and allegedly effeminate mannerisms were initially met with mild controversy, perceived by some as racist and homophobic. Nevertheless, Scar continues to be revered as one of Disney's greatest villains by various media publications, topping The Huffington Post‍ '​s list and ranking within the top ten of similar lists published by Yahoo! Movies, the Orlando Sentinel, E! and CNN. Scar has also been ranked among the greatest villains in film history by Digital Spy and Entertainment Weekly.

Development[edit]

Conception and influences[edit]

The Lion King was first conceived in 1988.[1] The film was eventually pitched to Disney executives, one of whom was among the first to observe similarities between author Thomas M. Disch's treatment and William Shakespeare's play Hamlet.[2][3] Although first citing these similarities as initially unintentional,[4] director Rob Minkoff felt that "there was always the need to anchor [the film] with something familiar."[5] As directors, Minkoff and Roger Allers aspired to create "an animal picture based in a more natural setting,"[6] describing the film as "More true-life adventure than mythical epic."[7] Although not the first Disney film to have been inspired by Shakespeare's work,[8] The Lion King remains the studio's most prominent example[9] due to close parallels between its characters and Hamlet,[10] while both stories revolve around main characters who struggle to come to terms with the reality that they must confront their treacherous uncles and avenge their fathers' deaths.[11] Scar is based on King Claudius, the antagonist of Hamlet.[12] According to Slate, while Claudius is mostly "a second-rate schemer ... consumed by anxiety and guilt," Scar very much "delight[s] in his monstrosity;"[13] both characters are motivated by jealousy.[14] Meanwhile, The Week observed that although both characters ultimately die, Claudius is killed by protagonist Hamlet while Scar dies "at the hand of his former hyena minions, and not Simba himself."[4] Additionally, the character shares similarities with Iago from Shakespeare's play Othello; both antagonists are skilled in exploiting their victims' fears.[15]

The original plot of The Lion King revolved around an ongoing rivalry between lions and baboons;[16] Scar, a baboon himself, was their leader.[17] When this plot was abandoned, Scar was re-written into a rogue lion,[18] thus lacking any blood relation to Mufasa and Simba.[19] Eventually, the writers felt that making Scar and Mufasa brothers would ultimately enhance the story by making it more interesting.[20] An abandoned character, at one point Scar owned a pet python as a sidekick.[16] Because the film was originally intended to be much more adult-oriented, Scar was to have become infatuated with Simba's childhood friend and eventual love interest Nala, wanting the young lioness to rule alongside him as his queen[21] and consequentially banishing the character[16] when she refuses.[22] This concept was to have been further explored during a reprise of Scar's song "Be Prepared",[23] but both the idea and the song were ultimately completely removed from the film because they were deemed too "creepy".[21] To further emphasize the character's villainy and tyranny, the writers loosely based Scar on German politician Adolf Hitler.[24] According to The Jerusalem Post, Scar's song "Be Prepared" "features goose-stepping hyenas in a formation reminiscent of a Nuremberg rally."[25] This idea was first suggested by story artist Jorgen Klubien.[25]

According to the directors, "[a] patronizing quality" was vital to Scar's role in the film.[26] 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."[26] Additionally, Scar serves as a departure from previous Disney villains because they "came off at least as buffoonish as they were sinister".[26] Because Scar is the film's main antagonist,[27] supervising animator Andreas Deja believed that "villains work really well when they're subtle", explaining, "to see them think and scheme and plot is much more interesting than showing them beating somebody up."[26] By blaming Mufasa's death on an innocent Simba, Scar ultimately triggers "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."[28] The character's first line in The Lion King essentially summarizes the entire film, providing foreshadowing. 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," subtly revealing the plot as well as "the reason why [Scar] decides to murder his own brother."[14]

Voice[edit]

English actors Tim Curry and Malcolm McDowell were originally considered for the role of Scar.[29] However, the role was ultimately won by English actor Jeremy Irons[24] because of his classical theatre training; the directors had deliberately wanted Scar "to come across as a Shakespearean character."[29] Successfully recruiting Irons for the film was considered an unprecedented achievement for the studio because, at the time, it was rare for a dramatic actor of Irons' caliber to agree to voice an animated character,[30] especially immediately after winning an Academy Award.[26] In fact, the Oscar-winning actor[31] nearly declined because, in fear of jeopardizing his successful career, he was "[h]esitant to jump from a dramatic role to an animated feature."[32] Prior to The Lion King, Irons was famous for starring as several villains and antagonists in live-action films "geared towards adults."[33] Although he had starred in a children's film before, the actor admitted that it did not mirror the success of The Lion King,[33] a film that has since become notorious for its cast of well known, award-winning Hollywood actors,[34] which animation historian Jerry Beck referred to in his book The Animated Movie Guide as "the most impressive list of actors ever to grace an animated film."[35]

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

As directors, Minkoff and Allers "work[ed] very closely with the actors to create their performance."[36] Describing Irons as "a gentleman and a brilliant actor," Allers revealed that the actor was constantly offering "extra interpretations of lines which were fantastic."[5] Producer Don Hahn recalled that Irons "really wanted to play with the words and the pacing," specifically referring to a scene in which Scar, voiced by Irons, coaxes Simba onto a rock and tricks the young cub to stay there and await his father's arrival alone, dubbing it "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."[26] Irons' physical appearance and mannerisms served as inspiration for Scar's supervising animator Andreas Deja, namely his flicking his paw in disgust.[26]

In a reference to the role that earned Irons an Academy Award, Claus von Bülow in the film Reversal of Fortune (1990), the writers gave Scar one of von Bülow's lines, "You have no idea", which is uttered by Irons in a similar tone.[37][38] According to author Rachel Stein of New Perspectives on Environmental Justice: Gender, Sexuality, and Activism, Irons relies "on his history of playing sexually perverse, socially dangerous male characters to animate his depiction of Scar."[39] On the contrary, Irons revealed to Connect Savannah that the similarities between the voices of Scar and von Bülow were largely unintentional, explaining, "Whatever voice came was arrived at by looking at the initial sketches, and from the freedom the directors gave me to try anything." Irons concluded, "The fact that he may occasionally remind you of Claus, comes from the fact that they both share the same voice box."[40]

While recording Scar's song "Be Prepared," Irons encountered challenges with his voice. The actor reportedly "blew out his voice" upon belting the line "you won't get a sniff without me," rendering him incapable of completing the musical number.[41] Consequently, Disney was forced to recruit American voice actor Jim Cummings, who had also been providing the voice of The Lion King‍ '​s laughing hyena Ed at the time,[42] to impersonate Irons and record the remainder of the song.[43] Cummings told The Huffington Post that "[s]tunt singing" is actually something the actor continues to do regularly, having done the same for American actor Russel Means, voice Chief Powhatan in Disney's Pocahontas (1995).[44] Critics observed that Irons "fakes his way ... through 'Be Prepared' in the grand tradition of talk-singing," drawing similarities between him and American actor James Cagney and English actor Rex Harrison.[45] 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 dialog all over again."[46] As a result of Irons' prominent British accent, critics have compared both the actor and Scar to Shere Khan, the villain of Disney's The Jungle Book (1967), voiced by English actor George Sanders.[26]

Design and characterization[edit]

The Lion King was originally dubbed a "risk" because, at the time, studio executives strongly believed that "the best movies were about people".[47] Concerned about the novelty of the film, Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg decided to divide the studio into two separate animated feature films, The Lion King and Pocahontas, the latter of which was deemed "the home run" because, with its historical roots,[16] Pocahontas was originally expected to be the more successful of the two films.[48] Naturally, the studio's more seasoned, experienced animators gravitated towards Pocahontas, while newer animators and filmmakers who were forced to remain on The Lion King dubbed themselves the "B-team"; Allers, however, received Katzenberg's decision positively as an opportunity for "a lot of newer animators ... to step up to leadership roles".[49] Among them was animator Andreas Deja, who became Scar's supervising animator. Well known for animating several Disney villains, Deja summed up 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 ... where you have to be ever so careful with the draftsmanship."[50] The animator continued, "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."[51]

"[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.[46]

Before animating Scar, Deja had just recently served as the supervising animator of Gaston and Jafar, the villains in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992), respectively.[26] Initially, the animator had contemplated animating "something different than villains",[46] originally toying with the idea of animating hero Simba instead.[52] However, Deja soon revisited the idea of animating Scar upon hearing that the character would be voiced by Jeremy Irons, explaining that animating "That kind of voice would be so much fun."[52] 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.[52] The only lion in the film to have visible claws,[16] Scar being an animal resulted 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 [Simba]" in addition to raising his eyebrows, lifting his chin and "cocking his eyes to one sinister side."[26] 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."[53] Hahn mused to Orange, "There were no humans in it ... nobody has thumbs even, so you can't pick anything up. It was a head-scratcher for a lot of people."[54] 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.[55]

Critics such as Mental Floss observed similarities between the appearances of Irons and Scar.[56] Deja admitted that Scar's appearance is very much based on Irons', specifically "us[ing] the actor's mouth shapes and facial expressions."[46] Appropriately, the animators modified Scar's "character design ... to appropriate some of the actor's facial characteristics in nearly imperceptible ways." Irons declared he could "recognize himself" in Scar, particularly as the lion shared his baggy eyes.[26] Additionally, Deja studied Irons in both Reversal of Fortune (1990) and Damage (1992) seeking the actor's facial expressions and tics.[26][57] 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."[58] 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."[59] Deja refused to watch Disney's The Jungle Book in fear of being influenced by the film's villain, tiger Shere Khan.[60] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly described Scar as "a figure of both pity and evil, and of treacherous comedy" with "Irons ... filling this devious coward with elegantly witty self-loathing."[61]

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."[26] However, after The Lion King, Deja finally decided to take a break from animating villains,[26] being "worried about repeating himself".[62] 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),[52] along with Mickey Mouse in the animated short Runaway Brain (1995).[63] 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."[33]

Music[edit]

Scar sings the musical number "Be Prepared," written by songwriters Elton John and Tim Rice, while contemplating Mufasa's death plot and bringing the hyenas along. Described as the film's "darkest" song, a "pompous,"[64] "fascistic paean to usurpers,"[65] the musical sequence depicts the lion "as a big-cat fascist."[66] 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," which references Nazism by having Scar's army of hyenas goosestep while addressing them from a high ledge – similar to the way in which Hitler would have from a balcony –[24] on the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1935),[67] a film that documents Nazi Germany during 1934.[68]

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."[65] The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reviewed, "those goose-stepping hyenas seem a little much in hindsight,"[69] while Film School Rejects coined it a "hellish gathering."[55]

Appearances[edit]

Film[edit]

Scar debuted in The Lion King (1994). The jealous younger brother of Mufasa, Scar is next-in-line to inherit the throne until his nephew Simba, Mufasa's son, is born, replacing him. Determined to usurp the throne and become king himself, Scar devises a plan to eliminate both Simba and Mufasa. Cleverly trapping an unsuspecting Simba in a vast gorge, Scar hires a trio of hyenas to trigger a wildebeest stampede. Although Mufasa saves Simba, the king is greatly weakened, and thus unable to climb the gorge's steep perimeter to safety. When a desperate Mufasa begs Scar for help, Scar instead throws his brother to his death below. Convincing Simba that he is to blame for Mufasa's death, Scar advises the prince to run away and never return, then orders the hyenas to pursue and kill him. With his brother murdered and his nephew assumed dead, Scar becomes king. Decades go by as Scar squanders the kingdom's resources and allows his army of hyenas to wreak havoc upon the Pride Lands. Little does he know that a now-adult Simba is visited by Mufasa's ghost, who encourages him to return to the Pride Lands and take his rightful place as king. Aided by his childhood friend Nala, a wise baboon named Rafiki, and his friends Timon and Pumbaa, Simba storms Pride Rock and confronts Scar, who demands that Simba admit to the pride that he killed Mufasa. As he prepares to throw Simba off Pride Rock and have him meet a similar fate to that of his father, an over-confident Scar whispers that he was the one who killed Mufasa. Enraged, Simba tackles Scar and forces his treacherous uncle to admit to the pride that he has been lying all these years. A ferocious battle ensues between the lionesses, Timon, and Pumbaa, now led by Simba, and Scar's hyenas. Scar tries to escape, but is cornered by Simba on the top of Pride Rock; Scar begs for mercy and attempts to blame his actions on the hyenas, unaware that they are listening nearby. Simba ignores Scar and gives him one last chance to run away and never return. When Simba's back is turned, Scar attacks him and they fight. Simba bests Scar in combat and throws him over the cliff edge and into a pit. Scar survives the fall, but is attacked and killed by the vengeful hyenas.

Broadway musical[edit]

The success of The Lion King spawned a Broadway musical based on the film, directed by Julie Taylor with a book written by The Lion King co-director Roger Allers and screenwriter Irene Mecchi. American actor John Vickery originated the role of Scar.

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride[edit]

Having perished during The Lion King, Scar's appearance and presence in its sequel The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998) is, naturally, quite limited in comparison. Story-wise, however, his role remains vital. Upon Scar's demise, a rivaling pride of lions known as the Outsiders decide to remain loyal to him. The pride is by Scar's most faithful follower, Zira. Since Scar had no children of his own, Zira's son Kovu is chosen to serve as Scar's heir. Simba banishes the Outsiders to the Outlands, and forbids his daughter Kiara from going there. She goes there anyway, however, and meets and befriends Kovu. Meanwhile, Zira trains Kovu to murder Simba, but when he becomes a young adult, he has a change of heart as he begins to develop feelings for Kiara.

Scar makes a brief cameo appearance in the film in one of Simba's nightmares. In the nightmare, an adult Simba runs down the cliffside where his father died, attempting to rescue him. Scar intervenes, however, and then turns into Kovu and throws Simba off the cliff. Scar makes another cameo appearance in a pool of water, as a reflection, after Kovu is exiled from Pride Rock.

Miscellaneous[edit]

Scar makes a brief cameo in Disney's animated feature film Hercules (1997) in the form of a limp lion skin coat worn by Hercules,[70] parodying the Nemean lion.[71] Scar's supervising animator Andreas Deja also served as the supervising animator of Hercules.[72] The character appears in the 1994 video game The Lion King.[73] According to AllGame, Scar appears towards the end of video game as Simba finally "must defeat his Uncle Scar" and "stop Scar and reclaim what is rightfully his."[74] Scar plays a similar role in the video game The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure (2000);[75] Simba's climactic "battle with Scar concludes the first six levels of the game."[76] According to IGN, the video game features the voices of the film's cast, including Jeremy Irons as Scar.[75] Voiced by James Horan, Scar appears as a non-player character in Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure (2003)[77] and Kingdom Hearts II as a villain who ultimately transforms into a Heartless as a result of the character's own "hatred and jealousy."[78]

Scar also makes a brief non-speaking cameo appearance in an episode of Timon and Pumbaa.

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Scar has garnered widespread acclaim from film critics, some of whom praised him as a better character than Simba.[79] Author Peter M. Nichols wrote in his book New York Times Essential Library: Children's Movies: A Critic's Guide to the Best Films Available on Video and DVD that Scar "is the most interesting character in the film," describing Simba and Mufasa "bores in comparison."[80] Janet Maslin of The New York Times called Scar a "delectably wicked" villain. Maslin went on to praise 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."[81] Leah Rozen of People described Scar as "a flawless realization of Irons' special talent."[82] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune lauded Scar as the film's "best character," jokingly describing him as "Irons' Claus von Bulow with fur."[83] Similarly, ComingSoon.net's Joshua Starnes hailed Scar as "the best part of the film." Praising both Scar and Irons' acting, 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."[84] Concluding that "Villains are often the most memorable characters in a Disney animated film," Roger Ebert described Scar "one of the great ones."[37] James Berardinelli of ReelViews reviewed, "Gone is the buffoonery that has marked the recent trio of Ursula, Gaston, and Jafar," writing, "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."[85]

"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."

In addition to praising the character, film critics greeted Irons' vocal performance enthusiastically. Notably, Irons was only one among the film's unprecedented cast of A-list actors.

A film that features the voices of several well-known A-list actors, namely Irons as Scar, Matthew Broderick as Simba, James Earl Jones as Mufasa and Whoopi Goldberg as Shenzi,[86] The Lion King has since gone on to be acclaimed as "one of the most impressive arrays of voice talents ever utilized in an animated film."[87] Critics have repeatedly singled out Irons' performance, praising it extensively: Cindy White of IGN called Irons' performance "deliciously smarmy,"[88] while Andy Patrizio of IGN wrote that Irons voices Scar "in perfect Shakespearean villain mode."[89] Rolling Stone‍ '​s Peter Travers hailed Irons for "deliver[ing] a triumphantly witty vocal performance that ranks with Robin Williams' in Aladdin."[90] Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle commended Disney for "nail[ing] the voice talents," specifically Irons.[91] The Philadelphia Daily News‍ '​ Bill Wedo described Irons' voice as "silken,"[92] while Graham Young of the Birmingham Mail hailed the actor's performance as "magnificent."[93] Radio Times‍ '​ Tom Hutchinson wrote, "Jeremy Irons [is] a vocal standout as the evil uncle Scar."[94] Annette Basile of Filmink echoed Hutchinson's statement, writing that Scar is "voiced with relish by stand-out Jeremy Irons."[95] The Guardian‍ '​s Philip French opined, "Jeremy Irons is excellent as the suavely villainous lion Scar."[96] David Sterritt of The Christian Science Monitor exalted Irons' acting, describing him as "positively brilliant."[97] Also hailing the film's cast as "incredible," Desson Howe of The Washington Post highlighted Irons as a "standout."[98] Praising the film for successfully 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."[99] Mathew DeKinder of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch felt that Irons successfully "handle[s] all of the dramatic heavy lifting."[69]

Even 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" who "does an elegant, funny George Sanders impersonation."[100] Stephen Hunter of The Baltimore Sun described Irons' voice as "plummy-rich with rancid irony."[12] Television Without Pity‍ '​s Ethan Alter admitted to enjoying 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."[101] David Denby of New York, who otherwise criticized the film, felt that "Irons ... sounds like he's having a better time than he's ever had in movies before."[102] In a rare lukewarm review, Anthony Quinn of The Independent felt that Irons' performance was too campy: "more Liberace than George Sanders."[103]

Accolades and legacy[edit]

According to IGN, Scar, Simba and Mufasa have since become "household names thanks to the [film's] enormous popularity ... but back in 1994 who could have predicted that these characters would enter the lexicon of Disney's most popular creations?"[104] Scar is considered to be among Disney's greatest villains.[105] Desmond Ryan of The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewed Scar as "the most vivid villain in Disney features in generations."[106] On a broader scale, Scar is often revered as one of the greatest animated villains of all-time.[107] Entertainment Weekly included the character in the article "10 Over-the-top Animated Movie Villains", explaining, "you could only expect over-the-top when you pair such a grasping, conniving character with Jeremy Irons' seductive voice."[108] Likewise, Digital Spy‍ '​s Alex Fletcher wrote of Scar in his article "Who is Disney's greatest ever villain?" that "The scene in which he lets Mufasa ... fall into a stampede of wildebeests left lasting emotional trauma on an entire generation."[109]

The Huffington Post ranked Scar first in its "Definitive Ranking Of 25 Classic Disney Villains" countdown.[111] Similarly, BuzzFeed also ranked Scar first in the website's "Definitive Ranking Of The Top 20 Disney Villains" list, with author Javi Moreno accusing the character of removing "the innocence of an entire generation."[112] Scar also topped About.com's "Top 10 Disney Villains" countdown; author David Nusair concluded, "There are few figures within Disney's body of work that are as deliciously reprehensible and vile as Scar ... heightened by Jeremy Irons' gloriously smug voice work."[113] Nusair also included Irons among the "Top 5 Celebrity Voice Performances in Animated Films", acknowledging the fact that although the actor "has played a lot of villains over the course of his career ... none have had the lasting impact as Scar from The Lion King."[114] The Orlando Sentinel ranked Scar the sixth "greatest Disney villain of all time".[115] Similarly, Babble.com also placed the character at number six.[116] Included in the website's "12 most famous Disney villains from worst to best" countdown, Yahoo! Movies ranked Scar second best,[117] while Moviefone ranked the character sixth.[118] E! ranked Scar fifth, with author John Boone writing that the character "plotted one of the most painful deaths in Disney history, so you know he'll never be forgotten."[119] Animation World Network ranked Scar the sixth best animated villain.[51]

CNN considers Scar one of "Disney's scariest characters."[120] While 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."[121] Richard Crouse of Metro cited Scar's "Long live the King" as the character's "Most evil line."[122] Additionally, "Be Prepared" is often revered as one of the greatest Disney villain songs.[123][124] Official Disney Blogs wrote that the song, with its "hyena backup singers, and the best bone-rattling percussion of all the villains' songs," Scar proves himself "an expert crooner of villainous plots."[125] Aside from Disney and animation, Scar is often revered as one of the greatest movie villains of all-time.[126] Digital Spy featured the character who, according to author Simon Reynolds, "underlined the sheer blackness of his heart by ruthlessly killing Simba's father,"[127] among the "25 greatest movie villains".[128] Similarly, in 2012, Entertainment Weekly ranked the character the twenty-fifth "Most Vile Movie Villain" ever,[129] while Total Film ranked Scar sixty-seventh in 2014.[130]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Scar became the first Disney villain to successfully explicitly kill someone.[131] Like Disney's Bambi before it, The Lion King – dubbed the studio's "darkest" film at the time of its release –[67] was unprecedented in terms of its serious themes, namely guilt, murder, treachery, revenge and death, specifically the on-screen assassination of one of the film's heroes.[132] According to IGN, "The film's story concepts of morality and mortality ... was new for Disney,"[133] 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."[67] 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."[134] Film critics and parents alike expressed concern that Scar's violent ways would frighten and disturb younger viewers.[135] Referring to Scar's murdering of Mufasa, The New York Times questioned "whether this film really warranted a G rating."[81] Critics also cautioned Scar's death; Movieline warned audiences that the film "shows a fairy tale's dark sense of justice," for example when "Scar was eaten by his hyena allies after betraying them."[136] 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."

The Los Angeles Times warned that "The on-screen death of Mufasa and a violent battle at the finale may disturb small children,"[137] echoed by The Philadelphia Inquirer.[106] However, film critics also felt that Disney's treatment of Scar was at times too light-hearted 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."[138] 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."[64] 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."[139]

Although universally acclaimed, Scar has sparked considerable controversy regarding the character's appearance and personality, specifically his darker-colored fur and alleged sexuality. The general public, however, appears to have remained largely oblivious to such concerns according to David Parkinson, author of The Rough Guide to Film Musicals.[140] 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."[141] Meanwhile, Scar's mannerisms and voice which, according to Nightmare on Main Street: Angels, Sadomasochism, and the Culture of Gothic‍ '​s author Mark Edmundson, resemble "a cultivated, word-weary, gay man,"[142] has been deemed homophobic by some commentators because, according to The Independent, "the arch-villain's gestures are effeminate"[143] while, in addition to the film being "full of stereotypes,"[144] the character "speaks in supposed gay cliches."[145] Susan Mackey-Kallis, author of The Hero and the Perennial Journey Home in American Film, observed that Scar is "more effeminate [and] less brawny ... than" both Mufasa and Simba.[146] Additionally, "Even though [Scar] would be expected to mate with one of the lioness, he is never seen intimated by any."[131] While Disney executives ignored these accusations, 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."[147] Similarly, author Edward Schiappa wrote in his book Beyond Representational Correctness: Rethinking Criticism of Popular Media that Scar's voice was simply meant "to convey the sort of upper-class snobbishness evinced by George Sanders's performance as Shere Khan in The Jungle Book."[148] More recently, the possibility of an incestuous relationship involving Simba, his mate Nala, Scar and Mufasa has surfaced. According to Johnson Cheu, author of Diversity in Disney Films: Critical Essays on Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality and Disability, the fact that Scar, Mufasa and Simba appear to be the only male lions present in The Lion King suggests the possibility that either Scar or Mufasa is Nala's father, which would in turn make Nala either Simba's half-sister or cousin.[149]

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