It is officially official: the live-action version of The Lion King, with all of your faves, will hit theaters in July 2019 so we can all excitedly watch Mufasa die. Again. Twenty-five years after he died the first time.
There’s no two ways about it, Mufasa’s death in The Lion King is one of the most significant deaths in the black community of all time. It happened way back in 1994, and yet almost all of us who experienced it remember it like it was yesterday. Watching Simba tell his daddy to wake up...lawdt. I’m getting emotional thinking about it now. Sure, I’ve moved on, much like I’ve had to move on from Ricky dying in Boyz N The Hood, but the memories are still there, and it’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. It hurt then. It hurts now.
My wife played The Lion King for my two young sons recently. My boys, for whom watching movies is less watching and more wrestling and building forts while a movie is playing, stopped cold and stared at the television with concern and sadness as they saw Simba try to wake Mufasa up. They were invested. They were sad and confused. “Why won’t he wake up, mommy???” Shit is traumatic, man. Mufasa isn’t quite James Evans from Good Times, playing some surrogate father role for a generation of fatherless children, but James quietly went to Mississippi to die off-screen like a gentleman, and that sucked major. Mufasa though, he was the king, the black man who lorded over Pride Rock with respect and decency, and we saw him die in real time, dammit.
I still cry when I see it happen (sometimes). I’m not tearing up. YOU’RE TEARING UP. I watch ALL of the Disney movies...all of them. There are a lot of deaths in Disney movies, bro, from (spoiler alerts ahead) Bambi’s mom, to Elsa and Anna’s parents in Frozen, to Nemo’s momma, to Tadashi in freakin’ Big Hero 6 (man, that one right there, bro), to when the toys all prepared to meet their makers in Toy Story 3. And Up. Don’t even get me started on UP. BECAUSE UP, MAN!
But The Lion King is still the gold standard, and it holds an especially sad place on the significant moments in Black History that never really happened.
So why are we going to kill Mufasa all over again? Look, I get it as a money grab. Disney is also remaking live-action versions of Dumbo, Aladdin and Toy Story (along with The Lion King), so clearly Disney is banking on folks being willing to shell out big bucks to introduce new little ones to stories that many of us grew up on and saw as children or teenagers. And you know what, it will work. I’m going to be one of those people taking my kids to see all of those movies.
And I imagine that given the trailer that recently surfaced that’s a shot-for-shot parallel from the original trailer from decades ago, the movie will be very similar, if not altogether the same, as the original, just utilizing new technology (and a very famous cast) to tell the story. Which means that, yes, my kids and your kids and a whole new set of kids are going to grow up with the death of Mufasa in live-action form, lending itself to a more realistic death, which means that my kids are going to be traumatized by this death. Like I was.
But, again, I’ll be there, watching, in July 2019, mentally preparing myself to see it and, more importantly, preparing to look at my kids and see who I need to gather into my arms because, “DADDY...WHY WON’T FASA WAKE UP!?!” will just kill me dead. Also, because I’ll be paying attention to make sure none of them are looking at Scar like he’s a badass.
I guess I just have to use a little radical acceptance and stay ready so that I don’t have to get ready for when Mufasa catches the majorest of Ls, again, courtesy of our friends at Disney.
RIP Mufasa. Again. Looks like it will be awesome though.