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Tear Jerker / The Lion King

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"...help."
WARNING: Spoilers are unmarked.

The Film

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  • After Mufasa saves Simba and Nala. Imagine your son being in grave danger if you're a parent. Driven home in the following scene when Mufasa confesses to Simba that the possibility of losing him is the one thing that makes him genuinely scared. Even more so during the stampede, when you can clearly see the distress on Mufasa's face as he searches desperately for Simba among the mass of wildebeests.
    • Every parent who genuinely loves their kid(s) will instantly sympathize with Mufasa on this. Imagine your son and his close friend go out to the place you explicitly told him not to, knowing full-well that the place they're going to is VERY dangerous, without any parental supervision to boot. And then strangers (who may not actually be evil, but the other person isn't going to know that) start chasing them about. Any parent will be suitably freaked the hell out at the idea.
    • The animation is so good that you can see Mufasa, the wise and powerful king, WINCE before he launches into his lecture to Simba, in a "this hurts me more than it hurts you" way. He knows his son is just a young, headstrong cub who overreached, but his little boy is going to be king some day, so he HAS to discipline him, even pulling out the Disappointed in You card.
      Mufasa: [to Simba] You could have been killed. You deliberately disobeyed me! And what's WORSE, you put Nala in danger!
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    • Simba himself is on the verge of tears. Especially after realizing that he almost got his friend killed.
  • The scene of Mufasa and Simba's last night together, after Mufasa saves Simba and Nala from the hyenas. First he's angry at Simba, but then they are nudging and playing with each other, laughing. If you don't know what will happen on the next day or so, this scene won't touch you that much, but if you know it, then you might have some watery eyes. And the music doesn't help in avoiding this.
    • Simba's "We'll always be together, right?" and Mufasa's answering speech about the Great Kings of the Past is a sad bit of foreshadowing, but when you think about it, the fact that he responds that way at all is very tragic. He doesn't feel he can respond with a simple "yes" or even something to the effect of them being together a good long while yet. Whether it's because nature is uncertain and dangerous or the role of being king is, Mufasa is painfully aware that he could die at any time.
      • Mufasa even foreshadows this earlier with his speech about the reign of kings being like the sun rising and setting. In both cases, Simba just can't grasp that his father one day won't be around; he innocently believes that he'll be king without anything changing. His childhood naiveté can be downright heartbreaking for anyone who's experienced a life-changing loss.
  • Mufasa's demise, obviously.
  • There's a very understated bit during the stampede. Zazu is flying through the gorge searching for Simba and finds him desperately clinging to a tree branch over the wildebeests. Simba cries out for Zazu to help him, and all Zazu can do is reassure him that his father is coming and tell him to hold on. Simba has caused Zazu plenty of irritation in the past, but Rowan Atkinson's excellent voice acting definitely gives the impression that, right now, Zazu would give anything to be able to pull Simba out of harm's way. But he knows he's not strong enough to lift Simba and therefore can't save him. That probably haunted him for years.
    • It's also pretty obvious in that moment that Zazu is himself incredibly fond of Simba.
    • Nasty Fridge Horror when considering Zazu for this whole thing. After Mufasa goes down into the gorge to save Simba, Zazu tries to fly back to Pride Rock and get help, only to be smacked into a wall by Scar and knocked unconscious. Only he might not realize that. He probably thought he panicked and hit the wall himself and failed to get potential help for Mufasa and Simba because of it. Until the truth comes out later, it's not unreasonable to think that he blamed himself and felt that he failed both his prince and his king. It makes him seem more woobieish than usual.
      • Some more Fridge Horror for that scene; how do we know Scar didn't pull the "it's all your fault" trick on Zazu, too?
    • The look of utter horror and betrayal on Mufasa's face when he realizes his own brother is about to throw him to his death. In spite of the vitriol shown between Scar and Mufasa at the beginning, Mufasa is still a good and noble character and he probably still cares about his brother and is completely unaware of Scar's hatred for him until the very end. Someone he knew as family, someone he probably loved and wanted to see happy, tricked and brutally murdered him.
    • As he falls to his death, he lets out an absolutely gut-wrenching and completely helpless scream. The King of Pride Rock is completely helpless and can only scream in his last moments.
    • When Mufasa pleads for Scar to help him, he addresses him as "brother." It demonstrates that he would've done anything to save his brother were the situation reversed, and thought Scar would do the same for him. Instead...
      "Scar! Brother... Help me!"
    • The music that plays during the scene certainly doesn't help, especially when the part when Mufasa's theme comes in (fittingly, it was based on parts of Mozart's "Requiem"). Add Simba trying in vain to wake his dad up and then, in utter despair, trying to cuddle up under Mufasa's lifeless paw, so it will almost be like his father is holding him one last time. It's possibly one of the saddest scenes in any animated film ever.
      • Simba yelling, "HELLLPPP! Somebody! Anybody... (sob) help."
    • Simba's Big "NO!" moment right as Mufasa falls to his death could also qualify, since it's pretty much a given what's going to happen at that point.
    • The scene also became a tearjerker for the film's creators, as they received a letter from a young boy who had lost his father, thanking them as it helped him deal with his loss. The staff were moved to tears by it.
    • The scene is even more heartbreaking in theaters, in 3D...
    • This scene is arguably worse than the death of Bambi's mother. For one thing, there isn't any Mood Whiplash to this scene. Afterwards, Scar tells his own nephew that it's his fault his father is dead, to run away and never return, before sending the Hyenas to kill him. Of course, there's a little bit of much-needed comedy courtesy of Banzai falling into a bramble patch (with the much-memed line "Cactus Butt!"), but that's it. Plus, unlike Bambi, where audiences don't actually see any onscreen death or body, this movie has the visual of Mufasa getting pulled off the cliff and falling all the way down into the stampede, followed by the drawn-out Please Wake Up scene described above.
      • There's also the fact that, while Bambi's mother was pretty under-developed, Mufasa is a character with heart and humor whom the audience has come to love and sympathize with. To see him snuffed out so cruelly is heartbreaking for audiences.
    • Afterwards, we see Scar giving a none-too-sincere eulogy for Simba and Mufasa just before he takes the helm, and we see the lionesses and Zazu's reaction to this, with Zazu comforting the heartbroken and shattered Sarabi and Nala crying into her mom's leg. And then the hyenas come out. And these aren't the goofy trio that we know and love; these hyenas are Nightmare Fuel.
    • Followed by Rafiki sadly smudging out his drawing of Simba, and then Simba almost dead in the desert. A lot of people probably consider it a good thing Timon and Pumbaa showed up when they did.
    • Two Meta examples with voice actors.
      • Jonathan Taylor Thomas was recording this scene and his mom was present, so his director told him to imagine his mother falling; he proceeded to screw up the take by yelling "MOM!" instead of the scripted "DAD!"
      • In the Danish dub, there was a break in the recording and the director noticed that Andreas Hviid, who voiced young Simba, was unusually quiet and asked what was wrong. As it turned out, Hviid's father had recently died.
    • The size of this point proves that this scene is, and will remain, within the top 5 saddest moments ever in animation history.
    • Director Rob Minkoff has noted that the scene stands alone within the entire Disney Animated Canon in one important way: While the films' heroes having one or both parents die are a dime a dozen, they're typically already dead at the start or it happens within the first few minutes. But Mufasa is the only time they had the guts to give the audience time to get attached to the parent before their death, and a lot of the crew was seriously worried it would be too traumatizing for the kids watching (and many who saw the film at a young age will be happy to confirm this).
  • The scene following Mufasa's death when Scar convinces Simba that he (Simba) was responsible for it.
    • One of Scar's lines during that little guilt trip: "Oh, what will your mother think?" That broken little look in Simba's eyes cements the hate for Scar in that moment.
      • Later on, years later, Nala inadvertently repeats these exact words to Simba when she meets him again. It probably dug up a lot of bad feelings in Simba.
    • Prior to that, Simba briefly cries into Scar's leg. He trusts his uncle, his father's brother, and he's so desperate for comfort and for someone to tell him it wasn't his fault...and he gets that.
    • In some countries, McDonald's has released a puzzle promotion of the film with four scenes, with this one being the above scene of Scar "comforting" Simba.
  • The hyenas looking back at Scar, appealing for food.
  • Timon and Pumbaa having "sad" eyes at the end of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is both hilarious and this.
    And if he falls in love tonight
    It can be assumed
    His carefree days with us are history
    In short, our pal is doomed
    • Cue Timon and Pumbaa crying hysterically. It's Played for Laughs, but it can easily speak to any circle of friends, male or female, who have "lost" a member to romance. Or, since they've been Simba's Parental Substitutes, to any parents who have to watch their child grow up, leave the nest and start their own family.
    • Even before that, Timon is upset to learn that Simba calls Nala his "best friend". Despite their long years together, Timon and Pumbaa are still second to her. Doubles as Heartwarming.
  • Just before this, Simba is at his lowest point since the stampede; all of his feelings of guilt and shame having been brought back by his argument with Nala. He starts off in what seems like Calling the Old Man Out/Rage Against the Heavens, but it quickly turns once again into self-blame.
    • It's definitely a moment where Matthew Broderick proves He Really Can Act.
      Simba: You said you'd always be there for me! But you're not... [beat] And it's because of me. It's my fault...it's my...fault... [chokes up and starts to sob]
  • When Rafiki appears to him and declares that he knows Mufasa, Simba misinterprets this as the old monkey not knowing that Mufasa is dead. He visibly winces before trying to break the news to him as gently as he can.
  • When Rafiki tells Simba, "You see, he lives in you." Anyone who's ever lost a loved one, which given time could be literally anyone, can tell you that one of the hardest parts of grief is thinking that the person who's died is gone forever. Rafiki teaching Simba that Mufasa will live on forever through the memories of those who loved him is an anvil that most certainly needs to be dropped.
  • When Simba returns and sees what has become of his home. He doesn't look just shocked, but completely heartbroken as the reality of what Scar has done as king sinks in.
    • Made even worse when you think about the rest of the pride. They not only lost a beloved king and prince, but on the same day were forced to accept hyenas (vicious enemies who had tried to murder the prince just a few days before) as part of their pride. And later, they can do nothing about their lands being reduced to a dry and lifeless place.
    • Simba seeing his mother for the first time in years. His pained expression says a lot, no doubt feeling guilt over leaving her to believe her son was dead. And when she first sees him, she even mistakes him for his father.
  • The ending when Simba takes the throne is one of these too, partly from Tears of Joy (and the intense emotional power of Zimmer's score) but also just the sense of sorrow for everything Simba went through to get to that point and the relief that he is finally there, he's honored and avenged his father, and more than earned his rightful place as king. One word sums it up: "Remember."

The stage musical

  • Although a great deal of The Lion King is deeply emotional and affecting (as is the film it was based on), there's one particular addition not in the movie: The solo number performed by Simba, "Endless Night". In particular, the lines: "You promised you'd be there/Whenever I needed you/Whenever I call your name/You're not anywhere/I'm trying to hold on/Just waiting to hear your voice/One word, just a word will do/To end this nightmare." Also, the earlier lines "Sleepless, I dream of the day/When you were by my side/Guiding my path/Father, I can't find the way." By the time the end of the song comes, Simba sings such a stirring, heartfelt testimonial to hope for the future, but the way the song uses actual lines from the movie and builds upon them to reference both the deep love Simba and Mufasa shared (and how he was such a perfect father) and the guilt, despair, and suffering that Simba went through as mentioned above is just so overpowering and gut-wrenching.
  • "Rafiki Mourns."
    • Also, the lionesses mourning Mufasa's death with tears streaming from their eyes is enough to make anyone's eyes watery.
  • "Shadowland" is sung by Nala and the lionesses as she prepares to leave the pridelands in search of help. The mourning tone sets the despair of everyone as Nala is about to leave the home she has known all her life. The last chorus of the lionesses asking her to always remember her pride and Nala promising she will return is completely heartbreaking.
    • The beginning of the song, about how dire the situation is, also counts as you remember she has had to grow up and see her home be desecrated by over-hunting.
      • Nala (or any of the lionesses for what we know) has no experience of living as a rogue, without a pride. She might be the one with higher chances of survival due to still being young, but think about it: There is no guarantee Nala will survive being alone in the wilderness, let alone find help.
  • Seeing Mufasa's death live.
  • Simba having a flashback to his father's death while Timon is dangling from a branch over a waterfall.

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