When I wrote a blog about The Lion King back in May: http://codenamesailorearth.blogspot.com/2012/05/30-things-to-think-about-for-lion-king.html I underestimated it’s popularity. Blogger doesn’t let me see how many hits I get on any blog, and since hardly anybody uses Google products these days (except for the search engine and YouTube) I just guessed that since I only have a handful of subscribers that maybe this just wasn’t a popular topic.
I couldn’t possibly have been any more wrong.
So imagine my shock when I receive and email first thing in the morning about the blog.
You may recall that my 30th question was this:
“When the original kid books for The Lion King came out, they listed Nala and Simba’s child as a boy. In the sequel, Kiara is a girl. Was this a misprint in the original books, a simple ret-conning of Kiara’s gender, or was there another cub that Rafiki dropped?”
Well a plucky reader going by the pen-name Angel, in an attempt to answer my 30th question, sent me a link to a Lion King Wikia.
Now normally, I dismiss Wikia pages as they are fan edited, hackable and most often dominated by angry DeviantArt and fanfic writers who have been banned from Fanfiction.net. There really aren’t many good ones out there, but this one was beyond exceptional.
http://lionking.wikia.com seems to be run by people who really do their research, and if anything, I’d like to thank them for posting about a few books I remember seeing at various libraries. Starting with one particular book I remember wanting to read, 1994’s The Lion King: Six New Adventures.
An obscure book, it follows right after The Lion King with Simba and Nala’s…. son? That’s right! In this book, published by an outsourced team with permission from the Disney corporation, Simba and Nala have only one child, a somewhat homely cub named Kopa.
At first I was skeptical, thinking that maybe I was looking at details from a bootleg book, even in 94 I was a little skeptical, considering the low-quality drawing in most of the pages, but a further investigation via Google proves that this book is 100% legitimate, as are the other facts noted in this blog.
Kopa is rambunctious, adores Simba and has a little tuft of brownish red on his head. (A real lion cub won’t start sprouting this until he’s about 2 or 3. A teen in lion years.) Kopa was likely developed to look a little like Mufasa, and was probably made a boy since the end of the movie implies that “The Circle of Life” continues with Simba and Nala picking up where Mufasa and Serabi began, with a baby boy. Or at least, that’s how all of the movie books and Burger King mini-books describe it.
So what happened to Kopa, and why is he absent from Lion King 2?
My first theory was a simple one. Rafiki gave him a sex change. But not only would this be a difficult pain to explain to millions of youngsters in the mid-90’s and would have set off the coalitions like crazy, it would have created more problems down the road, like why would Rafiki make Kopa a girl? Did he anger someone worse than his father did? And of course it doesn’t jive with the opening for Lion King 2, so out that theory goes.
Did Kopa die? The Lion King films are heavily centered on death, and there’s plenty of ways the danger-prone, Simba-lite Kopa could have died before taking the throne. He could have gotten sick, been eaten, crushed in the way Nuka was in the second film, drowned, flung from Pride Rock, set on fire, inhaled one too many of Pumbaa’s farts, plenty of ways to easily kill off Kopa before Kiara’s birth, but I’m pretty sure Disney wouldn’t want to explain a dead cub. Oh sure, they’re totally fine with killing parents in gruesome and terrifying ways, villains, old friends and hell, they’ve even killed off main characters only to resurrect them via “magic” (Belle kissing a back from the dead prince comes to mind) but generally they don’t kill kids that often. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened (a few years ago, they gave us a short for The Little Match Girl) but kids, tweens, babies and teens are usually off the killing menu in these films and film books.
Kopa is listed on the fan pages as Kiara’s brother, but I think the third explanation makes more sense, considering what the original animation team has said in the past.
Kopa is an alternate universe character. Essentially he is Kiara.
Kopa and Kiara are also a cub named “Fluffy”. And who exactly is Fluffy?
Well back when they were wrapping up production on The Lion King, the animators only referred to Simba and Nala’s baby as “Fluffy”. It was a placeholder name used only to remind the team who was being drawn at the time.
Nobody expected the film to do as well as it did, and the Disney team didn’t actually like making the movie at all. It took several years to finish the film, during which time, the title changed, (it was originally a comedy called King of the Jungle while in development, with a little less emphasis on death) several characters were dropped (Nala’s derpy father, Nala’s baby brother Mheetu and a few friends for Simba and Nala, respectively) and several plot developments were scrapped. (Scar tried to get it on with Nala. For real.) Add in time constraints and these people just didn’t have any time left to flesh out a character for the baby. So the cub was temporarily named Fluffy, and the team went on to the next film.
For the record, Fluffy has no gender. This could mean that Fluffy is a hermaphrodite cub, or that they kept the gender neutral, in case Disney wanted to add something later. Though Fluffy perfectly matches Kiara, and has long been accepted as her prototype.
Disney outsourced the rights for the movie books to various publishers, including Grolier Books, and granted the writers permission to make up brand new stories and new characters, based on the movie, starting with Kopa, the assumed progression of Fluffy. And since nobody at Disney could be bothered to read any of these books BEFORE granting them release or drawing up a sequel, the books and comics went to print, and Disney never thought about it again. A perfect tale of corporate laziness right there, folks.
And these lost books and comics open up big fat gaping plot holes, such as the addition of uncles for Simba and Nala, cousins, an adopted brother for Simba and an entire fleet of older male lions, who could have easily taken Scar down. This begs many questions. Why didn’t these lack-a-bouts bother to help when Scar was ruling Pride Rock, and where were y’all in the last film? The books barely even keep consistency with each other, further pushing the “this is an alternate universe” theory.
Now the last people to find out about these add-on characters were the Disney writing and animation teams… who didn’t find out about Kopa and the rest until Lion King 2 was WELL into production, and just about to be wrapped. Nice one, Disney! Way to keep your employees up-to-date.
So with the team unaware of Kopa, they just continued on explaining that at the end of the movie, Simba and Nala only had one child, a girl named Kiara. And the opening of Lion King 2 blends pretty well with the ending animation for Lion King 1.
However some people still insist that due to a few animation differences (such as Serabi’s place changing between films and the altered sky) that this could have been a different ceremony, and that both Fluffy and Kopa exist in Kiara’s story, but again, this opens up plot questions. Did Kopa and Fluffy die? Did Fluffy and Kopa grow up and move onto another pride (as most male lions do) and if they did exist, then why is Kiara then the ONLY heir? I’m thinking the differences in the opening to Lion King 2 were just honest mistakes caused by budget and time issues, as is the case with almost all Disney sequels.
Adding to fans’ frustrations, if you purchase some of the DVDs for the second film, the animators fess up, citing that they did toy with the idea of Simba and Nala having twins, one boy and one girl, but the boy was dropped from development and only Kiara remained. While most people speculate that the boy was Kopa, he was more than likely Fluffy, since Fluffy’s animation sheets match the original concept. But again, the three cubs are one and the same in Disney’s eyes.
When asked, Alex Simmons (the person responsible for first drawing Kopa) confirmed that Kopa was never truly affiliated with Disney, and was solely his creation with Disney's label. So while Disney made money off of Kopa, and allowed the public to believe and accept Kopa and Simba’s only child, he does not exist in the movies and Kiara is all there is.
This was a lazy oversight by Disney, one that could have been dealt with rather easily. They could have hidden behind the worldwide accepted excuses of alternate universes or as Disney calls it “place magic”, they could have last minute re-added the cubs to Kiara’s film and just given the animators more time (we didn’t need a sequel right away in 1998 ~ four years AFTER Lion King was relevant) or they could have found a way to write out the earlier Kopa. Instead, Disney just left it alone with absolutely no explanation. Not even a ret-conning.
And on this note, I really feel sorry for my generation’s parents. It’s enough trying to memorize the cast of a movie you took your kid to see, but then to add on a triple personality cub like Kiara, and have to memorize the difference between Kiara, Kopa and Fluffy, it’s just tacked on aggravation.
While I can accept Kiara as the only heir, it is a shame that a company billing itself on quality once again let greed screw with a simple story, that just as easily could have been left alone.