According to Time, a truly insane alternate ending almost made its way into the smash-hit Broadway musical The Lion King, which was itself based on the 1994 Disney film, which was loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which definitely did not end its fifth act with Hamlet fighting in an animal stunt show in Las Vegas.
Director Julie Taymor — who, to her credit, was lauded for brilliantly transitioning the beloved Disney toon into a seamless stage adaptation in 1997 — almost took the reinvention a little too far in planning the Broadway iteration. Speaking to an audience at storytelling convention The Nantucket Project over the weekend, Taymor revealed that she had cooked up an idea for a different ending to The Lion King that would have never seen Simba return to Pride Rock and ascend to the throne after his exile.
“He goes to the desert. And in the desert, he comes out of the jungle … and he sees Vegas,” Taymor told the laughing, non-hyena crowd.
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Taymor explained that her glitzy ending went hand-in-hand with the scheme of a new villain named Papa Croc, who teamed up with Simba’s scumbag uncle Scar to hoard all the water in Africa. Papa Croc used the stored water to build a leisure oasis in the middle of the desert, which riffed on Las Vegas and was ostensibly loaded with bad animal-as-human puns.
There’s more: Papa Croc would come to earn Simba’s misguided love by acting as the father figure he lost when (spoiler alert from 1994!) Mufasa died. With that foolish trust, Simba would find himself thrown into Croc’s gladiator-style fighting pit, dueling against other animals with Vegas pizzazz.
Perhaps because of common sense or perhaps because the head of Disney Theatrical didn’t want to watch the world burn, Taymor’s non-problem-free philosophy was cut. “It was the right thing that happened in this collaboration,” she conceded. “Which is he knew we don’t need to go that far.” Everything the light touches is a pretty good boundary.