More Evidence for a White Lion in The Lion King?


From The Lion King Wiki:

Mheetu [Me-too] appears to be a pale lion. It is unclear whether the artist of these early sketches intended the cub to have white fur or not.

Mheetu was supposedly Nala's younger brother in The Lion King, but did not appear in the film due to time constraints; little is known about what role he would have played in the film other than his relation to Nala. He was cut out of the film, so nothing happened to him in the movie universe storyline - he was simply not part of it in the final outcome. Concept sketches of him still remain, however.

Animation student and fan Hallie R. makes this argument:

I really like your comparison page for the question about The Lion King plagiarism. I noticed you mention that in early production stages, Simba was white. I was wondering why you don't have anything on the interesting phenomenon of "Mheetu," whose early character drafts are widely available (even on The Lion King Wiki) and is pretty damning evidence. It seems they fit your description of Simba's early character drafts as a white lion. Disney passed off those early drafts as a character they cut from the final production, though what little backstory they give to the character seems pretty flimsy. It's strange that a character who was supposedly going to be a "third wheel" would have the most unusual and unique coloration among the lions, next to Scar himself, who was a very important character. Not only that, the actual proportions of "Mheetu" have a lot of design parallels with Kimba: very large round head, large round ears, short snout, and short legs. Even when drawn by two different artists, these basic proportions are kept. There's also a rather prominent tuft of fur on his chest, a trait that Kimba has but Simba does not. It seems to me they had a very specific look in mind for this white lion.


Though the fan-written Lion King wiki page can't tell whether Mheetu is meant to be white, I can say with certainty he is. In the rest of the concept art for the movie, markers are used almost exclusively by the multiple animators as a means of depicting color, not shade (value)- there's really only one exception; one single black and white wet media drawing of Timon in early production. There's also one early study sheet of baboons with rough marker studies alongside pencil sketches and possibly mandarins for Rafiki (back when the production was still King of the Jungle), but that's about it. Yet "Mheetu" is colorless and has no distinct markings - unlike every other concept art of a young lion cub, pencil or otherwise, which have the signature spotting or stylized color patterns. Pencil is used primarily above all else in early character design and development for simple pictures depicting value, but not color, while artists use marker to portray ideas for color schemes in characters. This is actually true across the early development stages of most mainstream Western animation (before digital took over, anyway). On top of that, the fan site I showed you even lists these as Simba's concept art, meaning Disney never made it clear if it is "Mheetu" or "Simba." If the white lion depicted in the early promotion trailer has concept art, this is it.


While I'm not a proffesional animator myself, I have studied the process both out of school and in, and when I was younger I paid special attention to Disney. I recognize a pattern when I see one. I also find it interesting that there is not exactly a lot of evidence for any other characters they "scrapped in production" and therefore did not appear. "Mheetu" seems to be the only one that I could see.

Also, it seems to me Disney isn't known for showcasing unused characters as much as unused designs. It seems to me that with Disney, by the time the animators are designing characters, the plot is already fairly solid. Seems odd that they would supposedly have a plot device character such as "Mheetu" scrapped, and yet still present his character designs.

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