The Lion King/Who was the cub?

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Before Disney released any information about the sequel that would eventually become Simba's Pride, the cub of Simba and Nala who appeared at the end of The Lion King was the source of much speculation and a character in many works of fan fiction.

Several months before the completion of the original film's production, a book series was released, known as The Lion King: Six New Adventures, featuring Kopa, the son of Simba and Nala. According to Alex Simmons, Kopa was his creation all the way with only Disney's label. In addition, he stated that he had no knowledge that Simba and Nala would be given a cub in the script, and in his experience, Disney separates their films from any book spin-offs.<ref[1]

For the most part it was assumed the cub was male, and various names for him/her were said to have come from Disney sources. Fluffy was the name given to it by the animators during the production of The Lion King, according to the director's commentary on the LaserDisc edition (and later on the DVD release). It was not given an official name or gender, as at the time of the film's release, the film was expected to be a box-office bomb and therefore no sequels or spin-offs were planned ahead. In an interview with Phil Weinstein, one of the storyboarders for Simba's Pride, he claims that he has no knowledge of Kopa, and as a result disregarded him from the film. Two other names said to be considered for him during production of the sequel are Naba and Chaka, and for a while it appeared the latter was going to be the name of choice. Chaka was described in March 1997 as "at this point the closest thing to an official Disney name for the cub".[1]

As story development continued, Chaka got a sister, Shani. Shani soon overtook Chaka in importance to the story, while Chaka became more marginalized and eventually was written out of the story altogether. With the cub now a female, other possible names for her that were said to be considered were Aisha (also a Neopet), and the one finally chosen for her, Kiara.

All of this took place over a period of about four years. Fans of the movie didn't wait around that long and soon came up with their own ideas about who the cub was. The most popular non-canonical name for the cub was Tanabi. Other names were proposed in various works of fan fiction for the cub, who was usually male and sometimes part of a litter that included other cubs, but Tanabi was by far the most widely used name.

Some fans have suggested that the cub at the end of the first movie is not Kiara at all but is in fact Kopa or Tanabi, noting that the appearance and coloration of the cub at the end of the first movie don't entirely match the appearance of Kiara (male and female lions were given different color schemes respectively), and/or citing The Lion King: Six New Adventures as a canon source. However, the books are not officially canon as they were written by people who don't belong to The Walt Disney Company and were published only in USA instead of world wide.

According to Andrew Collins, one of the animators of the sequel, he had stated that Kiara's redesign was a twist and a visual paradox. In his words " think it's a king, but it's a queen!" which identifies both known cubs as one.

Some have attempted to reconcile the cub's discrepancy by suggesting he may have somehow died or been killed at a young age, possibly by Zira. Other theories include being kidnapped by a lioness of a different pride and taken as her own child. No official statement has been made by Disney regarding the identity of the cub at the end of the first movie, but in the official canon, when only regarding the first film, it remains "Fluffy" and has no gender as its creators said in 1995. This is supported when in 2003, the commentary track was released and the filmmakers continued their cub as the genderless "Fluffy." The majority of fans consider it reasonably clear in Simba's Pride that Disney meant for us to accept that Kiara was in fact the cub we saw at the end of The Lion King, but some fans object that Kiara couldn't possibly be the cub at the end of The Lion King, that would mean she was presented before the pridelands twice, once at the end of The Lion King and a second time at the beginning of Simba's Pride. But the cub at the end could not be an older sibling to Kiara, because the sequel film's timeline was made so that there is no time for anyone else but Kiara to have been born - and especially Kopa appears as too old in the books to be the cub at the end and for him to have disappeared before the movie's events.

Others feel that speculation is pointless, on the basis that they think Simba's Pride contains serious plot holes and internal contradictions such that it is not accepted as a "real" sequel by them, despite the film's creation under the Walt Disney Company making it officially canon to the original film. Another reason why speculation is pointless, is that the sequel's makers used the cub from the first film for baby Kiara in their film's official trailer, which literally officializes that the cub and Kiara are one and same in essence.

Regardless of the fan-theories or any beliefs of a cub named "Kopa", in the Lion King franchise, the cub is officially Kiara.

In the 2015-2019 series, The Lion Guard, a new cub of Simba is introduced known as Kion. Many people speculate that Kion is an alternated characterization of Kopa, however, as Kion is created by the Walt Disney Company, and Kopa is not, it makes it impossible for Kion to be a retcon of Kopa. Many people also speculate that Kion is the cub at the end of the original film, due to Kion's fur being similar to the cub's fur. However, director Ford Riley stated that the pilot film of The Lion Guard, Return of the Roar, as well as the first two seasons serve as midquels to Simba's Pride, taking place after Kiara meets Kovu, but before her first hunt. In order for Kion to be the cub at the end of the first film, the opening scene in the sequel, would serve as a prequel to the ending of the original film, which contradicts the Proud of Simba's Pride documentary in which Darrell Rooney explicitly states "The seeds of it [the sequel] are in the first film," confirming that Simba's Pride is a direct sequel.

As a result, the cub at the end of the original film is Kiara, but Simba has an official son - Kion.


  1. The Unofficial Lion King Character Encyclopedia March 1997 Edition at Retrieved July 25, 2006.