okay but i love this part of the circle of life so much because it sums up mufasa’s character in less than 8 frames. it’s an excellent study in first impressions with one of your main characters so please take note
we can really take two things away from this scene. it represents how mufasa treats his subjects, but it also shows the dignity mufasa extends for those who are clearly not as powerful as he is. from a non-lore related standpoint you’ve got this massive hulking lion and this tiny fragile bird, so your first thought is “well some fucker’s gonna get eaten here and it’s probably not the carnivore.” the way they set it up is that mufasa’s towering over him, and zazu’s so insignificant. mufasa looks at him at first like he’s almost angry at him for being in his presence. from a lore standpoint there’s the idea that the great and mighty king does not have any time of day to give to seemingly unimportant/random members of the kingdom, especially on what is obviously an important occasion for him, even when zazu makes the effort to bow to him. he comes across the way scar is revealed to be when he’s eventually in charge.
BUT THEN HE DIPS HIS HEAD AND SMILES. he smiles! and it’s that big ole mufasa smile we all know and love. he acknowledges zazu’s effort and reciprocates with the same cordiality, the same respect. he doesn’t see zazu as an employee or a servant or just another subject in the sea of subjects travelling to pride rock. he sees him as a friend. it instantly informs you of what their relationship is and how mufasa treats those who live in his kingdom, and this is only further emphasised when he hugs rafiki two seconds later. they nailed mufasa’s character perfectly and made him immediately likeable. i don’t think i’ll ever fall in with a disney character as quickly as i did with mufasa.