I said we’d see Rafiki again, and voila! Our beloved baboon takes the number one spot, and it isn’t hard to see why. Besides being awesome, he is easily one of the most recognized Disney characters aside from Mickey Mouse.
This friendly (see what I did there?) primate seems to be in charge of the Pride’s spiritual health. The ceremony where baby Simba is presented to the animals during “The Circle of Life” is highly reminiscent of a baptism, although Rafiki’s other actions allude to his job being more shaman, as opposed to, say, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Like the other Prideland inhabitants, Rafiki was initially duped by Scar’s explanation of the stampede and the death of Mufasa. It can be gathered that he distanced himself from Scar’s reign, though no explanation is given as to why. Maybe it was because he disliked Scar and wanted to keep out of trouble, or maybe Scar, now guilty of murder, didn’t want the baboon’s spiritual presence breathing down his neck. Or maybe it was part of the “new era” he spoke of. Hyenas in. Primates out.
But once he discovered the truth, Rafiki immediately began working to get Simba to overthrow Scar and reclaim the throne. Such as it is. And it’s during this course of events that we get to see all the shades of Rafiki’s character. He’s clever (wise, even), spiritual, and skilled in mystic arts. But he’s also eccentric, has a wicked sense of humor (hitting Simba on the head), and is pretty darn tough! Though he has to be old (by baboon standards, anyway) he is incredibly agile and strong. He hit Simba hard enough to hurt, and later used his stick to coldcock a bunch of hyenas. Then there’s his epic battle cry and kung-fu skills.
Is it any wonder that he’s a recurring favorite? He doesn’t have all that much screentime, really, but he takes it all up to eleven. Not bad for an animated ape.