Little Girl's Reaction to Tragic Scene in 'Lion King' Has Viewers in Tears

A video capturing a toddler's devastated reaction to a pivotal early scene in The Lion King has got viewers welling up online.

2-year-old Rory Sanford broke hearts after her dad, Joshua, filmed her reaction to the death of Mufasa at the paws of his duplicitous brother, Scar, in the Disney classic.

The clip, which was shared on TikTok by Rory's mom, Kristin, captures the rollercoaster ride of emotions the youngster goes through as Mufasa initially saves Simba from certain death in a stampede before falling to his own death after Scar throws him into the onrushing animals.

The video ends on Rory, crestfallen, with tears in her eyes, watching as Simba discovers his dad's now lifeless body.

"Simba's helping him," Rory tells her dad, in a moment of understandable denial at what has just taken place. "He's tired," she says twice, evidently hoping that Mufasa will rise again.

Rory Sanford watching Disney's 'The Lion King.'
Toddler Rory Sanford's reaction to an emotional scene in the Disney classic "The Lion King" has got people welling up all over again. Her mom told Newsweek that they're going to try more of a "feel-good" movie next. kristinsanford/Disney

The clip ends with Joshua approaching Rory, who is now on the verge of tears, evidently eager to console her through what is something of a rite of passage for any young Disney fan.

While it's never easy to see someone cry, the fact of the matter is that it's a healthy biological process with notable physical and psychological benefits, whatever your age.

"Crying activates the body in a healthy way," says Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA and director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics told WebMD. "Letting down one's guard and one's defenses and [crying] is a very positive, healthy thing. The same thing happens when you watch a movie and it touches you and you cry...That process of opening into yourself...it's like a lock and key."

That's just as well because while Rory was left emotional at watching The Lion King, many of those watching her reaction on social media were left similarly tearful.

"I've never cried at this scene until now," one person commented, with another admitting, "I cried watching this."

A TikTok user said they began sobbing when they heard Rory tell her dad "Simba is going to help him" moments before he came across Mufasa's body.

One viewer described the video capturing the toddler's reaction as "the most devastating thing I've ever seen."

Rory's mom, Kristin, told Newsweek that Joshua decided to film the clip after noticing how engrossed she was in the movie.

"It's hard to keep a two-year-old focused on a movie for very long," she said. "So when he saw that she was totally invested in it he decided to film her reaction because he knew what scene was coming up."

Kristin has been left stunned by the reaction to her video, which has already been watched over 8 million times.

"It's kind of crazy. I definitely didn't think it would take off like it has. I usually get only a few views here and there mostly from family or friends," she said. "I think it got such a big reaction because so many people resonate with seeing that scene of The Lion King for the first time and how it made them feel as a little kid. It still makes them feel that now as an adult. It's a heart-wrenching scene and it's amazing to see the compassion and empathy that even a 2-year-old has."

While viewers have suggested they show Rory Bambi next, Kristin is thinking they might opt for something a little more "feel-good," especially as she's not sure Rory is completely over what happened to Mufasa.

"She is still processing it I think," she said. "She brought it up to me the other day when we were riding in the car. She was talking about Scar being a mean lion."

Correction: 09/29/22: 3:49 p.m. ET: This article was updated to correctly reflect the spelling of Sanford.