Here’s how you know Rafiki is a big deal: when he makes his entrance during the epic first few minutes of The Lion King, we don’t immediately see him, we see his staff, and all the other, bigger, more majestic animals turn their heads and watch Rafiki as he walks in. STEP ASIDE ANTELOPE, IMPORTANT BABOON COMING THROUGH!
Look at this “I’ve arrived” face he makes as he is backlit by some extreme rays of light. (Dang, nature/animators good at animating how beautiful nature is.)
That entrance just goes to show what Rafiki is going to be all about. Is he a serious-looking, awe-inspiring character? No, he’s a multi-colored monkey with a staff, but he’s going to tell you what’s what, so listen up.
That’s when he starts jangling assorted fruits and gourds in Simba’s face, looking earnest all the while. Rafiki is up to some Rafiki business.
Ooo, that moment when he cracks open whatever kind of fruit that is. So juicy. So Circle of Life.
Then he puts some sand on Simba’s face too, for reasons, but don’t worry, RAFIKI KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING.
Then he gets to partake in what will soon become one of the most important, epic, emulated, epic, exciting, dramatic, important scenes from any animated Disney film (arguably): the holding up of the baby Simba for all to see. And Rafiki does it like he KNOWS that he is in an animated film and that everyone is going to get all teary-eyed before the opening title has even dropped. And he does know, because he’s a crazy genius of a baboon.
And the crowd goes wild.
Skipping ahead to AFTER the whole Scar/Mufasa/uncontrollable weeping/not a lot of Rafiki time of the first part of the film, (which we can do because you all know this story word for word by now)…
One day when Rafiki is shaking up a concoction in an old tortoise shell, having a snack, he OF COURSE has a revelation.
How did he get that from seed formations in a bowl? Because he’s Rafiki, that’s how. He’s just crazy enough to operate on the borders of reality and earn all that wise earthly wisdom that the rest of us are too busy to notice. Pro tip: stare at your cereal, achieve clarity.
Then he laughs hysterically, which we all love to see. Crazy ol’ Rafiki.
Then he says this classic Rafiki line, which we love to use whenever our food arrives at a restaurant or when our food is done in the microwave, or any time it is time for something important to begin (usually a meal).
When it’s time to get back in touch with Simba, Rafiki decides to take the “I’m a crazy baboon” approach instead of coming at the young king all strong and serious. He proceeds to strategically annoy Simba into having the revelation that he has to take his place in the Circle of Life–brilliant.
Then he runs away to make a point. Maddening. If you want this enlightenment, Simba, you’re going to have to work for it.
That’s when he teaches Simba that his father is still alive WITHIN him, as long as he becomes the good, responsible king he needs to be. That whole thing.
He also delivers the most quick and concise lesson possible in letting go of the past. Just smack a stubborn young predator on the head and tell him that the past can hurt and that it’s on him not to get hit in the head again. We’ll give this one to you in extra slow-mo:
At this point, Rafiki has pretty much delivered all the wisdom Simba needs to return to Pride Rock and take care of business. But, he has one last moment of crazy that we all know and love, during the battle montage. This goes to show that just because you’re the wisest character in a film doesn’t mean you can’t also be a monkey of extreme action.
Don’t mess with Rafiki, he is both too crazy and too wise for your nonsense, hyenas.