The Lion King – The hero’s journey breakdown.

Ordinary world

Simba is the son of Mufasa, the King of the jungle. All the animals serve under Mufasa’s just rule.

Call to Adventure

Simba is born to be King but Mufasa’s brother, Scar, plots to kill them both and take the throne for himself

Refusal of the call

Scar easily tricks Simba into going to the Elephant grave yard because Simba has no comprehension that Scar would try and kill him. He’s completely unaware of the call which is why he doesn’t take action against it.

Belly of the whale

Simba enters the Elephant grave yard and is nearly killed.

Supernatural Aid

Simba’s mentor is his father Mufasa. He leads by example and teaches Simba how to be a good King by being just one. Later Rafiki the baboon also serves as guide to encourage Simba to take action.

Death of the mentor

Mufasa is killed in a stampede of wildebeest.

Crossing the First Threshold

Simba runs away believing he killed his father.

The Road of the trials

Simba meets up with Timon and Pumba  and learns their carefree lifestyle. But meanwhile back on the Pride lands, Scar’s rule has destroyed it.

Meeting with the Goddess

Nala returns to his life, these childhood friends have grown up and become lovers. She begs him to return home because of what has happened to their homeland since Scar took the throne.

Woman as Temptress

Hakuna Matata – No worries, why be King, which carries with it the burden of responsibility when you can just relax and have fun.

Atonement with the Father

Simba understands the concept of the circle of life and there’s more to being King than getting your way all the time. He learns that he has an obligation to the greater good of serving your community.


Rafiki shows Simba that Mufasa is alive and shows him his reflection in the pond. Mufasa speaks to him and tells him he must reclaim the throne.

Ultimate Boon

Simba has the courage to return to his homeland and take up the thrown which is rightfully his.

The Magic flight

Returning to fight Scar

The crossing of the return Threshold

When Sarabi compares Scar to Mufasa he strikes her. Simba steps forward to defend her.  Simba accepts responsibility for his father’s death in front of his pride even though it was an accident.

Rescue from without

Closest thing to a rescue from without is the rain falling to put the fire out that threatens them.

Master of two worlds

He has defeated Scar, shed the guilt which didn’t belong to him and will rule the Pride lands as King.

Freedom to live

Life has returned to Pride rock, he is King and Nala his Queen. The circle of life continues with their cub.


I’ve included a link here for another interpretation of the Hero’s journey in The Lion King. The main differences between my breakdown and the one on the link stems from two key decisions. Firstly that the Call to adventure in the link is attributed to Nala telling Simba that he must return to Pride rock because Scar’s rule has destroyed it. (which is far too late in the film to be considered the Call to adventure) and secondly the Ultimate Boon is interpreted as Simba taking back the rule. I also consider this a misinterpretation as the Ultimate Boon is the moment where the hero is prepared to take on the challenge of the third act rather than the common misinterpretation that the Ultimate Boon is the climax, it’s not.

Jaws – The hero’s journey breakdown

Ordinary world Sheriff Brody lives on an island with his family and he’s afraid of water

Call to Adventure He discovers the dead body of the girl on the beach. It’s not the opening action piece where she is torn apart by the shark. It’s the moment when the hero, Brody is presented with the discovery of her body which will result in him confronting the shark that is the Call to adventure.

Refusal of the call Amity is an island town which survives of summer dollars from tourists. The sheriff reluctantly follows along with the mayor and the coroner and pass the girl’s death off as a boating accident.

Supernatural Aid Brody calls in Dr Matt Hooper, an expert in sharks. And to a lesser extent Quint, who is also an expert in hunting sharks

Belly of the whale The shark kills the Alex Kintner, this is his first real baptism of fire. Watch it here

Crossing the First Threshold Now the whole town knows there is a shark out there, the sheriff must take action.

The Road of the trials Dealing with the idiots attracted by the bounty on the shark and antagonism from the Mayor who refuses to acknowledge there is a danger from the shark and the beach needs to be closed.

Meeting with the Goddess This is a broader interpretation of the Meeting with the Goddess stage. The person who inspires and motivates the Sheriff to do the right thing is Mrs Kintner, Her son was killed by the shark and she publically slaps Brody. Brody has been shamed and guilted into taking heroic action.

Woman as Temptress Mayor Larry Vaughn is only concerned about the financial effect of the shark if it became known that a shark was hunting in the waters. He is able to talk the Sherrif into turning a blind eye and agreeing to allowing the beach to stay open even though he knows the right thing to so was to shut it down.

Atonement with the Father Brody fears the water. Quint tells him the story of the USS Indianapolis which went down and the sharks ripped apart the survivors. Brody fears the water and Quint tells him he’s right to fear it.

Ultimate Boon The Ultimate Boon occurs very early, just after the Mid point when the sheriff is throwing bait into the water and the Shark appears. The Call to Adventure is the discovery of the dead girl and the Ultimate Boon is the face to face confrontation with the shark that did it.

Apotheosis The Apotheosis is entwined with the barrels sequence. The shark has been harpooned and they now have the ability to track it’s movements. Apotheosis is a raising of consciousness or ability in order to complete the goal.

Rescue from without There’s no rescue from without. Quint has been killed and Hooper is out of action at the bottom of the ocean. Do the air tanks count as rescue from without? Not really, Rescue from without is a product of Karma, do good things for other people and you will get good things in return when you need it.

The Magic flight They try and escape the shark and head back to shallow waters

The crossing of the return Threshold Coming up with the idea to blow the shark up with the air tanks. He’s bringing together everything he’s learnt i.e. the tanks are explosive and this is no ordinary animal that he could just shoot with a gun. He’s got to blow the beast up.

Death of the mentor Quint is killed by the shark and Hooper

Master of two worlds Kills the shark, overcomes his fear, saves the town.

Freedom to live He swims back to shore with Hooper and celebrate being on dry land once again.



I highly recommend watching this documentary on the making of Jaws.

If anyone has any thoughts on Jaws or alternative views on the stages please use the comments below.

Toy Story – The Hero’s journey breakdown

Ordinary world

Toys live a secret life when people aren’t around, they are real

Call to Adventure

Andy gets a new toy for his birthday. Buzz Lightyear and he replaces Woody as Andy’s favourite toy

Refusal of the call

“Just a mistake. Let’s give it a nice welcome” Woody still believes he is the favourite. And after Buzz puts on his amazing display of falling with style, all the other toys are eager to be his friend and find out more about him. “They’ll see, I’m still Andy’s favourite.” Woody ominously mutters to himself.

Supernatural Aid

There is no true mentor in this story.  Woody serves as Buzz’s guide to a certain extent, teaching him about the ways of the world as Buzz has no clue.

Crossing the First Threshold

Woody accidentally/deliberately knocks Buzz out the window and the other toys throw Woody out the window as punishment.

Belly of the whale

They find themselves inside the arcade game which has the Claw as it’s God.

The Road of the trials

They constantly fight, Buzz refuses to acknowledge he is a toy and Woody desperately trying to get them back home to Andy.

Meeting with the Goddess

It’s a reversal of the Goddess. Sid is the opposite of the Goddess and intends on torturing and destroying the toys. Sid serves the same purpose as the Goddess and spurs them on to become heroes.

Atonement with the Father

Buzz learns that Woody was right all along; he is in fact just a toy.

Woman as Temptress

Buzz is tempted to give up on life when he learns about his true place in the world.

Atonement with the Father

Woody has his atonement when he is trapped in the crate and he realises his pride has led to his fall. His friends have abandoned him, he’s lost Andy and he’s most likely about to die.

Ultimate Boon

Woody and Buzz reconcile. They will work together for Andy’s sake.


Woody and the other toys break the rules and come to life in front of Sid.

The Magic flight

They make a desperate chase to catch up to Andy in the removal van.

Rescue from without

Buzz uses his retractable wings to release them from the rocket before it explodes and fly them into the sun roof in the car.

The crossing of the return Threshold

They make it back into the car and Andy is happy he’s found them again.

Master of two worlds

Andy has filled his bedroom with both Buzz Lightyear space posers and Woody Wild West posters. They both are his equal toys.

Freedom to live

Woody and Buzz are happy to be side by side as Andy’s toy.


This is a buddy pic for Woody and Buzz, they both have something to learn. Buzz needs to learn that he’s just a toy and Woody needs to make the bigger emotional journey. He needs to learn to share Andy and that he doesn’t have to be his favorite toy.  They flip the stages of the hero’s journey between them or have beats that combine for both characters.

The Hero’s journey – Rescue from without

Rescue from without

Hero’s don’t live in a vacuum, they are heroes because of us. They sacrifice their lives for us but they are not alone. Others should not stand idly by and watch the hero do everything. The Hero must do all the heavy lifting but his friends and allies should be what give him the slight edge over the enemy.

It’s function in a story is to take the hero as close to the moment of death as possible.

Keep in mind it’s not a random event, it’s an action from another character that’s been earned by the earlier actions of the Hero, it’s Karma, you do something good and something good happens back to help you when you need it.

Also, it seems to work best when it appears as a surprise rather than letting the audience know what’s coming. In Transformers 4 this stage was flagged early, dragged out and lost impact. Alfred Hitchcock often spoke about confusing the use of surprise and suspense in films, this is a beat where it is better served by surprise.

Star Wars –Just before Luke fires the shot to destroy the Death Star and Darth Vader is about to kill him, Han Solo appears and takes out the fighters attacking Luke. Han “You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home.”

The Avengers – Iron Man has made the heroic sacrifice and is falling to his death after taking out the enemy with the nuclear missile. Hulk saves him and cushions his fall.

Jurassic Park – Just before the Raptors kill them, a T Rex appears and kills the Raptors letting the heroes escape. This particular example is not true Rescue from withoug as there was no karma and takes it over the line in Deus ex machina which generally should be avoided but there are numerous incidences in film where it has occurred in film and has been successful

Raiders of the Lost Arc – The Nazis open the Arc and the Angels unleash the power of God on them. Indy is saved because he keeps his eyes shut.

Avatar – Avatar uses two, the first is for the overall battle between the soldiers and the Na’vi when Eywa sends the Pandorian wildlife in to turn the tide of the battle and again when Sully fights Quaritch in the final battle, Neytiri kills him with arrow.


Rescue – To save someone from a dangerous or distressing situation

Deliver, save, relive, pull through


Without – the outside of a place or area

Outside, external, extrinsic


How to use in your writing.

I think it’s important not to allow this stage to become deus ex machina. Focus on the hero being very active at this stage. The friend or ally who gives assistance is usually only just enough to give the hero the edge over his opponent so the hero can triumph. Don’t allow this outside help to replace the action of the hero.


The Hero’s journey – Magic Flight

Magic flight

Once the Ultimate Boon has been achieved, the antagonist chases after the Hero or a big final fight. In film this is the big, exciting climatic piece.

It’s either a fight or a flight. The Hero goes head to head with the villain.  A chase with the enemies in hot pursuit or reversed and the Hero is chasing the villain. How many romantic comedies end with the guy chasing the girl before she gets on a plane to Paris or running in the rain to her house.

Like all the stages in the Hero’s Journey it’s not a literal magical flight.

Star Wars – The assault on the Death Star

The Avengers – The fight over New York

Toy Story – Buzz flies into Andy’s car after defeating Sid.

Avatar – Huge fight in the air and on the ground between the Na’vi and the soldiers.

Magic – Impressive, wondrous, explosions, boom

Flight – Chase, pursuit, run, fight,


How to use it in your writing

A ticking time bomb of some sort adds to the urgency.

Make it as big as possible as the world will allow.

It can be a fight, a chase or both.