Link to Last Week’s Part: The Disneyathon: The Direct to Blog Sequel – Part 5: Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World
Link to my Lion King (1994) Review: The Disneyathon – Part 12: Original Classics
Our final Direct to Video Disney sequel of the 90’s is, of course, the expected follow up to The Lion King. A sequel that I’m surprised Disney didn’t try chugging into cinemas as it’s The Lion King we’re talking about here. Oh well, the el cheapo route worked because The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride was still successful and is easily the most popular Direct to Video sequel we’ll be talking about in this series. So let’s find out if it still holds up, 20+ years later.
The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride takes after it’s predecessor by basing it’s script on the works of Shakespeare. You could also call it a complete rehash because it’s guaranteed that something you like from the first movie is here. Not that I’m complaining too much as we get an effective A Circle of Life inspired opening, with the awesome song He Lives in You. It immediately sets the stage for the main character torch to pass onto Simba’s baby daughter. Meet Kiara, a happy little naïve lion that Simba is always worrying about. I would be too, because her persona carries over into adulthood. Simba unfortunately suffers from the over protective father syndrome, a common disease that men catch in animated kid films. I’ll go with it here as it does fit in well with what happened to Simba in the first movie.
Things get more interesting when Kiara meets bad boy Kovu, the most complex character we have encountered in this series thus far. Part of it is due to the fact he was born into a Scar Loyalist group led by his mother Zira. Yes, Scar had some unheard of lion loyalists. Despite him leaving them all to starve in favour of feeding his hyena lackeys, they direct their hatred towards Simba for kicking them out of the Pridelands. While more context would have been nice I oddly still like this idea. Zira explains in her epic Be Prepared inspired song My Lullaby that she is going to use Kovu, who we find out was chosen to be Scar’s heir, to overthrow Simba and avenge her great leader’s death. So years later Zira manufactures Kovu and Kiara’s reunion in order to get close to Simba. Uh oh, this backfires when Kovu’s killer instincts are snuffed out by Kiara’s kindness, Timon and Pumbaa’s goofiness and Rafiki’s drug tripping love song. This results in the unwanted romance and cue the Shakespeare parallels.
One big negative coming up and that’s the romance, I’m sorry, it’s really bad. I don’t buy any romantic connection. With Nala and Simba, their romance works because they were childhood friends and the moment when they recognize each other as full adults makes total sense. Kiara and Kovu met once when they were kids and don’t see each other again until they’re adults, where Kiara probably shouldn’t even remember Kovu. The only explanation I have accepted as to why Kiara remembers Kovu is because I think he’s the only male lion she’s ever seen besides her father. (Seriously Disney, where are all the male lions?) Once together again they spend about two days together which is enough time apparently for Kovu to start feeling conflicted on abandoning the family who have raised him his entire life for one girl lion he has fallen in love with. It’s too sudden and let’s not forget this is all thanks to Rafiki’s love boat drugs, while he sings the most irritating song in the movie. Kiara and Kovu would seriously have been better off if they didn’t hook-up. Especially Kiara, who is more of a generic girl Disney character being tossed into an obligatory Disney romance. While Kovu is a character with so much potential that he’s unfortunately wasted on this forced romance, which also makes him a more generic character.
Besides that catastrophe (I’m puntastic!) The Lion King II has easily been the most watchable sequel since Aladdin 3 and his daddy issues. It’s pretty fun, full of exciting action and emotional moments. I’m a big fan of Nick Glennie-Smith’s score, which has nice new music to accompany the already great Han Zimmer score from the first movie. For the first time in this series the animation somewhat compares to the original as it appears they really tried here. Everything looks nice, it’s colourful and there are plenty of memorable shots. I’m very impressed here, I hope the sequels to follow keep up this consistency. The voice acting from returning and new cast is also exceptional.
Overall I may have sounded quite negative for most of it, but I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit. For an almost exact clone of the original it’s a pretty good work at it’s best.
Link to Next Week’s Part: The Disneyathon: The Direct to Blog Sequel – Part 7: An Extremely Goofy Movie