Disney // 1998 // 81 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge David Packard (Retired) // September 30th, 2004
Kiara: "My father said there was a darkness in Scar that he couldn't
Kovu: "Maybe there's a darkness in me, too."
Disney's direct-to-video sequel to one of its biggest pre-Pixar smashes finally comes to our favorite format on a full-blown 2-disc Special Edition. Although the story feels like little more than a rehash of the original hit and the songs aren't as memorable or enjoyable, the return of most of the original voice cast, a beautiful presentation, and a ton of extras make The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride a worthy addition to your DVD library.
With Scar decomposing somewhere in the Circle of Life and the rest of his minions banished to the Outlands, the Pride Lands are once again a place of peace and scrumptious antelope. King Simba and wife Nala have knocked paws (Disney animators have once again spared us the details) and now have a daughter named Kiara. Just like her old man when he was a cub, Kiara is anxious and eager to prove herself. Simba, apparently reeling from the trauma of the first flick, is now a paranoid, overbearing dad who insists she not venture into the distant Outlands and assigns Timon and Pumbaa as the bumbling babysitters. Rafiki, the mystical, maniacal monkey (technically a mandrill, but to my kid, he's just a monkey), returns to hoist cubs over Pride Rock like Michael Jackson on a hotel balcony, engage in one-way conversations with the dead, and extrapolate love from a broken coconut. Zazu mostly flies around and panics.
After ditching Timon and Pumbaa on her quest for adventure, Kiara meets Kovu, a young lion whose physical appearance strongly suggests that Scar had his own Mini Me. The budding friendship and inevitable romance is quashed by Simba as we learn that Kovu is a member of the pride of Scar followers banished to the Outlands. The leader of said banished pride is Zira, Kovu's mother and Scar groupie harboring intense hatred for Simba. As the years pass, Zira blows all chances at winning Mother of the Year by brainwashing the growing Kovu into a lion with a Terminator-like primary mission to kill Simba and become the new king, Kiara misses her mane man, and somewhere during all of this, Disney probably releases a few more straight-to-video sequels to their other classic films.
Kovu finally gets into Daddy's good graces by "saving" Kiara from a burning ring of fire, but he buckles at a chance to off Simba thanks to his growing love for Kiara and the rest of the Pride Lands posse. Eventually, Kovu is booted back to the Outland, but his love for Kiara will not be denied. Tensions build and boil over into a Braveheart-like clash between the two prides until Kovu and Kiara step between the feuding felines with the inevitable Message. You'll have to watch the rest of the movie to find out if Zira's heart grows three sizes that day or she decides to rip Simba a new one all by her lonesome.
One of my favorite aspects of the original film was the voice talent; I felt the actors involved did a spectacular job at bringing their own unique vocal qualities and quirks to the characters, making for a lively mix of characters. Lucky for us, then, that Disney brought the vast majority of the original cast on board for this sequel. Matthew Broderick, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, and Robert Guillaume all return to lend their pipes to Simba, Nala, Timon, Pumbaa, and Rafiki, respectively. Even James Earl Jones returns to utter a few lines for the deceased Mufasa. The lone holdout appears to be Rowan Atkinson, which may explain why the flighty Zazu gets little screen time here. Neve Campbell, as the adult Kiara, more than holds her own in yet another role playing a wild thing, and Suzanne Pleshette (Zira) seems to relish her role as the outcast cat obsessed with revenge. I found myself missing the crazy edginess and humor of the hyenas (wonderfully voiced by Whoopie Goldberg and Cheech Marin) in the previous film, but I guess the dead stay dead in the Pride Lands; you'll find no zombie hyenas terrorizing the Pride Lands here.
The video is crisp and bursting with color with nary a scratch or other debris in sight. Aside from a few scenes (namely the other animals who dance around as Rafiki sings of budding love between Kovu and Kiara), the quality and effort put into the artwork and animation is worthy of a traditional theatrical release. Although a straight-to-video title, The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride has been given the THX treatment, and the result is outstanding. DTS aficionados get some love with a 5.1 mix that, while a bit light on bass, fills the room with the sounds of the Pride Lands. Flocks of birds taking flight, logs falling dangerously down the side of a cliff face, and Rafiki's disembodied voice all take advantage of the rear speakers and do a great job at enveloping the viewer in the environments. Of course, a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is here for your listening pleasure as well. I only wish a special home theater mix like the one created for the original film's DVD release was included here; sorry, Disney, but you really spoiled me with that one. Hearing impaired viewers will appreciate closed captioning (English only).
If you're into extras, the two discs should keep you busy for a while. Aside from the feature film, Disc One contains the following extras:
* "THX Optimizer"
Technically a Set Up option, but it's an extra nonetheless. Related to the THX presentation, the THX Optimizer is a spiffy little application that runs a series of audio and video tests to help you set up your television and audio system for the best picture and sound.
* "Sneak Peeks"
It wouldn't be a Disney DVD without the ability to take a look at upcoming Disney theatrical and DVD releases. Here you'll find sneak peeks for the Aladdin Special Edition DVD, Mulan 2-disc Special Edition DVD, Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Home On the Range, the Disney Princess collection, and the Lion King live Broadway stage show.
* "Music and More: Disney's Song Selection"
Go directly to the musical numbers from the film, complete with Karaoke lyrics displayed on screen. Here's your chance to warble "He Lives in You," "We Are One," "My Lullaby," "Upendi," "One of Us," or "Love Will Find a Way."
* "Backstage Disney: Lion King's Matter-of-Facts"
Selecting this option allows interesting tidbits to pop up as you view the film. For example, as Kiara playfully stalks a butterfly, a factoid tells us that lion cubs like to "play hunt" as practice for when they get older.
Disc Two contains the following extras:
* "Music and More: 'Love Will Find a Way' Music Video"
Kenny Lattimore and Heather Headley perform the song from the soundtrack.
* "Timon & Pumbaa's Virtual Safari 2.0"
Join Timon and Pumbaa on the back of an elephant as they deal with quicksand, wild fires, a rollercoaster-like ride through the jungle, and even a brief trip into outer space. Pumbaa spouts off educational bits, but you'll probably miss them as you enjoy the computer-generated imagery and impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Several points allow you to choose between going left or right, adding a touch of interactivity to the proceedings.
* "Pride Land Games"
Put those addition and subtraction skills to the test by counting grubs and rearranging them in various shapes. Another game has you match up river rocks so Kiara and Kovu can escape before they become Crocodile Chow.
* "Rafiki's Challenge"
The Pride Lands' version of three card monte: Keep your eye on the green jewel as Rafiki swaps coconuts. Choose wisely and win; choose poorly and lose a pack of smokes. Just kidding about the smokes.
* "Backstage Disney: Find Out Why"
Ever wondered why we sneeze, how airplanes fly, or why we have wind? Timon and Pumbaa give you the answers in short animated segments.
* "Backstage Disney: Lots About Lions"
Once again, Timon and Pumbaa are back, telling us all we wanted to know about lions but were afraid to ask. Animation mixes with actual footage to make for an enjoyable, educational extra.
* "Backstage Disney: Proud of Simba's Pride"
The voice cast and crew discuss the film in a behind-the-scenes featurette. There's not much substance as it's mostly a bunch of folks gushing about how great it was to work on the film. At just under seven minutes running time, it's more like something you'd see between features on the Disney Channel.
* "Original Short: One By One"
The folks behind The Lion King created this all-new animated short about a small village of African children who take to the fields in a kite-flying adventure. Backed by African music and chants, the film is filled with soft golds, vibrant kites, and all-around beautiful animation.
Let's start with the story: it's a bit weak. In fact, much of it feels like a rehash of the original film. The opening of the film almost mirrors the original, with the obvious exception that the baby cub is a girl this time around. Once again, we have a young cub ready for adventure that inadvertently wanders beyond the Pride Lands and into forbidden territory. Papa lion admonishes his child. Time passes suddenly in that special Disney way so that the cubs can age to the point where the inevitable love they share is not so creepy.
I realize that Disney probably didn't want to stray too far from what made the first film such a hit, and let's face it -- kids probably won't notice or care anyway. It's a minor gripe, but I think a fresher story could have made this film feel like a tale needing to be told versus feeling more like an attempt to simply cash in on the Lion King name.
The musical numbers we get in the sequel don't come close to the rollicking fun of those in the original. Tim Rice and Elton John penned many of the first film's hits, and their absence is painfully obvious. What's here isn't necessarily bad: The African-inspired songs fit well within the Lion King universe, but they don't match the emotion of "Circle of Life" or "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" or the toe-tapping, hum-along fun of "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" or "Hakuna Matata."
This flick might have skipped the theatrical circuit, but any fan of Disney animation or parents with little ones who enjoyed the first film would do well to pick up this release. The story may be thin and the musical numbers forgettable, but overall, The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride will win you over with its great cast, beautiful presentation and polish, and plenty of extras.
The court finds The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride not guilty. However, the court does urge the Disney empire to exercise caution with future direct-to-video sequel efforts: There's a fine line between creating another film simply because you can rather than because you should. Future films in the series that feature zombie hyenas, however, are exempt from this admonition. Court dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Packard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* THX Optimizer
* Sneak Peeks
* Music and More: Disney's Song Selection
* Backstage Disney: Lion King's Matter-of-Facts
* Music and More: "Love Will Find a Way" Music Video
* Timon & Pumbaa's Virtual Safari 2.0
* Pride Land Games
* Rafiki's Challenge
* Backstage Disney: Find Out Why
* Backstage Disney: Lots About Lions
* Backstage Disney: Proud of Simba's Pride
* Original Short: "One By One"
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict review of The Lion King 2
* DVD Verdict review of The Lion King 1 1/2
* DVD Verdict review of The Lion King