I watched this more times than the first Lion King movie. I think I was trying to persuade myself that it was better than the original. It isn’t, of course, but it’s still quite good – probably Disney’s best direct to video movie.
The music is not as good as the first movie, and overall things aren’t as bright and colourful and fun. Here the palette is muddy and dark, especially in the final scene, which makes Africa look rather like a Stalinist gulag. The Timon and Pumba characters are given a lot of time…probably a bit too much. I find them distracting.’
But the story’s surprisingly good, picking up where the first one left off. Not a lot of kids movies show the consequences of the hero’s actions, but this one does, with large numbers of Scar’s supporters banished from the tribe and nursing their wounds in the desert. The plot is a bit similar to other Disney movies, but The Lion King wasn’t a paragon of originality either, and the sequel has some twists and turns that probably wouldn’t have worked in the original’s Biblical/Hamlet inspired tale.
The voice talent is mostly intact, except that Rowan Atkinson no longer voices Zazu (and believe me, he’s much missed.) The new villain is just a female Scar without Scar’s sense of humour. I wonder why they didn’t have survive Lion King‘s final scene and make a comeback. When I was 10 and saw the ripped-to-shreds character Nuka, I misunderstood and thought that was exactly what they had done. As it is, Zira creates continuity problems. Where was she when the events of the first movie were happening?
Rafiki’s still in fine form, and Nala and Kovu are good characters. We don’t have the very typical scenario of the main character being the least interesting part of the movie, which is fortunate – some of Disney’s legit theater-released movies can’t say the same. The characterisation is good enough that the real stick-the-knife-in-and-twist scenes in the second half of the movie come off well, and are suitably moving.
In 1932, Walt Disney released a short called Three Little Pigs. The short proved unexpectedly popular, with audiences identifying with the pigs and reviling the wolf (who they saw as symbolic of The Great Depression). Disney banged out several more shorts, and when none of them created the original’s sensation did he is said to have remarked “you can’t follow pigs with pigs.” Maybe not, but you can certainly follow lions with lions, and this movie is proof.