Direct To Video and The Lion King
An Essay on The Lion King 2
By James Maxwell
The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (TLK2) was released direct to video on October 27th, 1998. Although not present on the original VHS version, it was filmed in a widescreen format, which seemed to indicate it was meant for a theater release. This was Disney’s first major sequel, starting a trend that continues to this day. In fact another sequel to TLK would be released. But as happens in sequels, quality and enjoyment drop with every one. In viewing TLK2 several issues appear that show how the House of Mouse can take it’s greatest accomplishment to date and by overlooking a few minor details, fail to live up to it’s own standards.
The first problem stems from the way the animals are presented. TLK was great in the fact these were animals, with their limitations as such. It was easy to suspend disbelief because the characters on screen acted as animals would. Items were nudged with paw or nose but never picked up. Gestures were always done with a closed paw because lions, hyenas, meercats or birds do not have thumbs. Actions with the limbs were based on the true structure of that animal. TLK2 foregoes the very careful anatomically correct view of characters as animals and the results are less then pleasing. Observe Simba displaying a thumb when assisting his daughter up at the end of the movie, or Zira gesturing as a human would, with five obvious fingers during "That's My Lullaby". The animals are taken out of context to their environment and how the audience views them. The jarring jolt from ‘reality’ takes away from the very thing that made the first film such and accomplishment. You wanted to believe.
The second major issue in the film is the placement of humor. Timon and Pumbaa were just part of the comedic element to TLK. They were funny when on screen, but it never felt like they didn’t belong. The Hyenas also, with their forced humor and great accents added immensely to the movie. But they had their limits and a range of emotion. Timon and Pumbaa would go on to get their own television show and star in the third sequel to TLK, becoming the driving force behind The Lion King franchise. In TLK 2 it becomes very obvious an attempt was made to turn the sidekicks of the first movie into the stars of the second. From commenting during the introduction of Zira and Kovu, to taunting Zira prior to the pride battle, the Meercat and Warthog are everywhere during this film. And their presence detracts from what would otherwise be a very dramatic action. Drama is what drove TLK in the beginning, drama between the primary characters. The careful formula that made TLK such a success is blatantly missing from its sequel, and it shows.
It would also seem that the writers failed to get the memo that Mufasa is in fact, dead. In TLK Mufasa is established as the leader of his pride. He alone makes the decisions that govern life around pride rock. Although mentioning the great kings of the past, his connection to them it would seem is purely on an academic level. It is assumed his father was king before him, but that his reign has been over for quite sometime. Mufasa Is King, and a very beloved and capable one at that. However it would seem his son is less then capable, because his father has not given him free reign over his kingdom. I understand Simba is a young leader, but why did they bring Mufasa into this? From his shinning face looking down on the presentation of Kiara to his 'presence' throughout the movie, his paw prints are all over the reign of King Simba. Part of being King, or Captain, or Dictator is an understanding that when you're done, you're done. You step aside and let the new leader lead. Was it simply to remind the audience that part of what made TLK a great movie was what Mufasa and James Earl Jones brought to it? If so, it would appear the writiers were unable to let this movie stand on it’s own and Mufasa’s presence here is garbled and distracting. Mufasa’s last words in TLK were “Remember” and I think as an audience we do.
The second entry in the TLK trilogy does stand by itself. But in viewing it's obvious it was a rushed effort. It comes off more like a student trying to copy one of the great masters imitating, but not equaling the it’s predecessor. From the opening scene of the animal pilgrimage to Simba and family on Pride Rock, it's always that you've seen it before; never that it was new and exciting. Disney reached its pinnacle with the Lion King and it’s sequel stands in the shadow of that achievement.