THE LION KING II: SIMBAS PRIDE
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was the first of two or at least one-and-a-half sequels to The Lion King (1994), the other being The Lion King 1½/The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata (2004), which was actually a retelling of the original film from the point of view of the talking animal sidekicks. There was also Timon and Pumbaa (1995), a further animated tv series featuring the two sidekicks. Simba's Pride is a little better than many of the other direct-to-video animated Disney sequels. For one, it goes so far as to bring back many of the voice names behind The Lion King Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Moira Kelly, Robert Guillaume and even James Earl Jones as the late Mufasa.
The film opens on a blatant copy of the awesomely scaled opening from the original and sets a disappointing scene. Eventually though, Simba's Pride gains its own strengths and becomes a reasonable film in its own right. Though the animation has been produced on the cheap, it comes with a reasonable quality and is nicely drawn. There are also some exciting set-pieces, especially one where Kiara flees from a grass fire and is saved by Kovu. The story sets up a decent character arc the son (Kovu) groomed by his mother to infiltrate Simbas camp and kill him who instead becomes attracted to Simbas daughter Kiara and where everything wavers between romance or vengeance. (This being the type of film it is, there is no particular surprises in guessing which way it will go, but the film crafts this reasonably well).
The songs, which are usually eminently forgettable in these affairs, are all fun and well written for once. There is a fine number where Suzanne Pleshette as the scheming Zira weaves her web of evil in Kovus mind. Standout is the Exile number with its wonderful contrast of baritone, alto and tenor voices. It adds up to one effort that is unexpectedly decent in the creatively impoverished arena of the Disney direct-to-video animation sequel.
One of the more amusing themes that runs through these direct-to-video sequels is their featuring the children of the characters from the original film see also The Little Mermaid II and Lady and the Tramp II. Although having gone on to the next generation, there is something amusing to now seeing the free-spirited characters of the original having become conservative parents who are issuing warnings of potential danger to their children who are venturing out into the same wilds that they themselves braved but one film ago.