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Featured Blu-ray Review: Lion King Double-Shot

March 25th, 2012

The Lion King Double-Shot
The Lion King 1 1/2 = Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The Lion King was a huge hit. It was such a huge hit, that sequels were inevitable. However, instead of going the theatrical release route, Disney went direct-to-DVD for The Lion King 1 1/2 and The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. Disney direct-to-DVD sequels have a terrible reputation, but there are some that rise above the average.

The Lion King 1 1/2

The film begins with Timon and Pumbaa watching The Lion King. Timon wants to skip to the part of the film where they are in it, while Pumbaa wants to watch it from the beginning. They compromise by telling their story, which begins before the beginning of the film.

Timon wanted to be more than a mere meerkat and this has made him an outcast among his people. After messing up another tunnel, he's given sentry duty, which is something he actually likes. In fact, he likes it so much, he breaks into song. ... which gives the hyenas the opening they needed to attack the colony. After this, he decides to leave the colony and find his place in the world.

It isn't long before Timon meets Rafiki and the wise monkey gives him words of advice, which leads Timon to Pumbaa. Pumbaa is also an outcast amongst his people, for reasons he's reluctant to go into, but it isn't long before they are fast friends and looking for a place to call their own.

At this point, we see more and more of what we saw in the first movie, only from Timon and Pumbaa's point of view. And surprisingly, this works. The Lion King 1 1/2 is a very funny movie. Granted, the animation and the music is a step back from its predecessor, but it has more than enough energy and humor to make up the difference. That is not to say it is as good as The Lion King, far from it, but that movie was Oscar-worthy. At the very least, The Lion King 1 1/2 feels like a very good direct-to-DVD with an interesting enough hook to tie into the original.

The Extras

The only new extra is a five-minute look at the animals in the pride lands. There are also the old DVD special features (making of featurette, deleted scenes, music video, etc.). The Blu-ray looks really good with very strong colors, deep blacks, solid contrast. It's not the most detailed animation you'll see, but there's no problems with the transfer. The audio is clear with good use of the surround sound speakers, but it is not going to wow audiophiles. On the down side, the Blu-ray costs $29.99 compared to $19.99 for the DVD. Even with the DVD and the digital copy, that's a bit much to pay.

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride

This is a true sequel and takes place immediately after the events of the first film and begins with the presentation of Kiara, the daughter of Simba and Nala. Nala takes after her father and he asks Timon and Pumbaa to keep an eye on her. He has the right idea, but the wrong babysitter and it isn't long before she's wandered into trouble. She runs into Kovu, an outsider. Outsiders and Pridelanders are bitter rivals and Kovu acts tough, but when the pair are attacked by alligators, the two work together to get out in one piece.

They don't have much time to celebrate their success before they are found by Simba and Zira. Zira is the leader of Scar's old pride and Kovu was hand chosen by Scar to lead the pride. When Zira gets Kovu back to their pride, she hatches a plan. She will use Kovu's friendship with Nala to get to Simba. On the other side of the of the land, Rafiki hears a prophecy from the spirit of Mufasa. Nala and Kovu are to unite the tribes.

Zira isn't worried about taken down Simba right away and waits till Kovu is a young adult and Nala is on her first solo hunt. Kovu's sibling's, Vitani and Nuka, are to set a fire while Nala is on her hunt so that Kovu can rescue her. Once that happens, Simba will be forced to invite him to Pride Rock and that's when he will strike him down. The first part of the plan works out rather well, but Simba doesn't trust Kovu enough to invite him into the pride. (The nightmares about his father's death don't help.) However, once Nala and Kovu get reacquainted, feelings start to bubble up inside Kovu and his plan for revenge seems less important. Will love win out in the end?

The first thing you will notice about this film is the animation and style are quite a bit different. Firstly, it's cheaper. There is not as much detail and the animation is not as smooth as the theatrical release. Additionally, it's much, much 'cuter'. Likewise, the music comes across as a pale imitation of the first film. The story itself is a simple take on the Romeo and Juliet story, which we've seen countless times in the past. It's not poorly done and the new characters that are the focus of the movie are okay, but overall it never really rises above average.

If you loved The Lion King and really want to see more with these characters, then it is not bad. However, it is not necessary either.

The Extras

The only new extra is a five-minute featurette on some of the insects they like to eat. The old extras are back and include a making of featurette, a music video, and two featurettes that are only tangentially related to the movie. The video and area are excellent, even though the animation isn't as detailed. The colors are amazing, blacks are deep, and where needed, the details are sharp. There's enough activity from the surround sound speakers that the audio track doesn't appear dull. However, the Blu-ray is $25.49, which is a bit much to pay for this type of release.

The Verdict

At the moment, The Lion King Trilogy Box Set is just $49.99, which is actually cheaper than buying the two direct-to-DVD sequels separately. That's clearly the better deal, even if you already have the first film on Blu-ray.


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