The Lion King 1½ Review

The Lion King 1½ ranks as the best sequel to any Disney animated film not created by Pixar. It came about at the tail-end of Disney’s direct-to-video sequel frenzy, and though written and directed by many of the people who took part in that abuse of Disney’s classics, The Lion King 1½ somehow managed to exhibit a spark of creativity. Instead of just turning the concept of the original The Lion King on its head or making up a small mini-story that supposedly happened somewhere in the middle of the original, this clever take retold the story completely from the perspectives of Timon and Pumbaa. For a Disney sequel, that’s an unfortunately innovative (in that it doesn't happen more often) approach but it’s pulled off with remarkable style here as the meerkat and warthog duo chronicle how they met and how their tale intersected with that of Simba’s in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 nod. If your kids want more after watching The Lion King, get them this, not The Lion King 2.

The Lion King established that Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) were both outcasts in their own right, and while they explained the gaseous reason behind Pumbaa’s exile, they never touched on Timon’s. The Lion King 1½ tells his tale and then intersects it with his meeting of Pumbaa and then having their path intersect with the original film in clever ways to help tie the two stories together.

As you might expect, this means that instead of using Lane and Sabella as nothing more than comic relief, there’s a little bit of character development that has to occur. The laughs come fairly quickly, and even though it’s a lot of Timon’s fast-talking playing off of Pumbaa’s slow but goodhearted nature, it carries the film from point A to B. We get to see more of Simba’s growth from cub to adulthood as well as what the duo were doing while Simba and Nala were nuzzling one another through Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” It’s the perfect sequel for the film as it doesn’t attempt to introduce a bunch of shallow characters, but instead explores the ones audiences already love. This is the best sequel The Lion King could have asked for.

The downside is that the few new songs that have been made for this feature just don’t live up to the standard Tim Rice and Elton John set with the original.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Deleted scenes and a music video are two of the more basic extras, but the rest are fairly rewarding. They include a making-of featurette, a profile piece on Timon/Nathan Lane, and a safari led by Timon and Pumbaa.

"The Lion King 1½" is on sale March 6, 2012 and is rated G. Animation, Children & Family, Comedy. Directed by Bradley Raymond. Written by Tom Rogers. Starring Ernie Sabella, Julie Kavner, Nathan Lane.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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