|The Lion King II:|
Home video release poster
|Directed by||Darrell Rooney|
|Produced by||Jeannine Roussel|
|Music by||Nick Glennie-Smith|
|Edited by||Peter Lonsdale|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Home Video|
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (later retitled The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride) is a 1998 American animated direct-to-video romantic musical film and a sequel to Disney's 1994 animated feature film, The Lion King. The story takes place in a kingdom of lions in Africa and was influenced by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. According to co-director Darrell Rooney, the final draft gradually became a variation of Romeo and Juliet.
Produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Australia and released on October 27, 1998, the film centers on Simba and Nala's daughter Kiara, who falls in love with Kovu, a male rogue lion from a banished pride that was once loyal to Simba's evil uncle, Scar. Separated by Simba's prejudice against the banished pride and a vindictive plot planned by Kovu's mother Zira, Kiara and Kovu struggle to unite their estranged prides and be together.
Most of the original cast returned to their roles from the first film, apart from Rowan Atkinson, who was replaced by Edward Hibbert as the voice of Zazu for this film and its prequel/sequel, The Lion King 1½ and Jeremy Irons, who was briefly replaced by Jim Cummings as the voice of Scar.
In the Pride Lands of Africa, King Simba and Queen Nala's newborn daughter, Kiara, is presented to the assembled animals by Rafiki, a baboon who serves as shaman and advisor. Simba's father Mufasa proudly watches over the ceremony from the Heavens above. Kiara becomes annoyed with her father's overprotective parenting. Simba assigns Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and warthog, to follow her. After entering the forbidden "Outlands," Kiara meets a young cub, Kovu, and they escape from crocodiles while befriending each other. When Kovu retaliates to Kiara's playing, Simba confronts the young cub just as he is confronted by Zira, Kovu's mother and the Outsiders' leader. Zira reminds Simba of how he exiled her and the other Outsiders, and she reveals that Scar selected Kovu to be his successor despite not being his biological father.
After returning to the Pride Lands, Nala and the rest of the pride head back to Pride Rock while Simba lectures Kiara about the danger posed by the Outsiders. He then tells her that they are a part of each other. In the Outlands, Zira reminds Kovu that Simba killed Scar and exiled the lionesses who respected him. Kovu explains that he does not think it is so bad to have Kiara as a friend, but Zira realizes she can use Kovu's friendship with Kiara to seek revenge on Simba.
Several years later, Kiara, now a young adult, begins her first solo hunt. Simba has Timon and Pumbaa follow her in secret, causing her to hunt away from the Pride Lands. As part of Zira's plan, Kovu's siblings Nuka and Vitani trap Kiara in a fire, allowing Kovu to rescue her. Simba is forced to accept Kovu's place since he rescued Kiara. Later that night, Simba has a nightmare about attempting to save Mufasa from falling into the wildebeest stampede but is stopped by Scar who then morphs into Kovu and sends Simba to his death.
The next day, Kovu contemplates attacking Simba as he was instructed to, but he teaches Kiara how to hunt instead and eventually realizes his feelings for her. Later, Kiara and Kovu stargaze where they talk about the Great Kings of the Past and Kovu wonders if there is a darkness in him like there was in Scar. Simba watches the two from afar and Nala convinces him to give Kovu a chance. Kovu attempts to reveal his mission to Kiara, but Rafiki interrupts and leads them to the jungle, where he introduces them to "upendi" (an erroneous form of upendo, which means "love" in Swahili). The two lions fall in love. That night, Simba allows Kovu to sleep inside Pride Rock with the rest of the pride, but Vitani tells Zira about Kovu's failure to kill Simba. Zira sets a trap for her son and Simba.
The next day, Kovu attempts to reveal his mission to Kiara, but Simba takes him around the Pride Lands and tells him Scar's story. The Outsiders then attack Simba, resulting in Nuka's death and Simba's escape. Enraged, Zira scratches Kovu for his brother's death, causing him to turn on her. Kovu returns to Pride Rock to plead Simba for his forgiveness but is exiled. Kiara makes Simba realize that he is acting irrationally, and flees to find Kovu. The two lions later find each other and profess their love. Realizing that they must reunite the two prides, Kiara and Kovu return to the Pride Lands and convince them to stop fighting. When Zira attempts to kill Simba, Kiara intervenes and Zira falls to her death.
With his enemy gone, Simba accepts the Outsiders back into the Pride Lands, and appoints Kovu and Kiara as his successors.
Discussion began about the possibility of a sequel to The Lion King before the first film even hit theaters. In January 1995, it was reported that a Lion King sequel was to be released "in the next twelve months". However, it was delayed, and then it was reported in May 1996 that it would be released in "early next year" of 1997. By 1996, producer Jeannine Roussel and director Darrell Rooney signed on board to produce and direct the sequel.
In August 1996, Cheech Marin reported that he would reprise his role as Banzai the Hyena from the first film, but the character was ultimately cut from the sequel. In December 1996, Matthew Broderick was confirmed to be returning as Simba while his wife, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Jennifer Aniston were in talks to voice Aisha, Simba's daughter. Andy Dick was also confirmed to have signed on to voice Nunka, the young villain-in-training-turned hero, who attempts to romance Aisha. Ultimately, the character was renamed Kiara (after it was discovered that Aisha was the name of the female Power Ranger), and voiced by Neve Campbell, from the Scream trilogy. Nunka was renamed Kovu, and voiced by Jason Marsden. Then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner urged for Kovu's relationship to Scar to be changed during production as being Scar's son would make him Kiara's first cousin once-removed.
According to Rooney, the final draft gradually became a variation of Romeo and Juliet. "It's the biggest love story we have," he explained. "The difference is that you understand the position of the parents in this film in a way you never did in the Shakespeare play." Because none of the original animators were involved in the production, the majority of the animation was done by Walt Disney Television Animation's studio in Sydney, Australia. However, all storyboarding and pre-production work was done at the Feature Animation studio in Burbank, California. By March 1998, Disney confirmed the sequel would be released on October 27, 1998.
Coincided with its direct-to-video release, Simba's Pride was accompanied with a promotional campaign which included tie-ins with McDonald's, Mattel, and Lever 2000. Unlike the North American release, Simba's Pride was theatrically released in European and Latin American countries in spring 1999.
The film was first released on VHS in the United States on October 27, 1998 and on DVD as a limited issue on November 23, 1999. The DVD release featured the film in a letterboxed 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the trailer for the movie, and a music video of "Love Will Find A Way" performed by Heather Headley and Kenny Lattimore. In 1998, Disney believed that The Lion King II: Simba's Pride would be so popular that it shipped 13 million copies to stores for the October 27 release date. In March 2001, it was reported that in its first three days, 3.5 million VHS copies were sold, and ultimately about thirteen million copies were sold. In September 2001, it was reported that Simba's Pride had sold more than 15 million copies. Overall, consumer spending on The Lion King II: Simba's Pride accumulated about $300 million -- roughly the same figure of its predecessor's theatrical release at that time, and continues to be one of the top-selling direct-to-video releases of all time, with $464.5 million worldwide in sales and rentals.
On August 31, 2004, the film was re-released on VHS and a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. The DVD edition featured optional pop-up informational commentary, interactive games (the "Virtual Safari") featuring Timon, Pumbaa and Rafiki, five humorous "Find Out Why" shorts, an animated short based on Lebo M's "One By One", and a "Proud of Simba's Pride" featurette. The Special Edition version featured changes made to the film such as Kovu in the water being inexplicably re-animated as well as other alterations. A DVD boxed set of the three The Lion King films (in two-disc Special Edition formats) was released on December 6, 2004. In January 2005, the film, along with the sequels, went back into moratorium.
On October 4, 2011, Simba's Pride was included in an eight-disc box set trilogy set with the other two films. The Blu-ray edition for the film was released as a separate version on March 6, 2012. The Blu-ray edition has three different versions, a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, a 1-disc edition, and a digital download. The Blu-ray edition has also been attached with a new Timon & Pumbaa short, in which the two friends gaze at the night sky as the star constellations resemble their favorite meal, insects.
Siskel & Ebert gave the film a "two-thumbs up" and said it was a "satisfactory sequel to one of the most popular films of all time, The Lion King". However, they also said it was best that it went to video, citing that the music was lacking and not remotely equal to the original's soundtrack.TV Guide gave the film 2½ stars out of four, claiming that, despite being of slightly higher quality than Disney's previous direct-to-video animated sequels, "comes nowhere near the level of its big-screen predecessor", either musically or artistically. The review later went on to say that "Though most of the original characters and their voices are back, they all sound bored, apart from the zesty addition of Suzanne Pleshette as the scheming Zira. The overall result is OK for kids, who will enjoy the low humor provided by the comical meerkat Timon and the flatulent warthog Pumbaa, but it could have been so much better."
Writing for Variety, Joe Leydon commented in his review "In marked contrast to most of the studio's small screen sequels to bigscreen animated hits, the new pic isn't merely kids' stuff. Not unlike its predecessor, Lion King II has enough across-the-board appeal to entertain viewers of all ages." Caryn James of The New York Times concluded her review with "It's the rare sequel that matches the creative flair of an original, of course. The Lion King II may be derivative, but it is also winning on its own."
Entertainment Weekly critic Stephen Witty, who graded the sequel a C+, wrote, "Despite its drawbacks, The Lion King II could make a decent rental for undemanding under-7 fans of the original, who won't be overburdened by the psychodrama. For true believers who've already watched and rewound their copies to shreds, it might even make a good buy. And for them, hey, hakuna matata. But for the rest of us, caveat emptor might be a better motto." James Plath of Movie Metropolis gave the film 6/10, saying that, "Simply put, we've seen it all before." Felix Vasquez Jr. of Cinema Crazed derided, "the sequel is as predictable a sequel as can be. It takes from The Fox and the Hound with shades of Romeo and Juliet and side steps the interesting Simba in favor of his bland daughter Kiara, and Timon and Pumba [sic]."
An audio CD entitled Walt Disney Records Presents: Return to Pride Rock: Songs Inspired by Disney's The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was released on September 8, 1998. Although not promoted as a soundtrack to the film, it contained all the songs from the film and some additional songs inspired by it by Lebo M.
In January 2016, a television series titled The Lion Guard began airing on Disney Junior, following a television pilot film The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar in November 2015. The series takes place during the years in-between Kiara's first meeting with Kovu as a cub and her first hunt as a young adult. It focuses on Kiara's younger brother Kion who as second-born, becomes leader of The Lion Guard, a group who protect the Pride Lands and defend the Circle of Life.
Kovu, Nuka, Vitani and Zira appear in the season one episode "Lions of the Outlands".
The studio is so confident in the sequel's success, it already is considering a direct-to-video sequel to The Lion King - which doesn't arrive in theaters until June.
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