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Not too bad considering its a direct to video Disney sequel
on September 4, 2002
For years, Disney has been trying to capitalize on their big animated film blockbusters by making cheap direct-to-video sequels. With lower quality animation, weak retreads of the original story, replacements in the celebrity voice talent and new songs leaving much to desire, they usually aren't even worth a rental. But The Lion King II is definitely worth at least a rental.
Perhaps it was because of the films major success as the highest grossing animated film of all time, but somehow when it came time to make Simba's Pride, the producers put a little extra effort into it.
The animation is close to the original's quality. Crisp beautiful colors saturate the African landscape and much of the fire is computer animated. It's obvious the animators took their time to make it a beautiful looking film.
Also, it avoided another common fall of the direct-to-video market: almost all of the voice talent returns. Even James Earl Jones supplies a few lines as Mufasa.
The story, though very similar to the original, is fitting and has enough twists to seem fresh. This is the story of Simba's daughter, not Simba. Sure this is definitely an unnecessary sequel, but as far as unnecessary sequels, this one holds its own.
If there was one major failing of this film, it's that the new songs are pretty pathetic. Compared to the original songs by Elton John and company, these ones lack their emotion and catchiness. The opening song is beautiful, but it is lifted from a "songs inspired by the Lion King" album released just after the original film came out. Fortunately, the film manages not to re-use songs from the original film, which always feels like a cop-out.
Also, there are just a few times in the film where the pacing feels rushed. Compared to other direct-to-video films, this is much better in the pacing department, but there are still a few minor problems. Mostly nit-picks.
Overall, this one is the exception to the Disney video sequel rule. Unfortunately the songs still left a bad taste in my mouth, bad enough to give it only 3 stars. But it's a high 3 stars!