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Toon Talk: Lion King 1 1/2
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by Kirby Holt (archives)
February 10, 2004
Kirby reviews Disney's latest direct-to-video film, The Lion King 1 1/2.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

(c) Disney

2 Disc DVD

No Worries
It has everything going against it …

It’s the second sequel to one of the most popular and beloved animated films of all time, thus the law of diminishing returns dictates that it must be inferior to those that came before.

It’s a direct-to-video feature … in some (most?) people’s eyes, that alone signifies it must be bad.

It has a horribly awkward and confusing title … I mean, what exactly does The Lion King 1 ½ mean?

Well I’m here to tell you that it means one of the most delightfully hysterical and surprisingly heartfelt Disney films to come along since Lilo and Stitch. If you skip this 2 disc DVD for any of the reasons listed above, you’d be doing yourself a disservice: simply put, you’d be missing out on all the fun.

But what exactly is The Lion King 1 ½?

Taking a page from Tom Stoppard’s Tony Award-winning play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (which itself borrowed quite a few pages from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which the original Lion King strongly echoed as well), 1 ½ tells the ‘behind-the-scenes’ story of our favorite underachievers, Timon and Pumbba (once more brilliantly voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella), as it unfolds parallel to the historic events of the first film.

So in addition to seeing the origin of Timon and how he met Pumbaa along the way during his search for ‘hakuna matata’, we see how this odd couple of the savannah were blissfully a part of (and sometimes unknowingly affected) such moments as the gathering of the herd in the “Circle of Life? and that fateful wildebeest stampede (among many others that I won’t mention so as not to spoil it for you). And once they rescue Simba to their idyllic oasis, we get a chance to see how the future king was raised, including a more substantial peek at his teen years, seen briefly during the “Hakuna Matata? number in the original.

(Matthew Broderick returns to voice both the teen and adult Simba, while Lane’s Teacher’s Pet co-star Shaun Flemming steps in as the younger version. Rounding out the cast of returning favorites are Robert Guillaume as Rafiki, Moira Kelly as Nala, and Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings as the three hyena stooges Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, with Frasier’s Edward Hibbert once again stepping into the role of Zazu.)

And as this is a story about a wisecracking meerkat and his flatulent warthog sidekick, it is all served up with a healthy dose of irreverence, while still maintaining the spirit and glory of the original. The film itself is framed as if Timon and Pumbaa are watching it themselves in a theater, and they often ‘pause’ the film for their own running commentary, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style.

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