The Lion King 1 1/2 review by Mike Long

If you were to study the history of sequels, you would probably find that most are simply cheap, quick knockoffs whose sole purpose is to make a buck. Disney has certainly been guilty of this in the past, especially in regards to their direct-to-video animated sequels. (I mean, have you seen Return of Jafar?! That's the longest 66 minute movie ever made!) But, occasionally, one can find a winner amongst these throwaway movies. Despite the fact that was almost a carbon-copy of the first film, Lion King 2 was a pretty good movie, and now Disney has defied the odds with the release of The Lion King 1 1/2, which may be one of the strangest films ever made!

The Lion King 1 1/2 opens with the story of Timon the Meerkat (voiced by Nathan Lane). Timon doesn't really fit in with the other meerkats, who only want to dig tunnels and watch for predators. So, Timon confides in his Mother (voiced by Julie Kavner) that he wants to leave, and find his true place. Once on his own, Timon meets Rafiki the Baboon (voiced by Robert Guillaume), who tells Timon to look "beyond what he sees". Following this strange advice, Timon befriends Pumbaa the Warthog (voiced by Ernie Sabella) and they become best friends. From there, the story of The Lion King 1 1/2 overlaps with many of the events from The Lion King, as Timon and Pumbaa befriend a young Simba the Lion (voiced by Matthew Broderick) and aid him in taking his rightful place as the king of the pride-lands.

The Lion King 1 1/2 may sound like a totally pointless movie, but trust me, it's not. The movie mixes the story of The Lion King with the kind of sassy edginess seen in recent Disney fare such as The Emperor's New Groove. Timon and Pumbaa not only narrate the story, but they show it to us as well. The movie opens with this pair sitting in a theater, where we see only their silhouettes -- MST3K-style, and they use a remote-control to run the action, and occasionally pause the story for asides, comments, or snack breaks.

This wacky sense of humor carries over into the story itself. The bulk of the movie is a Rashomon-esque retelling of The Lion King where we learn that Timon and Pumbaa were actually present for many of the big moments of that film, such as the classic opening, but we just didn't realize it. This allows the animators to spoof somewhat overrated The Lion King while still showing affinity to the source material. Basically, The Lion King 1 1/2 is a love-letter to fans of Disney animation who pay attention to all of the little in-jokes. It is also a knowing nod to parents, as many youngsters won't get the bulk of the jokes in this film, but they will appreciate the camaraderie between Timon and Pumbaa and the film’s colorful animation, which is fairly good for a direct-to-video sequel. No, The Lion King 1 1/2 is not in the same league as the original film, nor does it attempt to be. This is simply a fun family film which tries something new and does so in a delightful manner.

The Lion King 1 1/2 spoofs its way onto DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fantastic, as there is no indication of grain, nor are there any distracting defects from the source material. The colors look very good, and there is no oversaturation or bleeding of the colors. There are some minor ringing artifact issues and some moments where the animation gets a bit choppy, but otherwise, the transfer is quite stable. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, as well as a DTS 5.1 track. Both tracks deliver clear dialogue and a smattering of surround sound effects, but neither can compare to the 5.1 track on The Lion King DVD. This track does produce some nice subwoofer effects and helps to fill-out the home theater experience.

This 2-disc set contains a number of extra features, many of which are quite superfluous. Disc 1 starts with “Hidden Mickey Hunt”. There are 20 Mickeys (?) hidden throughout the movie and when an icon appears on-screen the viewer must press the “enter” button on their remote, thus acknowledging that they’d spotted the Mickey. I didn’t try this game, because, frankly, it just sounds too weird. There are 7 deleted scenes here, which are introduced by producer George Mendoza and director Bradley Raymond, and all 7 are in storyboard/scratch animation form. Disc 2 opens with “Timon: Behind the Legend” (4 minutes), which is a spoof of Biography and is actually hosted by Peter Graves! There are some very funny moments here, as Timon, his family, and friends comment on his life. The guest appearances continue with “Who Wants to Be King of the Jungle”, a Millionaire spoof which is hosted by Meredith Viera. “Before the Beginning: The Making of The Lion King 1 1/2“ (15 minutes) is a behind-the-scenes special which contains comments from many of the animators who worked on the film and has footage of the voice-actors at work. The rest of the special features aren’t very special. There’s a music video from Raven for the song “Grazing in the Grass”. “Timon & Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari 1.5” resumes an extra which appeared on The Lion King DVD in which the pair educate the viewer about animals. And finally, we have the “Find the Face” game, in which one must match a silhouette to the famous Disney character.

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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