With the news that Disney’s Lion King 2 is likely to be an origin story, one writer argues that Simba’s Pride deserves the proper do-over treatment instead.

The news broke this week that Barry Jenkins will be helming a sequel to Disney’s $1.6bn-grossing The Lion King – the ‘live-action’ version, that is. In an instant, my mind was racing and my heart was beating fast. Why? Because simply, I adore The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride animation. Were my dreams of a new take on that about to come true?

Whilst the CGI outing last year was – for me – a dull, lifeless outing (in spite of the money that it made,) I was thrilled at the possibility that we could have The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride on the big screen in some way. Just so people – not least myself – could appreciate the story and the songs.

I was thus aghast to discover that Barry Jenkins and Disney’s next film will not be an adaptation of the 1998 direct-to-video sequel (appreciating that most Disney straight to video and DVD sequels were ‘challenging’). Instead it will be an original story based on the early years of Mufasa. It’s good that Disney is hedging its bets on the brilliant Jenkins to deliver some life and love into the Lion King series but, I must profess, I am devastated that The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride is getting ousted once more.

Am I alone? If not yet, then how about now:  I prefer The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride to the original The Lion King outing. But let me explain.

Two lion packs, both alike in dignity. In the fair Pride Lands, where we lay our scene…

Yep, where The Lion King rips its plot straight from Hamlet, The Lion King 2 tackles Romeo & Juliet. The movie revolves around Simba, who is now running the whole pride. But he’s also trying to impart wisdom on his rambunctious daughter Kiara. However, his over protection starts to cause a rift between them. In the shadowlands lies the villainous Zira. Exiled from the rest of the pack, she and another bunch of lions who supported the villainous Scar wish to return to the rock. Zira’s plan is for her son Kovu to lead a rebellion against Simba. One day Kiara and Kovu, as cubs, accidentally run into each other…and when they reunite as they are older, sparks start to fly between them.

Simba’s Pride is thus a sequel based on Shakespeare’s most famed tragedy, and it’s a film filled with a lot of heart and comedy. The whole tale is about generations and the mistakes you can make even when you’re trying your best as a parent. There’s also a tale of love, and finding who you are through love. As well as some terrific sequences, there’s also the return of beloved characters such as Timon and Pumba (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) to deliver some comedy and Rafiki (Robert Guillaume.) The only slight is that Rowan Atkinson did not return as Zazu, but Edward Hibbert is a great replacement.

Though Elton John was no longer involved, the songs for the film are incredible. Bringing the stage show’s greatest song by Lebo M to the film, ‘He Lives In You’, is inspiring. It hones in on the ethos of the first film, that our ancestors continue through us and our heritage. It’s a brilliant song sung by an African choir, that even has a Tina Turner version on the end credits. A collection of songwriters including Joss Whedon, Jay Rifikin, Mart Panzer, and Tom Snow add a different flavour and, let me tell you, not one song is bad. ‘We Are One’ riffs off the opening number whilst Zira’s villainess number ‘That’s My Lullaby’, sung by the iconic Suzanne Pleshette, is a sinister, grim melody. ‘Upendi’ is an upbeat number and finally, our main man Rafiki gets an entire number.

But let’s talk about the most memorable number: Not One Of Us.

When Simab uncovers Zira’s plot, he banishes Kovu from the pack. The entire pride gather together to sing it to banish Kovu. It’s one of the rare instances where the good guys get a villain song (notable others include ‘No One Mourns The Wicked’ from Wicked and ‘The Mob Song’ from Beauty & The Beast.) They instantly turn their backs on him without giving the lion a chance to explain or absolve themselves. The number is dramatic as hell, with floating animal heads vocalists and herds of different animals marching defiantly against Kovu.

For me? The soundtrack is one of the best that Disney has ever produced and doesn’t deserve to languish on old videos and Disney+.

The biggest problem with The Lion King 2 is that the animation is sub-par. Heading straight to home entertainment formats, it wasn’t given a big budget and that comes through with the visuals. This is the main reason why giving it a glorious outing on CG would hopefully do the story and songs justice. A remake of a film that actually deserves one, to improve the film.

Just imagine the intense feeling of glory you’d feel with the first bars of ‘He Lives In You’.  Imagine the drama of ‘Not One Of Us’ as the pride turn on Kovu. Imagine how hot CGI Kovu would be! Oh, ignore that last part…

I truly think that more people need to give The Lion King 2 a second chance. I’m not advocating CG remakes but there’s an outlier movie here that could be refashioned into a truly marvellous spectacle. The story, the music, and its energy are phenomenal.

It lives in me. It’ll live in you.

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