The film centers around Simba and Nala's daughter, Kiara, who falls in love with Kovu, a male lion who was raised in a pride of Scar's followers and Simba's enemies, the Outsiders. Desperate to be together, they must overcome the two obstacles that are keeping them apart: Kovu's mother, Zira, and Simba's prejudices against the Outsiders. While the original film's plot seems to have been inspired on the Bill Shakespeare's Hamlet, this sequel's plot is similar to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Discussion began about the possibility of a sequel to The Lion King before the first film even hit theaters. Most of the original cast reprised their roles from the first film, with the notable exceptions of Rowan Atkinson, who was replaced by Edward Hibbert as the voice of Zazu in this film and its follow-up/predecessor The Lion King 1½ and Jeremy Irons, who was replaced by Scar's singing voice actor from the first film Jim Cummings as the voice of Scar in this film. Also, Madge Sinclair, who was the voice of Simba's mother Sarabi, died one year after the first film was released, therefore her character has non-speaking appearances in this film.
The film opens a few months after the first film where Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) gathers the animals of the Pride Lands together for the presentation of King Simba (Matthew Broderick) and Queen Nala’s (Moira Kelly) new daughter Kiara. Mufasa's spirit (James Earl Jones) watches over the ceremony.
Months later, Simba becomes very over-protective of young Kiara (Michelle Horn), assigning Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) to be her babysitters. One day while they are arguing over their lunchtime, Kiara sneaks into the "Outlands" where she meets a young cub named Kovu (Ryan O'Donohue). After escaping a river filled with crocodiles, the two become friendly, but Simba and Kovu's mother, Zira (Suzanne Pleshette), quickly end their playtime. Zira reminds Simba that he banished the Outsiders, and notes that if he wants to punish them, Kovu is Scar's hand-chosen successor. Unwilling to harm the cub, Simba orders them to leave and later scolds Kiara for endangering herself and wants her to be careful when she is the future queen. In the Outlands, Zira's eldest son, Nuka (Andy Dick), complains to his younger sister Vitani (Lacey Chabert) about Kovu's status as "the Chosen One". At that moment, Zira returns and scolds both of her sons, but then decides that she can use Kovu's new friendship with Kiara to get her revenge against Simba.
Now a young adult, Kiara (Neve Campbell) heads out from home to do her first solo hunt. However, Simba is worried and fearful of his daughter unprotected and sends Timon and Pumbaa to watch her again, after promising not to. Furious to find out her father has lied, Kiara goes further from home to hunt away from the Pride Lands, though is still unsuccessful in her efforts. Nuka and Vitani (Jennifer Lien) set fire to the plains where Kiara is hunting, causing her to faint and giving Kovu (Jason Marsden) the chance to rescue her. Drawn by the smoke, Simba finds them together and reluctantly thanks Kovu for rescue his daughter and allows him to come to Pride Rock, though he is ordered to sleep outside the den. That same night, Simba has a nightmare about his father's death, only in the dream, Scar morphs into Kovu and throws the panicked and frightened Simba off the cliff. In the morning, he walks outside the den and yawns and stretches and goes to drink on a watering hole where Kovu contemplates attacking him, but Kiara interrupts and they go off together so Kovu can help her learn to hunt. During the lesson, they run into Timon and Pumbaa struggling with some birds, so the two lions help them chase the birds off. Together, they have fun playing, something Kovu notes he has never experienced before. That night, Kovu tells Kiara that he is not Scar's real son, but "was a part of him". Simba, who is hesitant to trust the young Outlander around his daughter, seeks guidance from the "Great Kings" and Nala advises him to give Kovu a chance, because he is not his father. Kovu decides to leave after trying to confess his real intentions, but Rafiki stops and invites the young lions to experience "Upendi"– which means love. After a musical journey through the jungle, the two deeply fall romantically in love. Then Simba finally warms up to Kovu and invites him to the den and sleep.
In the morning, Simba invites Kovu for a walk and tells him the true story of Scar, which Kovu had never heard. However, their walk is interrupted by an ambush by Zira and her pride, and Simba realizes that Kovu had set him up and Kovu claims he had nothing to do with it. After a brief fight, Simba manages to escape by scaling a wall of logs in a gorge. In chasing after him, Nuka slips and is killed by falling logs. Zira blames Kovu for Nuka's death, swiping a paw across his face, leaving a scar across his eye that resembles Scar's. Breaking from his mother, Kovu returns to the Pride Lands and begs the king for his forgiveness. Believing Kovu was behind the ambush, the wounded and shortsighted Simba exiles him and strictly orders Kiara to be confined in Pride Rock and forbids her to leave unescorted. Kiara is furious because her father refuses to listen to Kovu, and Simba claims he's doing what his father would have wanted unknowingly he defied what his father wanted, and she angrily defies him, saying "YOU WILL NEVER BE MUFASA!" horrifying and hurting him. Later that night, Kiara escapes and reunites with Kovu far from home.
Meanwhile, Zira leads her pride in a war against the Pride Lands, and a fierce fight breaks out. As Zira and Simba face off, Kovu and Kiara leap between them and Kiara tells her father that the fighting has to stop. She then tells him that the Outsiders are part of the pride, and she and her father peacefully nuzzle and reconcile. Zira ignores her, but Vitani agrees with Kiara. Zira tells her daughter that she will die too if she will not fight, which turns the other Outlanders against her and they go to Simba's side. Now alone, Zira leaps for Simba, but Kiara pushes her away and they fall over a cliff. Kiara lands on a rock, but Zira is sliding towards a storm-swollen river. Kiara offers to help, but Zira, like Scar, is unable to let go of her hate and falls to her death. Simba helps his daughter back up the cliff and allows the Outsiders, including Kovu, to return to the Pride Lands, and Kovu marries Kiara before joining her and her parents at the top of Pride Rock. Mufasa's spirit proudly watches over from among the stars and praises his son for his decision.
Cast and characters
- Kiara (voiced by Michelle Horn as a cub with Neve Campbell as a young adult) is princess of the Pride Lands, Simba and Nala's daughter, Mufasa, Sarabi and Sarafina's granddaughter and the main protagonist. Her singing voices are Charity Sanoy (as a cub) and Liz Callaway (as a young adult).
- Kovu (voiced by Ryan O'Donohue as a cub and Jason Marsden as a young adult) is Zira's son and the lion chosen by Scar to be king after Scar's death, but after Scar is killed in the first movie, Zira trains him to avenge Scar's death as his son and take back the throne of the Pride Lands. He is the deuteragonist. His singing voice is provided by Gene Miller (as a young adult).
- Zira (voiced by Suzanne Pleshette) is Kovu, Nuka and Vitani's mother and the main antagonist of the film. Both she and a small pride of lionesses were exiled by Simba as they still followed Scar. She is obsessed with revenge on Simba and trains Kovu in the hope that he will one day kill Simba and take back the throne in Scar's honor.
- Timon and Pumbaa (voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella respectively) are Simba's best friends and royal babysitters.
- Simba (voiced by Matthew Broderick (talking) and Cam Clarke (singing) is the king of the Pride Lands as Mufasa and Sarabi's son, Scar's nephew, Nala's husband and Kiara's father. He is a secondary character. Although a loving and caring father, Simba is very mindful and cautious of his daughter's safety and suspicious of Kovu, but later learns that over-protectiveness and lack of trust and forgiveness makes it worse.
- Nala (voiced by Moira Kelly) is the queen of the Pride Lands as Simba's wife and is Kiara's mother.
- Rafiki (voiced by Robert Guillaume) is the wise shaman mandrill of the Pride Lands.
- Nuka (voiced by Andy Dick) is Zira's somewhat neurotic son, Vitani's older brother, Kovu's older half brother and the secondary antagonist. He feels wholly inadequate compared to Kovu and feels that he should be "the chosen one," because "I'm oldest, I'm the strongest" and that, "Scar wasn't even his [Kovu's] father, he just took him in".
- Vitani (voiced by Lacey Chabert as a cub and Jennifer Lien as a young adult) is Zira's daughter, Nuka's younger sister and Kovu's older half sister.
- Zazu (voiced by Edward Hibbert) is the king's advisor and majordomo.
- Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) is Simba's father, Sarabi's husband and Kiara's grandfather who was killed by Scar in the first film. However, he still appears in the film as a ghost in the sky and in Simba's nightmare.
- Scar (voiced by Jim Cummings) was the main antagonist of the first movie, who was defeated by Simba and killed by the Hyenas. He makes a brief appearance in Simba's nightmare, where he transforms into Kovu.
In 1998, Disney believed that The Lion King II: Simba's Pride would be so popular that it shipped 15 million copies to stores for the October 27 release date. Disney sold 3.5 million copies in three days. Thirteen million copies were sold while it was still in print in the late 90s.
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. Both the original VHS and limited issue DVD were placed into moratorium on January 19, 2000. It was not released again on DVD until August 31, 2004, when it was a two-disc special edition. The special edition went into moratorium in January 2005. The film has been rendered in high definition and, from October 4, 2011, became available in a trilogy set with the other two films. The Blu-ray edition for the film was released as a stand-alone version on March 6, 2012. The Blu-ray edition has two different versions, a two-disc package containing a Blu-ray and DVD and a DVD-only edition. 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. The Blu-ray edition of The Lion King II, along with the other two films in the series, will be placed into moratorium on April 30, 2013.
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride received mixed reception by critics. 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. James Plath of Movie Metropolis gave the film 6/10, saying that, "Simply put, we've seen it all before."
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."
Among "normal" audiences and fans of the original film, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride has been received better than most other Disney sequels of its nature, and is at least "approved of" by most of the Lion King fanbase. Fan approval has increased dramatically in recent years however
- "He Lives in You" - This is an original song by Lebo M and his African choir. This song represents Kiara's birth and is also the equivalent of "Circle of Life". The song can also be a reference to when Rafiki told Simba in the first film that Mufasa "lives" in him. Also appears in the Broadway version of the first film. It was considered as the only song to be composed by Hans Zimmer, the man who composed the original film.
- "We Are One" - Sung by Cam Clarke and Charity Sanoy. Following Kiara's encounter with Kovu and Zira, which puts herself in danger, Simba explains how important she is to the pride and that the pride is one. The musical equivalent to the first film's talk about the Great Kings of the Past with Mufasa and Simba.
- "My Lullaby" - Sung by Suzanne Pleshette, Andy Dick, and Crysta Macalush. Zira's lullaby to Kovu, which outlines her plot for him to kill Simba and how proud it would make her. The equivalent to "Be Prepared" as the song is talking about how they plan to murder Simba just like how Scar's song talked about killing both him and Mufasa in the previous film. The song's ending is similar to the end of "Be Prepared" with Zira towering over the Outlanders mirrors Scar towering over the hyenas at the end. They are even standing on similar structures; For Scar, forms of rock that suddenly came out of the ground during the song, and, for Zira, a massive termite mound that is part of the group of termite mounds that the Outsiders live in. Zira's treatment of Nuka during the song also resembles Scar's abuse of Shenzi, Banzai and Ed.
- "Upendi" (Swahili for "love") - Sung by Robert Guillaume, Liz Callaway, Gene Miller, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Rafiki's song to Kiara and Kovu about love and happiness. Sung by Rafiki and his animal friends. Also the equivalent to "Hakuna Matata", from the first film, as well as "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" visually.
- "Not One of Us" - Sung following Kovu being exiled by Simba after he wrongfully accuses Kovu of betraying him in an attempt by the Outlanders to assassinate him. This was the first time the animals outside of the main characters (they talk in Lion King 1½) and the lions in both films (they congratulate Kiara when she hunts) have been seen talking. This is the only song to not have an equivalent to the first film, but lyrically, may reflect on Mufasa's death.
- "Love Will Find a Way" - Kiara and Kovu's first encounter following Kovu's banishment where they decide their love is too strong for their differences to keep them apart. Similar to "Can You Feel the Love Tonight". Liz Callaway and Gene Miller provide the singing voices for Kiara and Kovu in the film. The end title is performed by R&B artists Kenny Lattimore and Heather Headley.
Return to Pride Rock
An audio CD entitled 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. Tina Turner recorded a version of "He Lives in You" for the film.
On August 31, 2004, Disney released an "enhanced soundtrack" to coincide with the release of the film's 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. However, the CD only contains the songs featured in the film, without any of the inspired songs in The Lion King.
- Due to Joseph Williams's (Simba's singing voice) absence, Cam Clarke (Simba [Timon and Pumbaa TV series]) was called to record the original song "We Are One."
- There was going to be a post credits scene that wasn't in the final version:
Timon & Pumbaa are in the Outlands, chowing down on bugs. Pumbaa shouts "Hakuna Matata!" Timon says "Outlands schmoutlands...this place is better than Disneyland!" Then a bug flies into shot and flirts from side to side like Tinker Bell in the traditional Disney transistion out sequence. Due to fading to blank after the closing credits stops scrolling up, it was cut.
- In France, in the closing credits, it used Tina Turner singing "He Lives in You" and a cover of "Upendi" over it, instead of instrumental music and "Love Will Find a Way."
- Its surge in popularity in recent years is likely due to the fact that the director, Darrel Rooney, stated on Twitter that Kovu was an orphan.
- This significantly alters the film from every other film Disney made based on Romeo and Juliet in the fact the character that resembles Romeo is an orphan.
- On the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, the film is in widescreen unlike its previous home video releases. Showing more picture on the sides.
- When Timon shouts "Let me at 'em!" and tries to make a run for it, he has Pumbaa hold him back, but he lets go afterward, and Timon tells him that he "missed the basic point." This is a would-be reference to Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo.
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