Plot: Let’s go back to the beginning of The Lion King….or moreso before the beginning. To the origins of Timon and Pumbaa and a retelling of the movie through their eyes.
Breakdown: I didn’t mind Timon and Pumbaa much in The Lion King, one of my favorite movies ever. I will admit that it was a drastic tone change when they were introduced, but Disney has a habit of doing that when something particularly heavy happens (think Bambi’s mom → Oooh look at the birdies!) They had some funny moments, and they were okay in the sequel. They are some of the more tolerable comic relief sidekicks, but…I still never really liked them much.
I guess I just get tired of Timon’s snarkiness and Pumbaa’s constant fart/bad smell jokes. Moreso Pumbaa to be honest. His only bits are farting/bad smell/gross out gags and the fact that he’s fat. While he has decent banter with Timon, he’s a one/two trick pony with jokes that aren’t even funny. However, I can’t imagine I’d want to watch them in a TV series or watch a movie about them.
Luckily, both things were created. The Lion King1 ½ is a movie that answers the burning questions of Timon and Pumbaa’s story before and during The Lion King. And, hey, at least this one’s honest about being a midquel…or mid-prequel instead of a sequel….BUT….they kinda messed that up because it should really be The Lion King ½ because 1 ½ kinda sounds like it overflows in The Lion King 2. Maybe they’re trying to say that they’re taking about 3/4 of the original movie, copying it, and pasting on a new 3/4 to make 1 ½? I dunno.
Here’s the thing, this movie isn’t like other Disney ‘sequels’ in that it’s actually Timon and Pumbaa watching a movie version of Timon’s backstory, how he met Pumbaa, them raising Simba and their part in the climax. They watch the movie in silhouette in much the same fashion as MST3K, but the thing that falls apart in that concept is that they don’t riff the movie or anything, they just pop up at certain segments to make a hindsight joke or reference about the situation.
And I do have to say, these are just completely pointless and non-funny moments. Rarely is there a legit funny joke in these cutaways.
You may be wondering why this format is being used at all. Well, like The Lion King used Hamlet as a template and The Lion King 2 used Romeo and Juliet, this movie is using Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead, a retelling of Hamlet through the eyes of two dead characters, as its template.
I’m also not very keen on reviewing this step by step since the format is so different, plus it’s retelling the movie just with jokes and more focus on Timon and Pumbaa. So I’ll just break down the major aspects.
This movie counts as a prequel and midquel because it also focuses on Timon’s origins, which occur before Simba is born. Timon was born in a wasteland far away from Pride Rock – so far that you can only barely see it on the horizon. Timon lives with a group of other meerkats who are obsessed with digging and hiding from hyenas. We get that from their song ‘Digga Tunnuh’ which, while being an earworm, is one of those incredibly useless songs. It really only serves the purpose of establishing that meerkats as about as set in their worker/paranoid ways as the ants from Antz.
Timon is, as predicted, the one who causes all the trouble in the group and is different from the other meerkats who just want to work. He wants a better life in a better home where he doesn’t have to worry about hiding from hyenas and where his life has purpose.
He has a slightly overbearing mother named ‘Ma’ (A single mother in a Disney movie? Wow.) voiced by Julie Cavner IE Marge Simpson and a great uncle named Uncle Max who is Jerry Stiller being every Jerry Stiller role. They actually parody the scene where Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands by giving the speech and ending it by saying everything the light touches belongs to someone else.
We also get jokes about the circle of life by implying that they don’t fit into it well because, despite the fact that they’re so low on the chain, they don’t eat the grass that their predators become. However, if they’re insectivores, then that joke doesn’t work entirely because the bugs eat the grass and they eat the bugs. There are still living beings lower than them on the food chain.
His mother tells him that, despite his dreams of a better home, it’s their place in life as meerkats to merely do what they do – dig and hide. After a mishap with Timon causes their tunnels to collapse, Timon’s mother decides he might be better suited for sentry duty.
It’s an easy enough job, but Timon screws it up by taking the mantra that sentries are supposed to follow (Scurry, sniff, flinch) and turning into a song, ‘That’s All I Need.’ It’s okay-ish, but it really gets lost in the middle and even the movie decides to cut it off early by having the hyenas interrupt it.
After the attack, he’s shunned even worse by the group and decides that he has to leave and explore to find his place in the world. He departs from his mother in what is actually a pretty touching scene and heads on his way.
He meets Rafiki after he gets lost, which may or may not cause plot holes. I do remember Timon asking ‘Who’s the monkey?’ after Simba decided to go back to Pride Rock in the first movie, but whatever. We learn that Rafiki is actually the one who taught him about Hakuna Matata. His advice leads him to ‘look beyond what (he) see(s)’ and decides that he has to go to Pride Rock to find his paradise.
He meets Pumbaa completely by chance by just bumping into him (Yeah there is really nothing more to that meeting) and Timon ‘hires’ him to keep predators away on his journey.
Now we’re at the actual beginning of The Lion King and Simba’s presentation ceremony. Timon’s unhappy with the crowded Pride Rock, so he decides to check out a little spot ‘beyond’ it. It’s here where we get the one joke that is just plain horrid.
Not only is it a massive fart joke, it also tarnishes the original presentation scene. Pumbaa doesn’t do well in crowds, and you probably already figured out where this is going from that, but let’s continue anyway.
He tries to ‘hold it in’ as he makes his way through the crowd, but can’t and ends up tooting his ass horn in such a massive way that a ton of the animals at the ceremony fall over and that’s shown as the real reason why the animals bowed to Simba…….I have to tolerate Pumbaa’s fart jokes enough as it is, but when it sets out to ruin iconic scenes it just pisses me off.
We get more clashes with The Lion King as Timon and Pumbaa wake up in their new home to the part of the movie where Simba and Nala sing ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King.’ I get that this happened shortly after the presentation scene in the original movie, but we’re also lead to assume that some time passed between the ceremony and the song seeing as how Simba is somewhat older. This movie basically says he grew up that much overnight. Unless there was a time skip in this movie too, but there’s no indication of that.
Their new home gets ruined, and their journey to find another new new home leads them through several parts of the first movie such as the hyena attack, ‘Be Prepared’ (at least the very first part anyway) and the stampede scene (Kinda morbid how they’re playing up the scene in which Mufasa dies for laughs. He obviously isn’t seen in this movie dying, but you still know that’s what happening.) but they eventually stumble upon the perfect place seen in the original movie that they actually call Hakuna Matata.
They then sing a remixed version of ‘Hakuna Matata’ that I don’t like as much, but if it matters to you they added sing-a-long lyrics to the bottom of the screen in this one.
Timon’s mom, finding out from Rafiki that he’s ‘chasing metaphors’ decides to go off to find Timon, but not before smacking Rafiki in the head and smashing his foot. I love Rafiki and everything but it is kinda funny to see him get smacked for a change.
We’re finally at the point in the movie where Timon and Pumbaa rescue Simba. This is my favorite part of the movie because it actually showcases what we really wanted to see – what Simba, Timon and Pumbaa were doing during Simba’s time growing up.
The answer is – not much.
To be completely honest, it’s not like we’re meant to expect much anyway. Simba’s time with Timon and Pumbaa was portrayed as him just screwing around for months/years, and that’s pretty much what they do. The point of these segments, however, is to show Timon and Pumbaa bonding with Simba as surrogate parents.
While much of it is comedic moments, there is a scene or two of genuine bonding. And we do see how much Timon and Pumbaa care about Simba, which was actually fairly lacking from the original movie as much of their bonding was held in ‘Hakuna Matata’ before we quickly transitioned to Nala coming back and Simba going back home. While it may not seem important, it does add to their relationship more and gives some emotional standing to the scene where Simba decides to go back home, even if they do end up living with him afterward.
We also get to see more of Simba as a ‘teenager’ which is kinda cool.
Sadly, this part is really short. The scenes with Simba growing up don’t even take up ten minutes, and that seriously sucks.
Now for my least favorite part of the movie (barring the presentation fart joke) – Timon and Pumbaa (mostly Timon) purposely trying to break up Nala and Simba for the sake of keeping their buddy around.
I dislike this scene because 1) it cuts away from Timon and Pumbaa really caring about Simba to selfishly not giving a crap about his happiness for the sake of their own. 2) It contradicts again with the original movie as Timon and Pumbaa don’t start singing ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’ (they do finish it, though) 3) It’s a Mushu-in-Mulan-2-esque mindset of random accidents meaning two people will break up and 4) It, again, really tarnishes a pretty good scene in the original movie.
I just liked it a lot better when they just accepted that Simba was going to be romantically involved with Nala. They were really sad about it, yeah, but they accepted it and seemingly decided to respect Simba’s desires. As the saying goes, if you really love someone, you’ll let them go. It just makes Timon and Pumbaa look like selfish assholes now.
The scene after, when Simba goes back to Pride Rock, also creates an inconsistency because Timon initially said in the original movie that he thought Simba was with Nala when the preceding scene in this movie shows Timon and Pumbaa watching Simba and Nala have a fight and him running away from her. I know some liberties can be taken since this is a comedy movie, but this is still meant to be taken as canon. Plus if you give me a midquel on a movie I love, I’m going to nitpick you, it’s just law.
Timon’s mom and Uncle Max arrive and….Wait, what?! They just now found Timon?! Have they been looking for him for months/years? What the hell?
The actual climax, the battle with the hyenas and Scar, is completely different. They show none of the Timon and Pumbaa scenes that actually happened….well except the luau, and make up their own triumphant climax with the hyenas.
I’m perfectly fine with the latter because the hyenas are gone for most of this scene in their huge battle (However, this scene does essentially mean that Shenzi, Ed and Banzai never heard Scar framing the hyenas.), but I don’t understand the former at all. I get that it would’ve been slightly repetitive, but it’s a retelling – it’s supposed to be somewhat repetitive from its original version, especially when you’re focusing on the scenes that the main characters of this movie were originally in.
After that’s said and done and Simba takes his place as king, Timon and Pumbaa return to Hakuna Matata (I’m just going to have to assume that’s what the place is really named) with Timon’s mom, Uncle Max and the rest of the meerkats where they can live in relaxation.
This may or may not be the one inconsistency between this movie and The Lion King 2 because it shows that Timon and everyone else are living in Hakuna Matata now when it’s shown in The Lion King 2 that Timon and Pumbaa live at Pride Rock being Kiara’s babysitters/bodyguards, and Timon’s family is nowhere to be seen. However, there’s some time gap between this and The Lion King 2 so it’s possible that Timon and Pumbaa moved back between movies to help Simba out.
Bottom Line: And that’s The Lion King 1 ½. Despite the various inconsistencies with the original movie, not-that-entertaining every-once-in-a-while commentary and the stupid fart jokes, it actually stands as one of the more competent Disney seque—mid—pre—Somethingquel in the bunch, especially where the art and animation are concerned.
It’s also attributed to the fact that it’s a comedy and not trying to copy or cash in on the original movie. It’s just trying to have fun while paying homage to the original movie, and I’m all for that. I may not be the biggest fan of Timon and Pumbaa, but they held the movie well and many of the jokes legitimately worked, even if I still find the gross out gags to be dumb instead of funny.
Disney seems to be really good about taking care of The Lion King because, as I’ve stated before, The Lion King 2 is also one of my favorite movies. (Late stage edit: I wrote this before The Lion King 2019 came out, so please scratch my notes about Disney taking care the franchise……It’s a dark time for The Lion King now….) The tender moments felt real, and unless you’re incredibly nitpicky like yours truly, you probably would pay no mind to the inconsistencies.
The music’s alright. There are only two real original songs here – one’s not that good and gets interrupted, and the other’s just an earworm.
I’d gladly recommend at least one watch if you’re a fan of The Lion King, but if you can’t stand Timon and Pumbaa (or fart jokes), you can skip it. You’re really not gaining any massive insight into the original movie.
Recommended Audience: There’s gross out humor, mostly fart jokes, but some boogers, the average bug eating, etc. Other than that, nothing. Also, I can’t really call fart jokes and boogers ‘mature content’ so E for everyone.
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