Plot: Simba has become a great king in the Pride Lands, and now he’s welcoming his first child, Kiara, into the world. While Simba has become a bit of an overprotective stick-in-the-mud and greatly values tradition and the kingdom above all else, looking forward to the day when his daughter supersedes him and becomes queen, Kiara is uncertain about her future and just wants to be herself.
When she grows up, she falls in love with a lion from the Outlands named Kovu, who has been trained his whole life to get close to Kiara in order to get in good with the royal family and kill Simba. His mother is Zira, leader of the Outlander lionesses who have previously pledged loyalty to Scar and have been banished to the desolate wasteland outside of the Pride Lands because of it. But when Kovu starts legitimately falling in love with Kiara, their loyalty to both of their lands and their families will be tested. Can love end the feuding once and for all?
Breakdown: Here we go, it’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally at the last movie to cover for Dissecting the Disquels – The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride.
I saved this one for last because it means a lot to me. I watched it right when it first came out, and it was a Disquel based on one of my all-time favorite movies. I watched it so many times when I was a kid that I was reciting entire scenes in my head line by line when I would pause the video and anticipate what was coming up next while rewatching the movie for this review. Not to mention that it’s one of the few Disquels that actually manages to hold its quality somewhat close-ish to the original product. Obviously, since most of these movies were all direct-to-VHS/DVD, they can’t really get within the ballpark of the quality of the movies they were based on, but some of them gave it the ol’ college try with what they had, and this one is no exception.
I had a lot to say about this movie, and it’s for a positive reason for a change! That’s why, to celebrate the end of Dissecting the Disquels, for the first time ever, I’ve actually decided to make this a two part review – one that goes in-depth into the main facets of the movie and another that’s in my step-by-step style where I go through the entire movie scene by scene.
To put it into perspective, this is technically a rewrite. My other draft had 14 pages worth of material and I wasn’t anywhere near done. I had spent so much time analyzing and talking about other stuff, that when I got to the step-by-step part, I knew it’d be way too much for one post, so I split it into two.
Is it overkill? Probably. But I am crazy. You people signed up for this. Now you must pay.
What could I possibly blather on about for *checks final total page tally* 34 pages? Let’s find out in part one of my final Dissecting the Disquel entry – The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride.
Mmmmbackground! The Lion King 2 is, I believe, the first ever Disquel I watched (I honestly don’t remember if it was this or Aladdin 2), which makes sense because it’s one of the first to ever be made. I absolutely adored The Lion King (It’s still one of my favorite movies) I watched the original so many times that my VHS tape wore out. Seeing a sequel come out really got me excited. I even nearly bought a Kovu doll I saw in a store, but I didn’t have enough money. 😦
As the years went on and I watched more Disquels, I was increasingly disappointed that none of them really reached the level TLK2 was on – far from it in many cases. Eventually, I just stopped watching them and became one of millions who rolled my eyes whenever they would crop up. However, TLK2 kept reminding me that the Disquels can be good, and I think, in some ways, keeping that in mind allowed me to more easily go through this entire review series. If TLK2 can be good, then there has to be some good nuggets to find within the mess, and yeah I found those nuggets, even if I had to trudge through a lot of crap, and there were only, like, three of four nuggets.
Rewatching the movie again for this review gave me a lot of nostalgia, but that’s not to say I had my nostalgia goggles on that tightly. Maybe I popped a lens out. We’ll see.
One of the first things you’ll notice about this film, especially if you’re a fan of the original movie, is that the opening sequence has a key difference that raises quite a few questions. Namely….who is this kid? This isn’t the same cub from the end of The Lion King. That lion was a male. It had gold fur, not tan – it was a male. Even if color didn’t indicate gender here, it still would not be Kiara because she’s tan and that cub was gold. In addition, the audio description for the first Lion King movie on Disney+ identifies the cub as a prince, and the audio book version, which was released before and re-released after the sequel was made, indicates that it’s Simba’s son.
Granted, it’s not like they had set up for a sequel when the first one was made, and I appreciate them wanting a female lead, but that doesn’t change the fact that it makes a massive continuity error, even with entries made after the sequel came to be.
Or does it?
Well, kinda. Maybe.
The Kopa Theory
This theory surmises that the cub at the end of the first Lion King movie was actually Kopa, the son of Simba from the Lion King book series – The Lion King: Six New Adventures. When this theory first arose, it was very questionable whether Kopa was actually canon in the movie series, even if his existence does answer several questions.
If Kopa does exist in the movie series, then the theory comes into place. The reason Zira and the other Outlander lionesses were banished was really because they plotted and succeeded in murdering Kopa. Perhaps this plan was an effort to ensure Simba would have no successor. It’s much easier to kill a cub than it is to kill the king of the Pride Lands. This would also account for why Simba is so crazy overprotective of Kiara to the point where he won’t let her go anywhere without an escort. (Although, admittedly, you’d think Nala would have similar reservations if this were true.)
However, at the end of the day, it’s mostly just fanon because neither Kopa nor anything indicating such an event is even hinted at in the sequel. It’s just a fan explanation that makes a lot of sense.
The writers and animators who worked on TLK2 reportedly had no idea that Kopa even existed, and that’s actually understandable. The books’ origins are really confusing. They were based on the movies, but they also weren’t made by Disney (only approved by Disney). However, the books were also written before the movie had even finished production. The author, Alex Simmons, even stated that he had no idea if Nala and Simba would have a cub at the end of the movie. So….I dunno if Alex Simmons had just seen a bunch of trailers for the movie and made books based on them or something? How do you not work at Disney, have enough information on an in-production movie to make books based on it but also get approval from Disney to sell what is basically Lion King fanfiction before the movie even exists? It’s really confusing.
Kovu’s family tree is a bit of a mystery. There aren’t any male lions in the Outlands besides Kovu and Nuka, both of which are Zira’s kids. Kovu is not Scar’s son, but Nuka looks down on him like he thinks he’s superior – as if he is Scar’s son. So that kinda brings a lot into question. Who is the father of Nuka, Vitani and Kovu? Do they even have the same father?
It should be mentioned that, originally, it was intended for Kovu to be Scar’s son, but then they remembered, whoops, Scar was Simba’s uncle and they intended on having Kovu and Kiara in a relationship. They didn’t want the tagline of the movie to change to The Lion King 2: All in the Family so they opted to have Kovu born of an unknown male lion.
This also makes Kovu’s age a bit off. If he was hand-picked by Scar, he had to have been born before Simba returned to Pride Rock, right? Doesn’t make much sense to choose an unborn child as your heir without knowing if it’s male. (I doubt Scar would select a female successor. He’s pretty sexist. He refuses to help find food for his starving people because it’s the lioness’s job to hunt, and he treats Sarabi like another servant when she’s still, technically, the queen.) And that means Nuka and Vitani definitely existed. So, again, where the hell were they?
Zira explains that Kovu was the last born before Simba exiled them, but then Simba acts as if he’s never seen Kovu before, which I guess is possible but it’s still weird.
Kovu and Kiara’s Relationship
Since this is a romance movie at its core, it obviously needs to have a strong main relationship to carry it, and Kovu and Kiara definitely pull it off. Not only do they have great chemistry and bounce off of each other very well, but they do complement each other. Kovu provides Kiara with a sense of adventure and actually listens to and respects her desires, and Kiara brings out the lighter side of Kovu and introduces him to true fun.
They also have many very cute scenes together from the instant they meet.
Them falling in love felt very natural, and they managed to pull it off extremely well while Kovu was still trying to keep up his charade. You can easily tell when he’s putting on the act to impress her and when he’s genuinely connecting with her. Admittedly, it is a tiny bit rushed, but that’s par for the course with Disney, especially considering the lowered run time.
Also, side note, but Simba and Nala are similarly adorable in this movie. They’ve become great parents, but they also have a very believable and sweet marriage. When Nala pinned him at the start of the movie, my heart fluttered with emotions from the first movie. They’re both amazing couples.
I’m not sure if it’s fair to analyze one of the first Disquels for Disquelisms, but let’s be fair here since you can find a couple.
First of all, this movie started the trend of having the children of the original movie’s main characters take the helm.
There’s a slight air of ‘the first movie in reverse/backwards’ happening here, even though, honestly, it’s not really that…..well….Okay it is. Well, except it’s not.
Simba is very Mufasa-esque in this movie. He’s a very proud king, he’s very stern, he doesn’t seem to withhold any of the Hakuna Matata-ness his surrogate fathers bestowed upon him. He’s very much into the old teachings of the previous kings and the circle of life etc. etc. etc. He’s still new to the role, but he’s taking it extremely seriously.
Kiara, however, is a very free spirit. She doesn’t like being babysat by Timon and Pumbaa, like how Simba didn’t like being babysat by Zazu, and she just wants to do her own thing.
Also, Simba was jonesing to take his place as king, but Kiara has serious doubts about becoming queen.
There are also some things here and there throughout the movie that reflect the original, but I’ll discuss those in part two. They aren’t really stark enough to say they’re mirrors or redoing the original movie in reverse or anything. This is an entirely different story.
Speaking of redoing the original movie, though…
The Doppleganger Soundtrack?
Some people criticize the soundtrack for TLK2, claiming it’s filled with songs that are just the original movie’s songs with a different flair to them. I can see where this criticism is coming from, because a lot of the songs do fit certain roles that the original songs filled, but I think it’s unfair to write it off like that. I, personally, love the soundtrack for the movie and think that the tracks stand perfectly well on their own merits. But let’s address each song to see if there is any true validity to this claim.
He Lives in You
Our first song of the movie is ‘He Lives in You’ or what would be the equivalent to ‘Circle of Life.’ It’s the opening to the movie, it’s happening over the sunrise, and the animals are all coming together for the presentation ceremony. It’s the song that accompanies the introduction to our main character, a newborn cub and prince/ess of the Pride Lands. At face value, it seems like the criticism fits fine here, but this song is very purposeful on its own.
The ending scene of the first movie was nearly a beat-by-beat recreation of the first scene of the movie just with Simba and Nala taking the place of Mufasa and Sarabi, and that was done in order to create the symbolism of the circle of life. The movie started with Mufasa welcoming Simba into the world, Mufasa died, then the movie ends with Simba welcoming his own child into the world.
If we’re starting the sequel off immediately from the last movie, then it makes perfect sense that the opening song would have the same vibe as the original.
‘He Lives in You’ is probably the closest the movie gets to an actual song reincorporation because some of the lyrics from ‘Circle of Life’, namely ‘Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala’ (I really hope I was accurate on that…) and, well, ‘circle of life’, are also part of the chorus for ‘He Lives in You.’
‘He Lives in You’ heavily focuses on the running theme of the spirits of those who are gone living on in the characters, whether good or bad. Simba thrives on the memory of his father’s spirit and even seeks him for advice when trying to accept Kovu and his budding relationship with Kiara. When she makes her plea to him to stop the fighting, he looks up to the opening sky briefly as if Mufasa is looking down on him.
While it is much more subtle with Kiara, her grandfather’s spirit is also reflective in her. She chooses to go back home and help their families stop warring instead of running off and starting a family with Kovu because she knows that’s what’s right. She chooses responsibility over her own desires and proves that, whether or not she does actually become queen in the end, she has what it takes to be a great and fair queen.
On the opposite side of the coin, Zira is very obviously trying to carry on Scar’s legacy by getting revenge on Simba and taking back the Pride Lands. Nuka channels Scar, too, believe it not, but only in his pettiness and maliciousness. It’s never outright stated who Nuka’s father is, but he believes he’s more deserving of the role of Scar’s successor than Kovu is and uses the fact that Kovu is not Scar’s child to support this. Nuka is jealous of Kovu because he seemingly has a birthright by Scar personally selecting him to be next in line instead of him, who may or may not have the literal birthright to such a position. Scar was similarly jealous of Mufasa being chosen to be king, even though Scar was the younger sibling, because he simply believed himself to be the better lion.
The aspect of Scar’s spirit living on in Kovu is a heavy theme in the movie. He’s not only being specifically bred to become a new Scar, so to speak, but they even go so far as to actually scar his face in the same spot Scar had his. During the song ‘One of Us’ he sees Scar’s reflection in the water, which is a rather brilliant callback to Simba seeing Mufasa’s face in the water in the first movie.
Unlike Simba, who wants desperately to be like his father and live up to his legacy, Kovu wants to be anything but that. The only time in which he is aspiring to be New!Scar is when he’s brainwashed by Zira. In the end, Zira winds up being the most fitting spiritual successor to Scar, and like Scar, she ended up causing her own undoing because she couldn’t let go of her hatred and selfishness.
‘He Lives in You’ is a great song and a beautiful opener to the movie. It also stands as being a very deserving followup to ‘Circle of Life.’
We Are One
The next song is ‘We Are One’ which I think is suggested to mirror ‘Just Can’t Wait to be King,’ but winds up being the closer to ‘Circle of Life’ in regards to lyrics. Simba is trying to convince Kiara that being a princess and later taking her place as queen is her destiny. It’s in her blood. It’s part of the grand scheme of things. The song is really framed like, as the title implies, everything is connected and supports each other. Even the spirits of those who are gone help us through life, and their family is also there to guide and support her.
The reason this isn’t so much a mirror of ‘Just Can’t Wait to be King’ is that 90% of this song is Simba singing, not Kiara. ‘Just Can’t Wait to be King’ was Simba’s Disney-typical ‘I want’ song, but ‘We Are One’ is mostly channeling ‘Circle of Life.’
When Kiara finally gets her turn to sing, it basically turns into an entirely different song. The melody is much softer and somber, in contrast to the grand and prideful version Simba was singing, and it’s literally now an ‘I Want’ song since Kiara is so conflicted. Her only lines come out to,
“If there’s so much I must be, can I still just be me the way I am? Can I trust in my own heart, or am I just one part of some big plan?”
She wants to be able to be free and do what she wants, but everyone, especially her father, is pressuring her into a role she’s not even sure she wants since it’s so demanding and restricting.
Funnily, and sadly, enough, the next interlude to Simba really highlights that he’s simply not listening to his daughter’s desires and just wants her to accept her role because it juts right from her lines to talking about ‘We Are One’ again. He is basically also saying ‘You have your entire life ahead of you, and as you mature, you’ll learn to understand why things are the way they are and why you have to be this.’ but it’s clear at the end of the scene that, while Kiara is open to trying to understand, she still just doesn’t get it.
It’s a little interesting, because it’s the exact opposite of ‘Just Can’t Wait to be King,’ in a way. Simba believed being king would literally give him the power and freedom to do whatever he wanted, since he felt so restricted by his parents. Kiara feels the exact opposite, however, believing it will severely impede on her freedom even more.
If you think about it, even though both of them were being understandably immature about it, Kiara is taking the more realistic view on the situation. Being queen does come with an insane amount of responsibilities. Even though you have a lot of power, you must use it wisely, and you must take the needs of every animal in the Pride Lands into consideration when you make decisions. Simba was under the assumption that being king would be a non-stop party and give him the freedom to do whatever he wanted, but such an attitude in real life would probably lead to a similar outcome as Scar.
Another interesting aspect of this song is that it reprises in the very ending of the movie instead of ‘He Lives in You.’ In the original movie, as I mentioned, ‘Circle of Life’ plays again at the end to loop the story back around. However, they chose ‘We Are One’ for the ending here. It does make more sense, however, because the Outlands and the Pride Lands were finally united, and Kovu and Kiara were able to be wed. It does indeed show that they are all one, but it also proves that that doesn’t mean we’re destined for this that or the other thing.
While I like ‘Just Can’t Wait to be King’ better than this song, ‘We Are One’ certainly has more emotional impact, especially as an ‘I Want’ song. It has a bright air of hopefulness and togetherness while still reflecting Kiara’s inner conflict. It’s quite beautiful, but I just wish Kiara had more of a presence in it. It feels like she was meant to have her own version of this song, like musicals sometimes do – keeping the melody but changing the message to show connection but also contrast – but they opted not to at the last second.
Also, this line comes after the song is over, but the music is still running, so I’m counting it.
Simba: “As long as you live here, it’s who you are.” That line has a lot of layers to it. First of all, you’re pretty much encouraging her to run away. If she’s not here, it’s no longer who she is. No longer her problem.
Secondly, why does where she live suddenly come into the equation? So, it’s not part of her blood or destiny anymore if she just leaves the Pride Lands? Kinda makes the circle of life thing seem less grandiose.
I feel like that line was originally “As long as you live, it’s who you are.” but that doesn’t make sense either because spirits are canon in this series.
The little bluebird flying off at the end is also a little intriguing. It was driven back to its nest by its mother earlier because she didn’t want her chick to try flying off yet, but by the end of the song it’s flying away into the sunset on its own. Kiara’s expression is happy, but also kinda sullen. The bluebird had to wait (about 53 seconds…) to fly off on its own, but once it was able to, it had the freedom to go wherever it wanted. Kiara, on the other hand, will be bound even when she reaches adulthood.
My favorite villain song ever is ‘Be Prepared,’ so this movie really had to deliver on its villain song to make me really think this was a good followup to the first movie, and it definitely delivered in my book. ‘My Lullaby’ is Zira singing Kovu to sleep about how she’s going to shape him into the perfect successor to Scar, get her revenge on Simba for their exile and avenge Scar’s death. The lyrics actually get a bit darker than ‘Be Prepared,’ as she says stuff like “The sound of Simba’s dying gasp, his daughter squealing in my grasp, his lioness’s mournful cry – that’s my lullaby.”
Its only major misstep is one lyric where she says “And a lust for being bad.” I just thought that was cheesy. Not only is the wording lame, but if you believe you’re justified in what you’re doing, then you shouldn’t wish him to have a desire for being bad. In your world view, you’re the good guys….
Overall, though, it’s a really awesome and intense song. It segues nicely from a calm and gentle, well, lullaby, to a malicious villain song to bringing the oomph in the finale. It does pretty much mirror the purpose of ‘Be Prepared’ since it was literally Scar telling his hyenas to be be prepared for killing the king and overthrowing the kingdom, and this is Zira pretty much saying the exact same thing to her fellow lionesses. However, it’s by no means the same song nor is it anywhere close to being just Diet Be Prepared..
I like how they made such a twisted ‘lullaby’ because, remember, she is literally singing Kovu to sleep here. She is making his lullaby about killing Simba, torturing Kiara, watching Nala mourn Simba and listening to a ‘symphony of death’ while they usurp the entire royal family and invade the Pride Lands. It’s also interesting how Zira keeps saying he’ll be king or he’s a prince during the sequence. It adds more of a parallel between Kiara and Kovu – Kovu’s not just being preened as Scar’s successor; he must become the new king. It’s not his main focus, that would be killing Simba, but presumably, once he’s done that, he’ll take over as king.
Final note, but this song break is just gorgeous in the colors from start to finish. From Zira’s yellow eyes piercing through the darkness at the start to the lionesses jumping over the light to the blood red sky at the end, it’s really cool.
The next song is ‘Upendi,’ and it’s seemingly taking the role of ‘Hakuna Matata,’ but mostly only in two realms – The title is a Swahili word (meaning ‘love’) and it’s largely a fun dancing song. However, whereas ‘Hakuna Matata’ was meant to help introduce Simba to Timon and Pumbaa’s way of life and get him to forget his worries and live a carefree lifestyle, ‘Upendi’ is pretty much just celebrating Kiara and Kovu’s budding romance. Rafiki is literally playing matchmaker to a pairing that was very very likely to happen (and pretty much was already happening) anyway. In addition, the lyrics are literally just talking about love and how great it is. It doesn’t have much substance to it or hidden symbolism – it’s just a simple song about love. In that regard, it’s, in my opinion, the weakest song in the set.
It’s a very fun song and easy to sing along with, but it’s not as strong as the other songs in the set. It just doesn’t have much of a purpose, and nothing memorable happens in the animation either, except one cheesy segment where Kovu and Kiara parachute on pink leaves that take the shape of hearts.
One of Us
The first and only song that really doesn’t have a suggested mirror in the first movie is ‘One of Us,’ and it’s a spectacular song. After Simba nearly dies in an ambush set by Zira, Simba throws away any trust that was starting to build with Kovu and marks him once and for all as a traitor before banishing him for good. Thing is, Kovu wasn’t a traitor. He had decided earlier that he didn’t want to follow his mother’s lead anymore and was trying to build up the courage to confess to Kiara and Simba about what was going on, but Zira intervened and specifically called him out as a conspirator because she found out he was legitimately falling in with Kiara and Simba.
This song is literally the entire Pride Lands singing about how they were deceived and he was really evil the whole time, as they feared. They also sing the lyrics “Evil as plain as the scar on his face” which has dual meanings – the first being that his supposed evil was as obvious as the scar on his face, and the second being that he now looks like Scar.
It also really highlights how divided the prides really are, and how hypocritical Simba is being. The songs ‘We Are One’ and ‘One of Us’ directly contradict each other. How can we all be one yet there’s a separate ‘us’ that needs to be cordoned off from others?
Interesting note, on the VHS, they make the mistake in the closed captioning to attribute the line ‘He is not one of us’ sung by a woman at the very end to Kiara, and that confused me for years. There’s no way Kiara would be singing any of this song, let alone specifically saying that to Kovu. This is proven as such both before the song starts and after the song is over when she pleads with Simba to listen to what Kovu has to say, but he refuses.
One of the reasons this song hits so well isn’t just because it has great lyrics and instrumentals, but because you really feel bad for poor Kovu. He is a changed lion, but now he’s being shunned by both the Outsiders and the Pride Landers. In the time frame of just a few hours, he lost his original pride, his new pride, his brother, his girlfriend, his family and his home. It really stings when he finally ducks his head and walks off.
‘One of Us’ is a very powerful song, and I absolutely adore it. I listen to it fairly often on Spotify, and it’s my favorite song on the soundtrack. It has a soft opening but slowly builds up as Kovu gets increasingly upset and runs away from the Pride Lands. That final closeup shot of Simba’s face right as it quickly zooms way back to Kovu and the music swells is just awesome. When Kovu looks back one last time and finally starts slowly walking away, the song slows back down and becomes somber because now Kovu has accepted his banishment and both Kovu and Kiara are mourning the losses of each other. It’s very well-executed.
Love Will Find a Way
Finally, this being a movie largely about the romantic development between Kovu and Kiara, being an off-shoot of Romeo and Juliet, you obviously have to have a strong love song between the two leads. ‘Love Will Find A Way’ is obviously meant to fill the role of ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ They’re even set up kinda similarly with it being a duet (which is common for love songs, anyway, but still) and the guy briefly singing about how he is/was afraid, which made him do something that was hurting their significant other. But, again, the two songs serve different purposes.
In the original movie, ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ was meant to highlight how Simba and Nala, once best friends in childhood who were disgusted at the idea of becoming married when they grew up, are now developing romantic feelings for each other now that they’ve reunited in adulthood. They first rekindle their friendship by playing around in the water and then the grass, but then Nala licks Simba on the cheek and they both realize how much they mean to each other.
‘Love Will Find A Way’ builds upon a romance that was broken by external forces. Kiara and Kovu both know they love each other at this point – they’ve not only kissed and cuddled each other a few times already, but they’ve also expressed out loud that they love each other. However, Kovu’s banishment and Simba putting firm restrictions on Kiara’s comings and goings put a massive divide between the two of them.
This song has Kiara singing about how she longs for a perfect world with Kovu. They create their own little magical world when they’re together, but their families keep driving them apart. However, she knows love will find a way for her to reunite with Kovu and find happiness.
Kovu’s verse puts a spotlight on how he was afraid to tell her what was going on with Zira, which drove a bit of a wedge between them and somewhat contributed to his banishment, but he was foolish because he now realizes love will always find a way to conquer such things. And, again, a perfect world is brought up in his verse as he sings “There’s a perfect world shining in your eyes.”
When they’re finally singing together, they both express that they wish their respective families would be able to see how much they love each other and understand how they feel. But no matter if they do or not, they now have each other, and they’ll get through anything together. This new beginning is also reflected when Kovu reveals a budding plant under the ash near the end of the song, as Simba had done earlier when talking to Kovu about how things can revive and flourish if you give them a chance.
I actually like this song little more than ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ I know that probably seems like an iffy thing to say, but even though I truly love ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?,’ I can’t help but get more invested in ‘Love will Find a Way.’
It’s true that both Simba and Nala sing their respective feelings during their song, too. Simba expresses that he’s scared to tell her the truth about what happened to Mufasa, worried that she’d turn her back on him. And Nala wonders what’s bothering Simba and why he’s acting so different from the Simba she knew back when they were cubs.
However, it’s a bit jumbled as a song in the actual movie. We move from Timon and Pumbaa singing it to Simba and Nala singing and then back to Timon and Pumbaa. They don’t do a bad job in the song, but they try to merge a budding romance song with a song about two buddies losing their third buddy, which kinda makes it lose a bit of it’s emotional impact. Timon and Pumbaa definitely needed their time to process the possibility of losing Simba – after all, at this point, he’s basically their surrogate son – but it’s mostly there to add some comedic value to their otherwise very romantic song.
‘Love Will Find a Way’ is sung entirely by Kiara and Kovu at a very tense and emotional part of the movie. Her verse and his verse move into each other while only changing tone slightly. Kiara’s verse is lower pitched because she hasn’t found Kovu yet. Kovu’s is slightly higher because he’s coming to the realization that he needs to return to Kiara because he loves her, and their love will get them through this. When they both see each other, reunite and start singing together, the music swells and it’s amazing, and they play together and it’s sweet. You really feel a strong impact of them reuniting.
Simba and Nala also reunite after years of being apart, but it happens earlier and not during any song. In addition, that reunion was more like two best friends who haven’t seen each other in years, because that’s what’s going on, and the song is more about them viewing the other in a different and more romantic light.
In ‘Love Will Find a Way,’ the end of the song goes back to soft and tender as Kovu and Kiara just enjoy each other’s company and cuddle.
I’m not really saying one song is objectively better than the other. I know very little about the intricacies of music composition and theory to claim such a thing, but I just feel like ‘Love Will Find a Way’ clicks just a tiny bit better with me as a love song. I still adore ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?,’ but I can’t deny my feelings on this matter.
I’ve already touched upon Simba quite a bit, but let’s delve further into how his character has changed from the first movie to now.
Simba has greatly matured into both a good father and a strong king, but he’s still so haunted by his past that it makes gives him a hair trigger temper and makes him very overprotective of Kiara. He’s wants desperately to follow in his father’s pawprints and respect the legacy that he left behind, but he goes overboard with it.
…..Granted, being fair, he is somewhat right to be as paranoid and protective as he is. Zira and the other Outsiders are very much intent on killing him and taking over the Pride Lands, but in regards to respecting what Kiara wants or even entertaining the idea that she might not want to be queen, he doesn’t listen at all, which I noted in the section on ‘We Are One.’
Funny thing is, the first movie basically built Simba’s character on this concept. It was his destiny to be king. He had to accept it or else Scar’s reign would cause the certain death of everyone in the Pride Lands. Mufasa’s spirit even re-instilled this in him when Simba was having his internal crisis.
Mufasa: “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king.”
Likewise, as I said, when Simba was a cub, he was excited about becoming king someday. He just didn’t want to do it anymore because he felt such immense guilt over what happened to Mufasa, and he was scared what everyone would think of him.
I do think the entire concept of destiny is really stupid, especially from a storytelling standpoint. Sometimes, like in The Lion King, they can pull it off pretty well, but otherwise it’s such a problematic concept.
The reason it was pulled off well in The Lion King was because, despite the fact that it was Simba’s ‘destiny’ to take his place as king, he had to want to do it. He had to want to face his fears and fight for his family and pride. Rafiki literally beat this into Simba’s head.
Simba: *gets smacked by Rafiki’s staff* “OW! Geez, what was that for?!”
Rafiki: “It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!”
Simba: “Yeah, but it still hurts.”
Rafiki: “Ah, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it!” *takes another swing, but Simba dodges* “AH! You see?!”
Putting the past behind us is another theme of the sequel. Several characters say a line akin to “It’s time to put the past behind us.” Zira refused, so she couldn’t grow as a character, and that lead to her downfall.
Simba basically forgot this lesson at the start of the movie and had to re-learn it. He had moved beyond his past enough to become king, but he clearly hadn’t moved past it enough to accept anyone who had any bonds to Scar.
With Kiara, she’s not afraid of becoming queen, she just doesn’t want the job. There’s nothing really at stake if she doesn’t take the role, as long as Simba and Nala get back to baby-makin’ anyway. And considering they’ll later have a canonical son, I think they’re doing fine in that department.
Simba is just not listening to her own desires because, eh, that’s the way things are and have to be. Destiny worked for me. It’ll work for you. You’re just a kid now. Adults know what’s up.
In a lot of ways, Simba here reminds me a lot of King Triton. He’s simultaneously very loving and over-protective of his daughter while also not seeming to give a crap about what she wants. However, in the prequel, we see that he has good reason to fear or hate humans and needs his daughter’s help to get him to learn to trust again. Likewise, here, we can deduce enough to realize he has at least a pretty good reason to distrust the Outsiders.
But Simba’s not really the main character here – Kovu and Kiara are. Technically, Kiara is supposed to be the main character….buuuutttt….
……This was way more Kovu’s movie than Kiara’s. I couldn’t help but notice it as a kid, and I definitely noticed on the rewatch – Kovu is the main character. It’s not even that much of a ‘shared’ main character role. He is the main character.
Kovu goes from a cocky yet kindhearted kid to a brainwashed soldier who slowly escapes his mother’s influence and the destiny set before him so he can follow his heart and find a new path. He defies his mother, leaves his family behind and even risks severe punishment to face Simba after the ambush because he truly loved Kiara, and he wanted to be a better person with a good life. When he was banished, he didn’t return to his mother or seek revenge, he simply took his licks and went off alone.
When you think about it, it’s really Kovu’s story that is Simba’s story in reverse, or more to the point the opposite of his. Whereas Simba was building up to embrace his destiny and his one true role as king, Kovu did everything in his power to break free of the ‘destiny’ that was set upon him.
And what of Kiara? She starts off the story as a frustrated princess who wants to have freedom to a grown up frustrated princess who wants to have freedom who falls in love, and her biggest conflict is fighting for her love, which…she doesn’t even technically do. When Kovu is banished, she just lashes out at her father and runs away behind his back to find Kovu.
Her biggest moments are convincing Kovu to return to the Pride Lands to stop the fighting, and then she talks her father down, which is alright as a character arc as she’s found her voice and she’s finally getting her father to listen to her for good reasons, but she as a character really hasn’t changed. She understands ‘we are one’ now, but that moment isn’t nearly as impacting as it should be.
She also saves her father and tries to save Zira (and ultimately fails) but that moment wasn’t nearly as important or grand as it could’ve been. Zira definitely wouldn’t have succeeded in killing Simba at the end, considering every other lioness would have backed him up and saved him once she pounced (and it’s not like she can achieve a one shot kill. Even Scar couldn’t do that.) and while it is noble and kind to try and save Zira, that just serves to prove that she’s a nice and forgiving person.
In the start of the movie, Kiara says “I’m not just princess, ya know? That’s only half of who I am.” And Pumbaa replies “Oh, uh, who’s the other half?” And she has no answer. At the end of the movie, you’d expect her to have an answer….but she really doesn’t.
Throughout the film, the aspect of having another half comes up a few times, especially when they get around to the song ‘Love Will Find A Way’ where they eventually show that Kovu and Kiara’s reflections in the water make one IE We are one. But that doesn’t answer the question of Kiara’s character….unless they’re blatantly saying that the other half of her is Kovu, which is rather eye-rolling. Yes, we typically call our significant others our ‘other’ or even ‘better’ halves, but that wasn’t the question being posited. Who is Kiara’s other half, as a person? Not someone else, in a soul mate way – who is she as a person on her own merits? What does she even really want? What does she want to become?
Again, I can easily answer this question for Kovu. He’s a character who desperately wants to do the right thing, but he also wants to make his mother happy and his people/Scar proud. After he reunites with Kiara, he wants to be a good person, live a good life with her and have fun. He realizes at that point that Scar was the evil one and he had been lied to his whole life, making him not want to return to the Outlands, but also not really hating his family for it.
He’s constantly at odds with his role and his desires, but despite his act of being a slick Scar Jr. he’s obviously very sympathetic and open to bettering himself and becoming a good person. Most importantly, we can see this even when Kiara is not around. His character is not fully driven by her. When he’s simply having a talk with Simba, you can see that he’s actively listening and it’s not his act that’s taking over. Simba is speaking to him, truly, even if he doesn’t realize it, and Kovu becomes enthralled with the idea of being given a second chance.
Kiara starts out not wanting to be queen, which isn’t much of a plot point as she gets older. She’s more about wanting independence and trust from her father at that point, but it’s heavily implied that she accepted her role as princess/future queen in the end. And in The Lion Guard, apparently, it ends with it being confirmed that she does become queen. However, is she accepting this role because she truly wants it now or because it’s her ‘destiny’ and now that she understands ‘we are one’ she appreciates the role more? Because I’ve already explained how little I care about destiny in regards to character arcs.
So she’s now not even a frustrated princess who wants freedom. She’s a happier princess who has accepted her role, but it’s okay because she has her true love now. That’s not very compelling.
It’s weird when I can connect more with Vitani and even Nuka more than Kiara.
In a lot of ways, Vitani has a similar problem in that there’s not a whole lot to her character, but it’s not as big of an issue with her because she’s a side character. She’s somewhat like a child version of Zira for the most part. She’s violent and glorifies bad things. When she sees Kovu alone with Simba, she’s literally panting because she believes Kovu will kill Simba and is excitedly waiting for him to do the deed. When he doesn’t, she becomes angry and instantly alerts their mother.
She’s mostly just Zira’s right-hand lioness when she gets older, and she’s very good at what she does. The best we get in terms of signs of her being any different from Zira are that we can kinda see that she genuinely loves her brothers. She literally sings Kovu’s praises in ‘My Lullaby,’ she play fights with Kovu, and when Nuka dies she’s obviously deeply affected.
However, not enough happens to her to really say she had a character arc in the end, even though she does turn heel and become a good guy in that….somewhat questionable ending.
Nuka on the other hand, despite not changing, really, also has more character and becomes somewhat sympathetic.
In a bit of an ironic twist, Nuka IS a lot like Scar, only without the intelligence and style. Scar was also jealous of his brother for being granted a role he believed he was more deserving of, even possibly through birthright. Even though Nuka is angry about Kovu being chosen by Scar, which leads you to believe that’s his motivation, it’s really not. He clearly just wants his mother to be proud of him. He’s jealous of Kovu not because Scar chose him but because Scar choosing him made him the favorite in the eyes of their mother. Nuka doesn’t try to sabotage Kovu, even though he dislikes him, because, above all else, he wants to make his mother happy. When Kovu starts to falter in his mission, he sees his opportunity to take the reins and impress her, and he dies while doing so. Tragically enough, he also dies while apologizing to his mother for failing her.
I’m kinda highlighting this issue with Kiara to myself as I’m writing this because I’m much more interested in writing about Kovu, Nuka and Vitani than Kiara. Don’t get me wrong, she is by no means a bad character. She’s quite likable and I adore her relationship with Kovu. But as a character and main protegonist she’s just not interesting enough or fleshed out enough, which is a damn shame. In fact, she may even be treading into *thunderclap* Mary Sue territory because, technically, she has very minimal flaws.
She’s impulsive, sure, but that’s called being a child. She’s a bit naïve, sure, but that’s called being a child. She’s not a good hunter, but that’s mostly a lot of inexperience due to being sheltered so much.
Other than that, I can’t really think of any actual flaws in her character beyond the fact that she’s not an interesting or particularly active character.
The worst we get with Kiara is she runs away after Kovu’s banishment, but she’s fairly right to do so because Simba was overreacting and Kiara was right about him. Immediately after she reunites with Kovu, she tells him they have to go back and help unite their families instead of allowing them to remain apart. She doesn’t have some giant moral quandary, she doesn’t struggle with needing to face a harsh reality (like Simba having to admit he caused Mufasa’s death) she just does it. And when she gets there, she’s able to quell the fighting really easily by offering some cheesy lines that don’t even make a whole lot of sense in context.
Even to Zira, Kiara is merely a pawn. She’s an opening, a stepping stone, a tool. Scar hated Simba because he took his spot as next in line for the throne. Before, the only one in his way was Mufasa, but when Simba was born, he took second spot, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He needed to get rid of both of them in order to take over. Both Mufasa and Simba earned his ire, and both Mufasa and Simba were necessary to fall in order for his plan to work.
In TLK2, however, Kiara doesn’t even register as a being to Zira. In fact, I believe, during the entire movie, Zira never even says Kiara’s name. Zira doesn’t have any reason to hate Kiara besides the fact that she’s the daughter of the person whom she really hates. Kiara isn’t getting in her way to kill and get revenge on Simba. If anything, she makes it easier.
The big final showdown of the movie is Kiara and Zira, but 1) they’re not fighting. Zira pounces Kiara, they roll around for a second and then they fall off a cliff. The rest of the scene is Kiara trying to save Zira, but Zira’s her own undoing and refuses help, resulting in her death. And 2) Zira wasn’t even aiming for her in the first place. Zira was trying to kill Simba, but Kiara stepped in the way.
Probably the only character who gets less development or focus/exploration in the movie is Nala, whose very small role is being the only voice of reason in Simba’s ear that he actually listens to (Sometimes) and the only one of Kiara’s parents who is reasonable and level headed. She doesn’t really need a character arc though because she has a set role and she plays it just fine. Her part may be small, and she may be underutilized, which is disappointing, but it’s fine.
The one time they show her as anything different from this is in the big battle scene where Nala says with the most acid she can muster, “VITANI!” when she’s confronted with Vitani mocking her about where her daughter is. I have no idea where this seeming personal hatred towards Vitani came from. Honestly, I’m not even sure how she knows Vitani’s name. Is this implying that she thinks Vitani/the Outsiders had something to do with her daughter’s disappearance? After this one shot of them fighting, we don’t see them together again so it seems even more out of left field.
Truth be told, I’ve wracked my brain on how to change Kiara’s character to make her more interesting and memorable without making the entire story different, but I’ve come up with very little.
My first suggestion is to make her a tough aspiring ace hunter, which was hinted upon in the scene where she’s going off to play by herself. “Mighty hunter has cornered her prey.” As a lioness, she is obviously a perfect fit for being a hunter, but we don’t typically see hunting being emphasized in the Lion King movies very much, so this would be a bit of new territory for her to explore.
Maybe even have a scene where we see Nala training her to hunt and Kiara shows a particular affinity for it. However, Simba is against it because of his overprotective nature, and princesses and queens just don’t lower themselves, so to speak, to do such menial labor. (It’s suggested that queens do lead the hunting groups, but it’s unclear whether they actually still hunt or just organize them.) He’s really only allowing her to learn to hunt for the sake of a traditional celebratory hunt for when she reaches adulthood, but after that she’ll be barred from doing it, which Kiara firmly resists because she wants to be the best hunter she can be. When she goes off to find Kovu, she actually utilizes her hunting skills to track him down, allowing that part of her character to be incorporated. Maybe she could reach a dead end to let ‘love find a way’ but still.
At the end of the movie, she’s allowed to go hunt on her own and skillfully becomes the ace hunter she wanted to be….instead of the incompetent one she is in the midway point of the movie. They do show Kovu training her, but only once, and she absolutely sucks at it. We never see her getting better at all, and that’s really disappointing. Not to mention that it’s a little on the iffy side that Kovu teaches her hunting skills in the first place. Lionesses have hunting locked as their thing, but a male lion has to teach Kiara how to do it properly….
The second option I thought of was her wanting to be an explorer/adventurer, which fits right in with her personality as a cub. She was enamored with exploration, and was even incredibly interested in a place that didn’t seem to have really anything in it, but could be fascinating to someone like her who appreciates all the littler details, flora and fauna. Perhaps she could want to become a scout to report back on impeding threats to the Pride Lands or want to explore the unknown areas all around Pride Rock to find new sources of food, water and shelter in case of emergencies.
However, again, this is fully against Simba’s overprotective nature, and he frustrates her by making her strictly stay on marked paths and only go out with an escort. At the end of the movie she solves a problem for some of the animals in the Pride Lands by exploring to find them food or whatnot.
The final option I thought of was the closest to what we actually got, which is making her a sheltered princess who has heard her father prattle on about threats in the outside world so many times that she’s actually quite paranoid. The thing she ‘wants’ is more vague in this scenario. It’s more like something she needs.
She wants and needs to leave the comfort of her cave and have the courage to go outside without fearing something terrible might happen. The only reason she even goes out into the Outlands is because she gets lost after being spooked by something while walking along her marked trail. However, Kovu helps her open up and be a little braver. The incident with the alligators actually doesn’t damage her, but instead it shows her that even though scary things can happen, they can be weathered, and they can even be fun experiences. Plus, having someone with you through it makes it a lot easier to deal with.
She goes on the hunt because she’s pushed into doing it because of tradition, Simba promising this will be the only time. She tries her best, but her paranoid nature, nervousness and inexperience lead her to failure. The only reason she’s not more massively impacted by the events of the failed hunt/fire is because it lead her back to her friend Kovu.
When Kovu is banished, Kiara braves the unknown wilderness, at night even, because she loves Kovu so much that she’s able to brave her fear and go find him. This even makes the song ‘Love Will Find a Way’ have a little more impact. At the end of the movie, she stands up to her father, she’s confident in what she wants, she bravely protects Simba from Zira and even risks her life on the cliffside to save her, proving how brave and kind she is.
At the end of the movie, she becomes a brave and strong queen because that’s the lioness she wanted to be.
Those are just the options I thought of. I don’t know how her character may have been altered in The Lion Guard or if better suggestions have been made, but those three are the best ones that crossed my mind to help improve her character a bit.
The final character I should obviously talk about is Zira, who makes for a very good replacement for Scar. She doesn’t have all of his finesse or memorability, but out of all of the villains of the Disquels, she’s definitely the best, even on the occasions where the main villain returns. She’s one of very few Disquel villains who actually guns for killing and destruction, and she’s the only one who canonically dies in the end.
Zira is very much the evil mastermind who typically gets others to do her dirty work for her, but when the chips are down she will gladly take matters into her own hands. She’s ruthless, she’s hateful, she has a dose of that sarcastic bite that Scar had, and just to drive the Scar similarities home, they even put a notch in her ear so she can also have a bad guy facial deformity trope.
The best part about her is that she’s actually legitimately threatening, which is insanely impressive for a Disquel villain. They even managed to make her the tiniest bit sympathetic when it came to the death of Nuka. But they didn’t make her too sympathetic to the point where I felt bad when she died, which is also good. In fact, they link Nuka’s death to her love of Scar by having her pray to Scar to watch over Nuka during his funeral.
It’s clear that her love is conditional, though. She mourned Nuka so much because, even though he was a dolt in her eyes, he was still incredibly loyal and died trying to kill Simba for her. However, she has no qualms whatsoever about killing Kovu and Vitani because they no longer want to kill Simba or fight the Pride Landers anymore.
I just wish they bothered to explain a little more about why she’s such a massive Scar fangirl. Why does Scar mean so much to her? What did he do over his few years as king of the Pride Lands to warrant her undying devotion and servitude? Why was she seemingly not in the first movie? Where did all of these other Scar fangirl lionesses come from? They could have maybe thrown in a flashback or two to show us some reasoning behind these very vital parts of her character, but we get absolutely nothing.
Zira is also a parent, which makes her a bit of a mirror to Simba. While both parents are expecting their children to be something they don’t want to be, Simba is clearly doing it out of love while Zira continuously proves to care more about getting revenge than her own children. While Simba does his best to protect Kiara at all costs and tries to raise her as best he can while also sheltering her too much, Zira brainwashes Kovu and sculpts him into being the perfect Scar 2.0.
Neither of their parenting styles are really right, and both need to change, but the main difference is that Simba proves himself to be willing to change in the end while Zira ends up dead because she can’t let the past or Scar go so she can change for the better.
I do believe that’s far enough for this half of the review. We’ll save everything about the actual story for the step-by-step analysis in part two! Thanks for sticking with me this far, and I hope you join me in part two for more of me overthinking stuff and rambling.
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