Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon Episode 3: The Dream Butterfly Review (Spoilers!)

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Plot: Having entered the modern era, Setsuna and Moroha take their battle with Mistress Three-Eyes to the modern era. Towa breaks her sword trying to save Setsuna, but discovers that she can create a sword made out of demonic energy from the hilt. Together, they defeat Mistress Three-Eyes.

Towa tries to reunite with her long-lost sister, but Setsuna doesn’t remember her at all. Setsuna, angered at Towa’s implications and insistence, challenges her to a battle. Towa doesn’t want to participate, but is suddenly overtaken by the wooden demon, Hitokon.

Setsuna is not about to hold back in the battle, but the tides turn when Hitokon switches hosts to Towa’s little sister, Mei. Setsuna aims to cut the demon out of her face, but Towa vehemently defends Mei and refuses to let her face get scarred.

Choosing to back down, Setsuna puts them all to sleep and uses a special concoction made by her fellow demon slayers to remove the demon and kill it.

Later that night, Setsuna discusses her situation with Moroha. She cannot accept Towa’s claims so easily, even if they are both half-demons that smell of Sesshomaru. It’s not simply that she’s stubborn – she actually doesn’t remember Towa and she doesn’t respect Towa as her sister considering how leisurely and weak she seems.

Years ago, Setsuna was attacked by the dream butterfly – an entity which ate her dreams, memories of her past and made her unable to sleep or dream ever again.

Hearing her plight, Towa blames herself and confronts Setsuna.

Breakdown: Ladies and gentlemen things. Are. HAPPENING!

On the old cast/timeline side, we…kinda get confirmation on the timeline. Kaede said it’s been over 15 years since the well was closed, but we basically figured that out. I’m still erring on the side of around 20 years, but she probably would have said 20 years, so…eh.

We also get in-universe confirmation that Setsuna and Towa are Sesshomaru’s kids, though still no confirmation on who their mother is. (Rin is seemingly not still in Kaede’s village, though, at least as far as I see.) They also all but confirm that Moroha is Kagome and Inuyasha’s kid. (I remain confused about why her powers seemed dragon themed, though. Where do dragons come in with a half dog demon and a human priestess?)

The first episode’s story actually wasn’t a complete waste of time, kinda, because we learn that the demon Hitokon is a part of the Root Head demon that Inuyasha and the others fought at that time. It merged or gained powers from the Sacred Tree, which allowed it to open a portal to the modern era.

It’s dead now, though, so that’s a problem.

The first episode was still basically a waste of time, though, because we could have just gone over it in the B plot with Kohaku and Kaede talking about it.

Anyhoo, Sesshomaru seems to have somewhat abandoned his kids? Maybe? According to Setsuna, she started a ‘rite of courage and cowardice’ which Kaede explains as basically being a trial by fire – children are just thrust into the world on the their own to see if they survive. This makes me a little suspicious that Sesshomaru might have been responsible for the forest fire that drove Towa and Setsuna apart.

I can’t imagine Rin would’ve been cool with all of this, but she did mostly just do whatever Sesshomaru said.

I suppose this means Sesshomaru is still alive and around somewhere, but as for where literally everyone else is

It’s a bit suspect, because Setsuna’s fluffy boa literally does come right out of nowhere. Between the last time Kaede saw the twins as babies, the last time Towa saw Setsuna and when Setsuna had returned to Kaede’s village, she somehow managed to obtain one. I theorize that she was actually with Sesshomaru for a couple of years after the fire but then lost her memories via the dream butterfly. I just can’t see any other way she would have obtained it. Towa never got one, so it can’t be something they just get, right? Also, she says she doesn’t remember Sesshomaru but claimed she was on the rite of passage, so who sent her on this mission? Did she lose her memories after she came back to the village?

Got some cool battles going on here as well as some new abilities being put on display. I love that Towa basically has a Spirit Sword ala Yu Yu Hakusho (It even basically turns into the Spirit Flyswatter at one point) that she even discovers in the same way Kuwabara discovered his.

Moroha was a delight, again, though we still haven’t really delved into her character’s story at all. I can’t imagine Inuyasha and Kagome are pulling the same ‘rite of courage and cowardice’ thing that Sesshomaru is. I love how she’s goofy and high-spirited but also very knowledgeable about weapons and demon lore. Makes her a pretty unique character.

I feel like the reasoning behind Setsuna not remembering Towa is a little on the cheap side. I dunno, I’ve reached a point where any plotline involving lost memories just makes me roll my eyes.

However,

I finally give a crap about the actual story and characters now, not just the old cast.

I mean, there’s still not much to go on, but I am getting invested.

Golly, I’m actually excited about next week’s episode. I wonder what new things we’ll see–

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AH! NO! Please no! Why are you here?! Why is it implied that you’re part of the well or the tree of ages something!? Go be dead!

Alright, alright, I have to chill out. There’s obviously not going to be any love triangle stuff, Inuyasha and Kagome are nowhere to be seen, and I’d assume she’s not going to do anything bad.

…Although what was up with her saying “Daughters of Sesshomaru, I have a request for you.” Is she not addressing Moroha too? Does she not count? I wonder if she’ll be a little pissy towards her because she’s Inuyasha and Kagome’s kid. Hm.

Anyway, happy day, things are happening, the plot is getting in gear, kinda, and hopefully it will just keep going upwards from here.

Rating: 7.5/10


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Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon Episode 2 – The Three Princesses Review (Spoilers)

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Plot: Towa and Setsuna were a loving pair of half-demon siblings until fate drove them apart. Towa was thrust through time to modern day where Kagome’s now grown little brother, Sota, found Towa and adopted her. Ten years later, a now 14 year old Towa has found nothing but trouble as she’s grown up. She’s attracted fight after fight after fight, and it’s lead her to transferring schools several times.

Meanwhile, ten years have also passed in the feudal era. Setsuna has grown into a skilled demon slayer alongside Sango and Miroku’s son, Hisui, and Kohaku, as well as a recently formed band of demon slayers. They’re hunting a centipede demon that has been harassing the nearby village. Bounty hunter, Moroha, who has given herself the nickname Beniyasha, is lying in wait for the same demon. The demon is after Moroha’s red Rainbow Pearl, and when it acquires it, it next seeks out the golden Rainbow Pearl in Setsuna’s eye.

After obtaining that, the Tree of Ages suddenly glows and creates a rift similar to the one that thrust Towa through time ten years ago. Moroha, Setsuna and the demon are thrown through the rift and land right at Towa’s feet. The sisters have finally been reunited, but there’s no time for celebrations with the demon still attacking.

Breakdown: Alright, before we head to the meat and potatoes, let me get the timeline stuff out of the way.

Krystallina mentioned to me last time that it’s probably been about 20+ years since the end of The Final Act, not the 10+ years I initially thought. That made some sense to me, but now that I’ve watched this episode it’s almost certainly a more proper estimation.

Towa and Setsuna were about four when they were separated. When Towa met Sota, he was definitely an adult because he adopted her. He was 12 at the end of The Final Act, so that leads me to believe at least six years has passed since Kagome left. An additional ten years passing meshes well, but we also see Hisui, who was a baby in the end of The Final Act, and he’s definitely an adult here, so yeah, at the very least 16-20 years.

Now, still addressing stuff regarding regular ol’ Inuyasha….I have some concerns and complaints.

First of all, I made a little bit of a joke in the tags of the Episode One-Derland of this series. I asked if I should be concerned about Inuyasha and Kagome since Moroha seemingly grew up alone. Well, now I have to ask more seriously.

Should I be concerned about everyone!?

Inuyasha and Kagome supposedly didn’t raise Moroha. She’s seemingly slightly younger than Towa and Setsuna, but Inuyasha and Kagome are nowhere to be found.

Despite us getting Towa and Setsuna’s backstory in this episode, they imply that they raised themselves out in the woods, and Sesshomaru and Rin are nowhere to be found. (Given the new timeline information, I’d say it’s more likely that Rin’s their mother now, but we still don’t know.)

Also, Hisui, Setsuna and Kohaku don’t know Moroha, but Hisui and Kohaku are seemingly teamed up with Setsuna, which is why she has the moniker of demon slayer. How did that end up happening? Also, it doesn’t seem like Sango and Miroku are anywhere around either.

What exactly happened to everyone in the original cast? Everyone seems like they’re either dead or inexplicably missing.

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Now to get onto something more petty. What is up with the way this show ages people? Specifically, the way it ages old characters. Sota aged perfectly well, so did Kohaku.

However, guess who Towa saw when she got to the modern era?….Buyo….Kagome’s cat…..How the hell is this cat still alive? I thought, maybe, it was just for that one shot, and it’s not outside of the realm of possibility for Buyo to still be alive six or more years after The Final Act…but he’s also in the OP, meaning he must still be around for the main series….which takes place an additional ten years after Towa came to the modern era. Not only would it be very unlikely for Buyo to still be around after all that time (he certainly wasn’t a kitten in Inuyasha) but he hasn’t aged a day.

Speaking of people who haven’t aged a day, remember how I said I wasn’t certain if the promo shot of the group was accurate since Kaede likely wouldn’t have been alive after ten years in the feudal era? Well….it’s 20 years later….and she’s still alive…and looks no different, in the slightest.

Kagome’s grandpa is also alive and well, which is more reasonable in present day, but he also looks exactly the same as he did back in the original series.

Kagome’s mom also looks identica—oh, please excuse me. I forgot. She’s certainly showing her age by…having a few Mr. Fantastic-esque gray stripes in her hair and nothing else different, down to her clothes.

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You guys, uh, getting lazy or what?

Well, enough of that jazz. What of the stuff in the new generation? While this episode certainly has more substance to it than the previous episode did, I can’t deny that I wasn’t really impressed. Nothing stood out or seemed really cool, outside of a few attacks Setsuna and Moroha did. Even the battles were kinda lame, especially considering they got lazy with their monster selection (masked as fanservice, I guess) by having their first enemy be Mistress Centipede – the very first demon Inuyasha and Kagome fought together. I know it’s not the same one, but it might as well be.

Inuyasha dispatched that one fairly easily, but a group of demon slayers and the children of Inuyasha, Kagome and Sesshomaru could do nothing against it….

They also basically make a new Shikon Jewel situation with the mysterious Rainbow Pearls, which I think are terribly named because they’re red, gold and silver….Not only are there, seemingly, not seven of them, but only one of them is an actual color on the rainbow spectrum.

They’re little gems that demons want because they make them more powerful. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a freshly baked MacGuffin.

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I am still interested in the stories of these girls, especially since we don’t know what the driving plot of the series actually even is yet (in regards to what their goal is) but they really need to bring more to the table to keep me locked on this series, because, as it stands, it really feels like they’re still running on fumes from the original series.

Towa continues to be an interesting character. I love her view on the norms of society, particularly in regards to gender roles, but I don’t much care for that scene near the end.

Her little sister, Mei, who is Sota’s biological daughter, yells to her that she knows Towa really wants to be cute and girly, but she’s basically trapped in a world of fighting and wearing boys’ clothes because she keeps beating bullies and gang members who confront her. Towa responds that there’s a part of her that can’t answer that question immediately. In narration, Towa explains that she hated that boys were expected to be masculine and girls were expected to be feminine, but now it’s “time to stop being stubborn” about that idea because it’s not worth making Mei cry.

*huff*

I want to say that was just badly worded, but….Nyrrhhhhhh. I get it to some degree. She should stop fighting if it’s putting her family in danger and making her sister unhappy, but it’s worded like ‘Yeah I should just be cutesy and girly like I’m supposed to be. Darn me for being stubborn.’ I can’t even really get fully behind the not-fighting aspect because she’s not seeking out fights, at least from what I saw, she’s just defending herself against assholes who keep attacking her.

Towa did have the most going on in her story, both with development and action, but it was also not all that interesting. It was a very familiar plotline where the super-skilled main character pisses off the local thugs after beating them, so they take the MC’s loved ones hostage and force them to concede in battle, but MC soon decides ‘enough is enough’ so they unleash their hidden power to fight them off. Only in this instance ‘unleash her hidden power’ is basically just jumping really high and fighting the same way she was previously.

She does at least get to win fights in her part, but she’s a half-demon, daughter of Sesshomaru no less, fighting nearly comical fully human thugs. It’s hardly tension-filled.

Like I said, I am still interested in this series, but most of the things I want to see are related to the original cast. I haven’t really latched onto the new group yet…..besides Moroha. I am loving her more every minute, but we didn’t get much of her specific backstory in this episode. She just appears and fights a lot, but I love her spirit. She’s such a cool kid. It’s also really cool to see her sword and her arrows in action. She actually has an ability that allows her to rain sacred arrows onto her enemies, which is awesome.

All in all, it’s getting better, but it’s still a slow roll and they’re still not delivering on anything involving the original cast outside of a few side characters. I know the series is not about them, but it’s frustrating watching a spin-off of a beloved older series and not getting practically any current information on the original characters.

Rating: 6.5/10

Next time….

….Previously


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Episode One-Derland – Yashahime: Half-Demon Princess

Plot: Over a decade has passed since Kagome made the decision to stay in the feudal era with Inuyasha and the others. Now a new generation faces the challenges of the demon infested world.

Breakdown: What-what-what-WHAT!? Twix is reviewing a show the same week it premiered?! 2020 IS a crazy year!

As much as Inuyasha tended to irritate me as time went on, I can’t deny that it holds a special place in my heart. So when I heard that they were going to be making a new series based on the children of the original characters, I actually got excited and had every intention on watching it the instant it came out. And I did.

Like many fans of the original, I wondered about who these kids were, who the mother of Sesshomaru’s kids was, what kinds of powers they had, what enemies they’d face, what hopefully Naraku-free threat they’d be facing as the big bad – but I especially wondered where the original gang was in present day. What do they look like? What are they up to? Are they all still alive?

And the answer to all of these questions is!

Pbbbbtttt I dunno.

While I did enjoy watching this episode, I’ll be frank, it’s not a very good first episode. 95% of it is flashbacking to Kagome a mere six months after she decided to stay in the feudal era. The group battles a demon that Kikyo sealed many years ago and….that’s it. It doesn’t reveal absolutely anything more than what we knew of at the end of The Final Act.

And, oh, just for nostalgia sake, let me rant about this, please.

Kikyo……I really, really hoped we would finally be beyond the Kikyo crap. Seriously. It was, by far, the worst thing about the original series barring Naraku being an unkillable pain in the ass. But…nope. Kikyo gets brought up a ton in this first episode, and we get that same old song where Inuyasha keeps information from Kagome because of Kikyo’s involvement and Kagome gets irritated because of it.

I nearly burst a blood vessel.

At the very end, Kagome seems to assert that she was more irritated that Inuyasha didn’t have faith in her to not get upset, but it also contradicts an earlier statement where Kagome was like ‘Nyehh if I was Kikyo, you’d let me do the dangerous battle thing nyeeehhhhhh!’

This had better be just a one-off incident, because I am not about to sit through anymore of this love triangle bullshit – especially when, now, it’s with a fully dead 100% pure grade-A nonliving third party. At this point, all it does is really highlight that Kagome seems like the runner-up here. It probably isn’t going to be constantly happening as I imagine most of the new series from this point on will focus on the new kids (most of the old cast don’t even get shown in the OP and ED) but still…I’m keeping my eye on you Yashahime

That being said, credit where credit is due, Kagome is a lot more tolerable than she was previously. She’s clearly matured and grown stronger and braver. She’s an active participant in battles, she comes up with smart ideas (though sometimes reckless…) and she’s not as hotheaded as she was previously.

Although, I do have to point out something important. Inuyasha still has his curse beads on.

I get it. The ‘OSUWARI/SIT BOY!’ thing is a staple in the series, but it’s also kinda dated. Even halfway into the series, I was wondering why he still had those things on. In one of the movies, the beads actually break and, at the end, Kagome puts a new set on him. It was probably done to meet the status quo with the series, since the movies are questionable in canonicity, but still. Why does she insist on keeping those beads on him?

They were initially put on him to keep him from causing trouble because he was untrustworthy, threatening and wanted the jewel. He caused a lot of destruction trying to steal it when Kikyo was alive. After he mellowed out, the beads were still seen as necessary because he’d sometimes become full-ish demon and the beads would help bring him back to normal. But eventually that also stopped being an issue.

After that, the beads just started being a boyfriend collar, and throughout the entire series Kagome would slam him into the ground whenever she pleased. Sometimes, she’d get so pissed at him, several times completely unwarranted, that she’d do it numerous times in a row.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. They’re also part of his character design. She probably doesn’t even use them anymore. She’s 18 now. She’s matured and level-headed and—she used them in this episode because she was a little bothered that Inuyasha didn’t have faith in her to not get upset over the Kikyo stuff (given that she has such a spotless record in that regard.)

Can we just bite the bullet and say the A-word? It’s abusive.

I think we’ve moved beyond the days of ‘Haha, knocking the guy around is funny because he’s the guy, but if the genders were reversed this would clearly be horrifying.’ Seriously, imagine if Inuyasha put beads on Kagome that slammed her into the ground whenever he got annoyed by her.

I did really enjoy seeing Sesshomaru be a team player in this episode, even assisting Kohaku in his hunt for the demon, though he didn’t directly help. He did visit Rin briefly, but he didn’t say anything to her.

No, it’s still not clear whether she’s the mother of Sesshomaru’s kids. I’d say she’s not because the ages aren’t matching up very well, unless….*barf*, and I have no clue where that red streak in their hair would’ve come from. Setsuna does have the same hair color as Rin, but that’s about it. Setsuna has purple eyes while Towa has red eyes, which don’t line up with either Sesshomaru OR Rin, soo….*shrug*

Anyhoo, let’s finally talk about the new stuff. In the present day…er…the old present day…..not the modern era, we meet Towa Higurashi (As we’ll see later, gauging from the trailers, she was raised by Sota in the present day, so she adopted his last name.) She is the titular ‘Yashahime’ or half-demon princess. She’s been captured by some lord who is interrogating her about modern day stuff they found in relation to Kagome, who at this point is a well-known legend of sorts. One of those items is a Japanese history book, so they want to know what their fate is. Towa freaks out because she doesn’t want to change history.

Let me repeat. Yashahime, the sequel to Inuyasha, is now concerned about the time stream……

Come on, really? They were never, and I mean NEVER concerned about changing the future in the original series. Kagome came and went to the feudal era as she pleased and never once even caused a ripple in the future/present. There were one or two occasions where the presence of the shikon jewel in present day would cause demons to attack there, but that’s about it.

She brought current-day stuff with her all the time and rode around the entire countryside on her ‘iron horse.’ The only time they ever really even touched upon it was when it came to Hojo’s ancestor because Kagome was briefly concerned that she was destined to marry him in the feudal era since Hojo’s other ancestor was named Kagome (then it turned out that past!Hojo just literally renamed his new bride Kagome because that’s not insanely disrespectful or creepy or anything.)

And do I even need to point out the most obvious crime Kagome committed in the time stream in the end? Doc Brown over here decided to LIVE in the past permanently and start a family with Inuyasha.

Why is anything in the time stream at risk now?

Back to the matter at hand, Moroha, a bounty hunter who is Inuyasha and Kagome’s kid, and Setsuna, Towa’s twin sister who is a demon hunter, rush in to save Towa, ousting the lord’s aide as being a mysterious four-eyed owl in disguise. They opt to let it live since it could have vital information. In the end, they grab the modern stuff and leave.

Nope, I’m not kidding. That is all the new kids do the entire episode.

Let me address each kid, though.

Moroha is freakin’ adorable. Her clothes are reminiscent of both Inuyasha’s trademark garb and Kagome’s look when she tried to turn his robe into an outfit for herself. I love that the bow in her hair is also situated to look like dog ears. She both wields a cool new sword AND uses a bow and arrow. She’s clearly adopted more of her father’s personality, but she has Kagome’s overall appearance.

Towa’s got a really nice look. I love the white motif, and the red streak in her hair. Her suit is so awesome. Don’t know why she doesn’t have pointy ears or dog ears since she is half-demon. Setsuna also doesn’t have either. It’s weird, and a bit of a missed opportunity in the design department.

Setsuna is definitely the one who takes after their father most, even if she didn’t acquire his trademark white hair. She’s got his stoic attitude, the armor and, of course, a littler version of Sesshomaru’s fluffy boa. She’s also got a really cool glaive as a weapon.

Other than these three, the OP and ED also show us current-day versions of Kohaku and one of Sango’s three kids. Kohaku has become an awesome demon slayer, and his nephew seems pretty cool and has also become a demon slayer. We catch a brief glimpse of Sesshomaru, though he never ages or changes anyway, and we see just the slightest of glimpses of Inuyasha, but it’s not enough to actually show anything.

Look at that shot of him in the picture above – that’s about the most we see. Why he has his back turned, I don’t know. I’m not even sure every character is shown in present day on that splash image because, as much as I hate to say this, Kaede would likely be dead by then, going by feudal era life spans (she was probably in her 60s or so in the original series, and the average life span back then was about 50 or so.)

The art and animation are updated just a tad. The art stays very true to the original series, and the animation is more fluid with more dynamic shots included as well.

The music is kept very similar to the original. There are many familiar tracks, but also several new ones. The OP and the ED are alright. They might have to grow on me.

The voice acting is really good so far. Many of the characters have returned from the previous series, to my knowledge, and the new ones are pretty good so far as well, especially Moroha’s who is clearly trying to emulate Inuyasha. It’s adorable.

I don’t know if a dub is planned anytime soon, but I’d love to see it, especially considering I’ve never really watched the series in Japanese that often.

Final Verdict:

Continue Yes

While I will admit that this first episode is, narratively speaking, rather poor form for an introduction, I can’t say I won’t keep watching. Of course I will. The siren call of this franchise is too strong for me. I may even do *gasp* WEEKLY RELEASE UPDATES.

I AM excited to see what happens next, and I am still on the edge of my seat to get a current-day update on where everyone is, how they look and what they’re doing.

However, that’s just my view. This first episode doesn’t work much to get the average viewer excited, though. It was like they bookended Yashahime teasers onto an epilogue episode of The Final Act. We still have no idea what the plot of this series is yet, honestly, besides ‘The kids of the old characters do stuff.’

I feel bad for people going into this blind. You’d be very confused. I hate to say this, but I feel like you’d really have to watch the entire original series to get this off the bat. It’s rather frustrating, too, because they had all the time in the world to actually cover all of the necessary stuff in a manner that would benefit a newcomer, but they just decided to make a mostly irrelevant (?) story instead.

If you enjoy the original series, I think this is worth the watch, but if the original never caught your fancy, I doubt this would entice you much, especially since homework is basically necessary. Maybe I’ll change my tune in that regard once we get further along the line, but as of right now I can’t really think of any way to justify it for newcomers.

Next episode, we’ll be learning about the backstories of the three girls, so we still have a bit more of a baseline to build here, but with this it’s more necessary. I think their origin stories will be pretty interesting from all I’ve heard, so here’s to future episodes!


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Dissecting the Disquels: The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (Part Two – Step-By-Step Analysis)

Rating: 8.5/10

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:

Read Part 1 (In-Depth Analysis) Here.

Part two, baby! Before we start on this section, let’s talk about some of the foundations of the movie’s story.

First and foremost, the Lion King movies all have a tradition of sorts in that they all base themselves off of Shakespeare plays. The original Lion King was based on Hamlet, TLK 1 ½ was based on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and TLK2 is based off of Romeo and Juliet.

Obviously, there’s quite a bit in Romeo and Juliet that simply wasn’t adapted here, especially the suicide bit – that goes a bit too far for Disney’s standards.

Secondly, at face value, this movie seemingly tries to explore racism and/or classism in its narrative. As I’ll discuss further later, if this is a part of the narrative and isn’t just something implied though unfortunate choices of wording or situations, then they don’t do a very good job at all touching upon it. I feel like, after analyzing more, the racism/classism angle is more of a stretch than I initially thought, but it’s something to consider.

Finally, TLK2 is something kinda special in that it does remain canon to this day. In the newest iteration of the franchise, the Disney Junior show, The Lion Guard, all of the characters in this movie are part of the story, to my knowledge. We’ll return to The Lion Guard in the future, but it does show something that Disney actually acknowledges one of the Disquels as actually being canon. Granted, from what I read, TLG messes with a lot in regards to known Lion King lore, but, again, we’ll get to that down the line.

Now for the breakdown of the full story of The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. Enjoy!

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Since the beginning of this movie is picking up right where the last movie left off, our story starts out extremely similarly to the first movie, damn near beat-by-beat, only this time Mufasa is shown watching over the presentation ceremony. Also, it seems like they do the presentation ceremony wrong or backwards? Or both. The way the ceremony went for Simba was he had fruit goop put on his head, dust thrown in his face, and then he was brought out to be shown to the animals of the Pride Lands. Here, Kiara is presented, then she has fruit goop put on her head and then it’s done.

Maybe it’s different for princesses. Actually, now that I think about it, the cub at the end of TLK didn’t have goop on his head….it was still a different lion, but goopless. Maybe when you do the goop doesn’t matter?

Goop’s a fun word. Goop goop goop.

Timon and Pumbaa actually seem to mirror the general feeling of this little twist.

Rafiki: “Hehehhe, it is a girl.”

Timon: “Girl….”

Timon and Pumbaa: “GIRL!? Oy…” Also, Timon and Pumbaa are a little sexist here – let’s just admit that. Maybe not fullblown sexist, but a little. Just a smidge.

Skip ahead to Kiara being a little older cub. Overprotective Simba is trying to reel in the adventurous Kiara before she heads off into the wilderness to play. He gives her all sorts of rules for being out by herself, which makes Kiara roll her eyes, but she knows her dad loves her. After agreeing to everything he reminded her about, she heads off.

We get a pretty cute moment between Nala and Simba, and it is really apparent how much Nala has matured over the years. Adult Nala was never really immature, but this Nala has taken to motherhood like a duck to water. She’s always very evenly toned and understanding, yet she still remains playful with Simba, even giving Simba the old trademark pin to the ground. She’s also protective of her daughter, but she’s more trusting and understanding of Kiara’s desires and her personality.

She points out that Kiara is similar to Simba, which Simba points out is a bad thing because they got into so much trouble as kids, but Nala still says she’ll be fine.

Proving Nala’s point, like young Simba, Kiara also likes to practice hunting (though, technically Simba was only practicing pouncing, since lionesses are the hunters.) and she’s enamored with the scary place outside of the Pride Lands borders – in this case the Outlands.

And like Zazu followed Simba and Nala when they went off alone, Timon and Pumbaa are assigned to watch Kiara. However, unlike Zazu, Timon and Pumbaa tail her in ‘secret’ because Simba is so paranoid that he wants to have someone keep an eye on his daughter without letting her know she’s being watched. I have to imagine this is more because of Nala, because Simba tells them to do this while whispering immediately after Nala walked away.

Of course, they suck at it and alert her almost immediately to their presence. It does create a pretty funny sequence afterwards where they nearly drown and crush her, though…..That doesn’t sound nearly as bad in context, trust me.

Which brings me to the weird change in dynamic Timon and Pumbaa now have with Simba. It seems like they’re less his surrogate parents and more his most trusted advisors (considering Zazu’s in this movie for all of 56 seconds.) They’re scared to death of what Simba might do to them if they let anything bad happen to Kiara, and I can’t decide if that’s pathetic or depressing.

They are fine in this movie – their shtick really hasn’t changed at all – but it’s just kinda weird how their role in Simba’s life has changed so much.

We get more insight into Kiara as she feels like literally no one listens to her. She feels like people just see her as just a princess when that’s only half of who she is. When Pumbaa asks who the other half is, she has no real answer. And well she shouldn’t at this point, because she’s still a little kid. Really the only thing she truly knows about herself is that she doesn’t want to be just a princess and she’s none too keen on being a queen because she feels like the position impedes on her freedom and happiness.

As Timon and Pumbaa argue like an old married couple, Kiara sneaks off to the Outlands. I don’t really understand why she does, though. It’s a bunch of dead trees, dirt and gross water. I get that Kiara’s probably a little intrigued because it’s a forbidden area, but it’s really quite boring compared to the vast beauty of the Pride Lands.

As Kiara explores the Outlands, she bumps into the lion cub, Kovu, who tries to intimidate her. However, Kiara kinda bounces back and forth to ‘evade’ him. Kovu doesn’t understand what’s she’s even doing, and Kiara tells him that her father warned her to never talk to an Outsider.

Kovu strikes back by asking if Kiara always does what her daddy says, which she vehemently denies, but Kovu doesn’t believe her. He brags that, as an Outsider, he doesn’t need anybody. He does everything on his own and takes care of himself, leaving Kiara in awe.

But enough of the meet cute – Alligator attack!

The duo are attacked by a slue of alligators, in a scene that might be reflective a little of the elephant graveyard scene in the first movie. I do like how it’s more about Kovu and Kiara working together to get out of this jam than it was when Simba was just protecting Nala. It’s a very well-done and exciting scene. I mean, any adult watching this would be able to deduce that these cubs won’t die. Not only are they cubs, they’re the main characters, but it still manages to be intense.

Back on safe ground, Kiara and Kovu more genuinely meet and bond.

And damn, Kiara’s laying it on thick.

Kiara: *eye flutter* *getting all up in his personal space* “I’m Kiara.”…..Kiara, aren’t you like the equivalent of a first grader? Maybe tone down the sultry voice.

Kiara tries to play Tag with Kovu, but realizes he’s probably never played in a normal non-violent capacity and then tries to play fight with him.

Because I guess their parents believe they’re fighting for real, they swoop in from the shadows roaring their furry faces off, which also reminds me of the elephant graveyard scene, but not so much because they don’t pretend like either of their growls/roars are coming from their parents.

Here’s where we get pretty much the only background exposition – Zira and her lioness posse were banished to the Outlands for reasons.

There.

Hope you’re satisfied.

Zira, I can completely understand. She’s bonkers, hates Simba and probably did something bad to earn being banished. I just find it hard to believe that Scar had this many lionesses who were so dedicated to his, let’s be honest, shitty leadership. I get that he has an allure to him, (I’m aware of the fanart….I wish I wasn’t.) but that idea is a bit more insulting. There are just too many of them to conveniently be missing from the first movie at once. Maybe Zira was the only one really enamored with him and she just managed to rally others into being brainwashed against Simba. I mean, she does seem pretty good at it.

This is also where we really see how deep and acidic this conflict is between the two factions. Even Nala is copping an attitude, and Timon and Pumbaa are sneering at and yelling at Zira to “get outta our Pride Lands.” For God’s sake, Simba even growls at Kovu when he learns that he was hand-picked by Scar to follow in his pawprints. Dude, he’s a little kid trembling in your shadow. Chill.

Simba reminds Zira of the penalty for re-entering the Pride Lands….which…is what? Death? Zira seems to imply it might be death considering she just hands Kovu over to him to seemingly kill. Simba tells her to take Kovu and get out because they’re done here, but in a menacing tone, while staring directly at Kiara, she says “Oh no Simba. We have barely begun.” In this one scene, she pretty much cements herself as being, by far, the best Disquel villain. Granted, it’s not like there’s much competition, but still.

In this one encounter, she sarcastically taunts Simba, plays the victim, tries to sacrifice her son while also challenging Simba at the same time and then threatens the princess. And, by the way, her voice acting is deliciously marvelous. It’s just mwah. She does act a tad like Scar, especially in the theatrics, but she’s certainly enough of her own character to differentiate herself from him.

Each side grabs their respective cub and walks off, with Kiara and Kovu giving each other a meek ‘bye.’ before losing sight of each other. Aw.

Simba breaks away from the group, him and Nala exchanging knowing glances, and Simba starts to lecture Kiara. He asserts that he simply doesn’t want to lose her and reminds her that he won’t always be around to protect her. He tries to also remind her that she’ll be queen one day, but she bursts out that she doesn’t want to be queen because it’s no fun.

Simba says it’s simply in her blood, as he is, they are all part of each other in the great circle of life. Kiara still isn’t buying it, but Simba playfully pushes her off the rock she’s sitting on and he gives that old trademark Simba smile. It’s nice to get those brief glimpses into young Simba every now and then.

They cuddle, and in starts song number one – ‘We Are One.’ You can find a full analysis on my views on this song in part one.

The basic gist is that Simba convinces Kiara that being responsible, being queen and accepting her place in the circle of life is just the way things are. It’s in her blood. She’s not old enough to understand yet, but one day she will be. Kiara solemnly accepts this for now.

Back in the Outlands, we see how desolate their land really is. Lions are pawing at bones, fighting over sticks and, if what I make out in the far back is right, eating termites and ants. We meet Vitani, Kovu’s sister, and Nuka, their older brother. Vitani is a smart and responsible girl, loyal follower of her mother, and Nuka is a bit of a bubblehead, but he’s mostly geared towards jealousy of Kovu for him being Scar’s heir instead of him. He desperately wants his mother’s attention above all else, but is usually overlooked.

Zira chews Nuka out for not watching Kovu, but Kovu defends him by saying it was his idea. Zira threatening reminds him that Simba is the enemy – the one who killed Scar, the one who banished them to the Outlands – and he should never associate with him or the Pride Landers. Kovu tries to explain himself by saying Kiara didn’t seem so bad, and he thought they might be friends. Zira scoffs at the idea until she starts believing he was cooking up an idea of getting close to Kiara so he could get close to Simba – be a bit of an insider agent and take them down. Zira praises her son for such a brilliant idea and marvels at how much he’s taking after Scar, much to Nuka’s disgust.

Zira takes Kovu back to their den to put him to bed, jazzed about the future opportunities this new plan presents to them. Kovu will kill Simba, avenge Scar, and reclaim the throne in Scar’s name. In comes the most awesome villain song of the Disquels (which isn’t saying much, honestly) and one of my favorite villain songs in general, ‘My Lullaby.’ The analysis of which you can find in part one, but damn, I love that song.

Cut to Rafiki, who acts as our time skip interlude. He makes drawings on the wall of Kiara and Kovu, explaining to Mufasa about his growing hopes for Kiara as future queen, but also his increasing concerns about Kovu growing into a threat under Zira’s guidance. Mufasa tells him through symbolism that he wants Kiara and Kovu to be together to unite the Pride Lands and the Outlands and end the tension between the two. Rafiki thinks he’s a crazy person, but after getting a gust of wind blown in his face, he relents and agrees with his plan.

So….from what I gather, Rafiki’s role in this movie is basically Friar Lawrence, only….he’s pretty much pointless. Rafiki’s only meant to speed along a process that is clearly already going to happen. The most he does is, later, when Kiara and Kovu are enjoying their time together and falling further in love, a slight rift in their relationship develops because of Kovu’s conflict with his secret duty, so he wraps them up in a happy peppy love song to make them love each other….more? Maybe to make Kovu more determined to stay with her and end the charade? I don’t dislike Rafiki here, he’s perfectly fine, I just don’t think they knew what to do with him that much.

In The Lion King, Rafiki acted as a guide for Simba to figure out who he truly was. He lead him to literally reflecting on himself and contacting the spirit of his father, which eventually prompted him to go back home and face his past and Scar. While it’s likely Simba probably would have gone home anyway, he was having an inner crisis about the situation and needed both the guidance of Rafiki and Mufasa to finally have the courage to go back. Also, Rafiki told Nala, Timon and Pumbaa that he went home, but that’s minor.

In TLK2, his role isn’t anywhere near that vital. Kovu and Kiara are already flirting with each other as cubs – they’re bound to fall in love as adults no matter the circumstances, which they did. It’s not like he did anything to streamline or allow their reunion. It’s not like he talked to Simba about giving Kovu a chance – he just sang a love-themed dance song. Again, I’m not saying I dislike his role here – he’s still a fun and unique character, especially when he was having his ‘conversation’ with Mufasa – but I wish he had been given more importance is all.

Time skip ahead a few years, and now Kovu and Kiara are adults. Kovu is sufficiently brainwashed by Zira. He’s set on his mission to trick Kiara, get close to her and subsequently get close to Simba so he can kill him.

Kiara, however, has become a beautiful young princess ready to go on her first solo hunt as a rite of passage, despite Simba’s reluctance. He promises to let her do it on her own, but sends Timon and Pumbaa out directly behind her anyway. Kiara is very excited to finally head out by herself, but finds that hunting is much harder than she anticipated. She keeps scaring away her prey by making noise. Already frustrated by fumbling her hunting mission so many times, she becomes enraged when she finds Timon and Pumbaa shadowing her under Simba’s orders, breaking his promise.

Gotta say, he was definitely starting to overstep his bounds here. If he wants to send babysitters after Kiara when she’s a little cub, fine. But sending them out when she’s performing a rite of passage as an adult is just insulting.

Kiara gets so angry that she runs off declaring that she’ll hunt on her own away from the Pride Lands. She runs off and manages to escape Timon and Pumbaa.

Meanwhile, a now-grown Vitani and Nuka head to the old hideout of Scar and the hyenas. The hyenas supposedly fled the area some time after Scar died for some reason. I would say maybe they were forced out, but they technically killed Scar and figured out he was a conniving asshole in the end, so I dunno where they went. They’re there to set some sticks on fire via the……*lip smack* I’m not exactly sure what’s happening here, to be honest. She sets some sticks on a hole in the ground, what looks like steam shoots out and then the sticks are ablaze.

I did learn of something called fumaroles, which are cracks or holes in the ground where shallow pockets of magma meet the groundwater and make steam and toxic gases, but that wouldn’t set the sticks on fire. Can someone more schooled on volcanoes/magma please explain how she just did that? Because I feel I’m might be missing something very basic.

It’s even weirder because, afterward, Nuka sticks his face over the top of the hole (scholar he is) and the steam shoots up, but his head isn’t set on fire (despite him yelling ‘AH, FIRE!!!’) it’s just kinda singed.

Anyway, they need the fire to start their plan to have Kovu infiltrate the Pride Lands and assassinate Simba. They set the land around her hunting area on fire to trap her in so they can send out Kovu to swoop in and save her.

Kiara does indeed get completely trapped by flames, in a pretty damn intense scene, but manages to give herself a somewhat safe spot for a minute by fleeing to the top of a tall rock. She ends up passing out anyway due to the heat and smoke. The last thing she sees is Kovu standing over her. He throws her on his back and rushes her out of the area. They accidentally tumble down a cliffside, so he then has to rescue her from drowning.

When he gets her to shore, she becomes upset because he brought her back to the Pride Lands. He’s understandably, confused as to why she’s pissed that he saved her life, but Kiara asserts that she didn’t need help – she had everything under control.

She tries to leave, but Kovu charmingly reminds her of who he is by referencing an exchange they had when they met. Kiara’s happy to see him, but it’s shortlived because Simba and Nala show up, and Simba’s none too happy. Kiara yells at him for breaking his promise, but he doesn’t care because he now feels fully justified in doing so since she nearly got killed. And he’s angry about it too like it’s her fault the fire started? He bans her from hunting forever because logic.

Rafiki shows up to tell Simba that Kovu saved Kiara’s life, even though, again, that’s information that didn’t need to given by Rafiki and would’ve been given by either Kovu or Kiara (or even Zazu – he was a witness) soon enough.

Kovu puts on his act and pretends that he’s a good lion who has left the Outsiders. He’s now a rogue who wishes to join the pride in Pride Rock, but Simba vehemently refuses. Kovu challenges that position because all he’s done, to Simba’s knowledge, is save Kiara’s life, but Simba seems to be persecuting him for a crime he didn’t commit.

Simba has to concede a bit here, because despite becoming a bit of an asshole in his older age he does still have some reasonableness in him, but it conflicts him greatly. He paces back and forth, frustrated that this is even an option being presented to him. However, with the words of Nala and even Zazu, reminding him that all debts must be repaid under royal decree – one his father created – Simba decides to allow Kovu to stay but basically on a probationary period. He’ll reserve actual judgment on whether he can stay after getting to know him more.

Zazu: “Hmph, riffraff.”…Erf….Okay, I can’t keep quiet about this anymore. I mentioned earlier the stuff about racism/classism that seems to be popping up throughout the movie, and it’s comments like these that really drive the point home.

Riffraff may seem like a silly insult in a modern vernacular, but he’s basically calling Kovu lower class trash right now. It’s uncomfortable how superior Zazu keeps acting to the Outsiders. Despite many characters in the Pride Lands having similar views, he’s the one who keeps being snide about it. You can maybe excuse it for the older lioness Outsiders since they may have done something to earn this ire, but this is Kovu – a young lion who has seemingly done absolutely nothing but exist and save the princess’s life.

It’s even more uncomfortable when you take into consideration that Simba and Zazu are basically falling into the typical stereotype of royalty – believing the lower class is literally below them even though it’s pretty much their fault that they’re in that position. Here, Simba literally is the direct reason why Kovu is ‘riffraff.’ He can’t control who his mother is, and he wasn’t a part of what she may have done.

And before anyone says it, yes, even here, Simba is kinda justified because Kovu IS planning something and he’s NOT on the up and up, but outside of him being born under unfortunate circumstances (Considering both Zira’s influence and being chosen by Scar.) Simba has no reason to be so vehemently against this. Simba’s making assumptions based on Kovu’s lineage and where he lives, and that’s not right. Everyone should be given a chance and judged on their individual character not on factors beyond their control.

Also,

I couldn’t not make that reference.

They all head back home, but Kovu is not allowed in the den – he has to sleep outside.

After everyone else heads in, Kiara goes to Kovu to thank him for saving her, but he scoffs at her skills as a hunter and tells her she’d never survive on her own. Kiara similarly scoffs and mockingly asks if he’d teach her, he mockingly says he would and then she seriously accepts his offer.

Later that night, Simba has a rather odd nightmare. Scenes like this usually feel like they’d otherwise be deleted, but they kept this one for some reason. Simba’s remembering his father’s death. Mufasa’s crying out for Simba as he’s latched onto the side of the cliff. Simba tries to reach him, but Scar grabs Simba’s paw and prevents him from saving Mufasa. Scar tells Simba to trust him. As Mufasa falls down to the stampede below, Simba glares up at Scar who suddenly turns into Kovu. Kovu throws Simba off the cliff, causing him to follow his father in death.

This is a really interesting nightmare because it does provide us with more insight into why Simba is so wary of trusting others. He trusted Scar, his own uncle, and look where that got him. It got his father killed and lead the Pride Lands into several years of suffering, nearly wiping them all out.

It doesn’t change the fact that Simba’s going a bit too far with it, but it does allow you to see his side a little better.

The dream is also prophetic because, yeah, Kovu is being sent there to get him to ‘trust (him)’ so he can betray Simba and kill him. Also, later, he will have a scar on his left eye.

However, he’s not seeing the flip side of the situation, which is the fact that the only way he defeated Scar and took his rightful place as king back was by trusting and working side by side with his family and friends. His traumas and fears are overshadowing that aspect. It makes his plight more understandable, but not fully.

He’s still placing a lot of misplaced fear and anger on someone for poor reasons. Even with the Scar stuff in play, Kovu was named his successor probably immediately after he was born. He hadn’t developed any sort of personality by that point, nor did he have any control over the situation.

This is one of those times where I kinda wish they had been able to work it so that Kovu was Scar’s son. Then Simba’s fears might be a little more founded. It’d still be kinda stupid, of course – people aren’t defined by their parents, especially if they didn’t raise them – but considering Simba takes such, forgive the pun, pride in being Mufasa’s son, it only makes sense that he’d have a great respect for bloodlines and believe that they do greatly influence someone as a person.

It would also make the conflict between the Outlands and the Pride Lands stronger too because they’d see Scar as being the true ruler of the Pride Lands, and Kovu, being his son, would be considered the true king now on a more legitimate level. Remember, Scar was technically royalty. He was still a prince – meaning Kovu would have had royal blood in him to strengthen this idea even further.

But I guess that’s just something to sit on anyway. Unless they removed the romance angle or became an anime, they’d never be able to work Kovu as Scar’s son.

The next morning, we get a really cool shot where a very gentle rendition of ‘We Are One’ starts playing as Simba stretches in the sunrise. There’s a part where Simba shakes off and it’s accompanied by a cymbal swell, and I just thought that was a cool detail.

Another cool detail was how the music changes to menacing in tone when Kovu is spotted prepping to ambush Simba while Simba goes to the watering hole for a drink. Not sure why he’s choosing now to attack. His guard is still very much up. He hasn’t really gotten that close to Kiara yet. He’d be way better off playing the long game. If the plan was just to wait in the shadows and attack when he was taking a drink, they’d just sneak around and do that. There’s no point using Kovu to get close to Kiara.

Anyway, Kiara pops up from nowhere and greets Kovu for her hunting lesson.

Cut to Kovu playing the prey while Kiara tries to sneak attack him, but fails miserably because she’s making a variety of noises the entire time. It’s weird how the sequence immediately preceding this scene is one where she sneaks up on Kovu flawlessly, especially when he was prepping for an attack.

Kovu tells her that she’s breathing too hard and needs to relax so she can more accurately become in tune with her environment and reduce noise as much as possible. To demonstrate what he means, Kovu decides to attack something hidden nearby, but it’s a panicked Timon begging for his life.

Timon explains that he and Pumbaa are trying to enjoy a treasure trove of bugs, but they’re being gobbled up by a flock of birds who won’t go away no matter how much they try to scare them.

Pumbaa wonders if Kovu could help them out (and Timon takes the credit for the idea because he’s a jackass) and he and Kiara start roaring to get all the birds out.

They all start running around roaring and having fun, which baffles Kovu because he still doesn’t understand playing or fun, which is even sadder than it was before. This poor kid has been robbed of a childhood.

They’re stopped dead in their tracks when they come upon a herd of rhinos who are buddies with the birds. They’re none too happy that their bird friends have been harassed, so they chase the group in retaliation.

They manage to hide in a very small cave, still yuckin’ it up and having a great time. Timon even ruffles Kovu’s hair and gives him his seal of approval, which was nice of him. When Timon and Pumbaa pluck themselves out of the hiding space, Kiara and Kovu accidentally smooch. OooooOOOOOoooohhhhh!

Later that night, Kovu and Kiara go stargazing and pick out some clouds that look like various shapes, but Kovu can’t help himself but see scenes of violence in some of them.

Kovu admits that he’s never stargazed before, which surprises Kiara since she and Simba used to do it often. He took that opportunity to explain how the great kings of the past are among the stars. Kovu wonders if Scar is up there, which obviously makes things a little awkward.

He solemnly tells Kiara that, despite Scar not being his father, he was still a part of him….I still don’t quite get that, though. Did he actually know Scar? Like…did he ever meet him? How can someone who is not related to you be a part of you if you never knew them? Scar simply pointing his paw at Zira’s new baby and saying ‘He’s my heir’ doesn’t automatically make someone connected to someone else.

Maybe he feels like Scar was a part of him because he was constantly told stories about him and everyone kept hailing him as Scar’s successor? I guess, under those circumstances, you probably couldn’t help but develop a weird sense of attachment to someone that way.

Kiara tells Kovu that her father once said that Scar had a darkness in him that he couldn’t escape. Mmm……I mean, I guess. If you take the books as being canon again, then Scar has been a little asshole since day one. He became endlessly upset once Mufasa was named primary heir to the throne when they were (the equivalent to) teenage lions. He tried to have Mufasa killed shortly after he was named future king, so he’s been a psychopath for a long time. Add to that years of stewing in jealousy and then Simba taking his place as next in line for the throne again and you have a pot full of evil stew. He’s pretty much just straight-up evil. He never tried to be good legitimately, as far as I know.

Fun fact: In the books, Scar’s original name was Taka, which has two meanings in Swahili – Waste and want. Both of these definitions fit Scar to a tee because he is fueled by jealousy (Wanting something he can’t have) and his life was basically a waste because he had such great knowledge and sophistication that he could have made him a great and lasting ally on the side of good, but he wasted it all to be evil and that lead to his death.

Apparently, The Lion Guard gave him an entirely new backstory to actually establish a canon backstory for him, but I prefer Taka being his original name than Askari. That name doesn’t fit him at all. Granted, if you look at it from a larger perspective, Mufasa and Scar’s parents come off as assholes if they give one son a name that means ‘king’ and the other a name that means ‘waste’ and ‘want.’ Askari, for the record, can mean ‘police’ ‘soldier’ and ‘guard’ and it was derived from their ancestor, who was a great king of the Pride Lands. Scar himself would later become leader of the lion guard, but I’m getting way off-topic, and The Lion Guard is a review for another day, so let’s move on.

Kovu wonders if there’s a darkness in him too, and Kiara cuddles with him to comfort him. Awww.

Anyway, Simba’s watching this from afar….….creepy. He’s talking to the spirit of Mufasa (not literally) about his conflict in accepting Kovu since he’s an Outsider and Scar’s heir.

In comes Nala with her longest scene clocking in at thirty seconds. I wish I was kidding. I know there’s just not a lot for Nala to do, but it’s disappointing that such a beloved character is given such short bursts of screentime.

Nala tries to explain to Simba that he’s so preoccupied trying to uphold his father’s legacy and do what’s expected of him that it’s clouding his judgment on Kovu, who might not want to walk the path set before him. The only way he’ll find the answer is by getting to know Kovu.

Cut back to Kovu and Kiara, and Kovu starts pulling away from Kiara because he feels guilty. He’s just about to tell Kiara about the plan to assassinate Simba, but decides not to and starts walking away. Rafiki busts in to stop him from leaving and leads them to Upendi. I guess I’ll give Rafiki some credit here because Kovu was starting to leave for…somewhere. Either he was about to just leave for the den, which leaves things open for their relationship to start back up again, he was about to bail on the mission and head back home or he was about to bail on the mission and run away somewhere. I always believed the first option, which makes the most sense. Still, there was no indication that their budding romance would end here if it wasn’t for Rafiki interfering.

Rafiki leads them to ‘Upendi’ which is basically a weird Tunnel of Love ride. Rafiki’s using a musical number to lock in their love, (Upendi means love) and because this is a musical, it works very well. (See part one for more information on my views of the song itself.)

After all the fun and luvey-duvey-wuvey-ness (Though….what time is it? Because it looks like the sun is about to rise and they were stargazing before the song, yet they’re going to bed?), they happily head back to the den. Simba decides to finally let Kovu inside the den to sleep, but as they’re walking in we see Vitani watching them. Vitani is silently urging Kovu to attack Simba now that he’s in with Kiara and Simba has his back turned to him. However, Kovu is too enamored with this new life he’s making in the Pride Lands that he doesn’t even think to do it. Frustrated, Vitani goes off immediately to report to Zira, who is not happy to say the least.

Zira realizes that Kovu has been swayed by Simba and Kiara and that he’s likely not going to go through with the plan. However, Zira is not going to allow Kovu to betray them nor is she going to let her plan fail because of him. She has a plan B….

The next morning, Kovu starts panicking because he realizes that he absolutely needs to tell Kiara about the plot now both because he probably realizes he can’t meander around for too long without something happening and because he feels he can’t keep lying to her and have a relationship with her. He practices to himself about what he’d say to her, but doesn’t have a lot of faith that it will work. Either way, he goes off to try.

Kovu: “Kiara, I need to talk to you!”

Simba: “Kiara, I don’t want you talking with him!…..I want to talk with him.”

Simba…it’s great that you’re warming up to the lad, but uh….kinda rude there. I know we couldn’t have Kovu actually confess and reveal the plot right now, it’d mess the rest of the story up, but really Simba? You can’t wait five minutes before you go off and have your little bonding moment?

Kiara is tickled pink that her father is warming up to Kovu. And aw, Simba’s little wink to her as they walk off. He is so adorkable sometimes.

As Simba and Kovu walk together through the ashes of the fire that occurred a few days prior, Simba relays the real story of Scar to Kovu, who is shocked. He now sees what a terrible person Scar really was.

Kovu: “He really was a killer.”

Simba: “….Fire is a killer. Sometimes, what’s left behind can grow better than the generation before…..if given the chance.”

I always really liked this exchange. Fire causes a lot of death and destruction. Simba knows this all too well because of the fire that raged in Pride Rock when he returned and fought Scar. And the fire started the instant Scar reached a crescendo in his intimidation of Simba, nearly causing his death. Also, the attack that resulted in Simba kicking him off the cliff and into the area where the hyenas were started by Scar jumping through the flames in an almost demonic manner. Once Scar died, the fire was nearly instantaneously put out, and everything was able to slowly regrow back into the lush and beautiful landscape that the Pride Lands originally were.

Zira (though technically Vitani and Nuka) used fire and burned all of this land just to start up a plot to kill Simba. However, Simba reveals a little seedling under the ash when he says the second part of the line, indicating that no matter how bad things look, the ones left behind can still flourish and make something beautiful again.

He’s obviously talking about giving Kovu a chance here, but I think he may also be foreshadowing the resolution later on. Remember, Simba is technically the generation after Scar. He’s been working very hard to ensure that everything’s ‘better’ than it was before, but he’s also been too blinded by fear and anger to be able to work anything out with any of the Outsiders. Zira may be a lost cause, but who’s to say anyone else there is – especially the children? And now, as we’ll see later, the next generation, Kiara and Kovu’s, help Simba’s generation see the light and eventually break down those barriers.

….I mean….the way they do it is silly, but…we’ll get to that later.

Ya know, I never really thought about it, but Kovu never had a father figure. With him, you’re so preoccupied with his connection to Scar that you never take the fact that he didn’t have a father at all into consideration. And with Zira’s nature, it’s understandable that he’s never had an actual heart to heart with a parental figure like this. It’s sweet….but bound to be ruined when the shit hits the fan.

Speaking of which….

Zira and the other Outsiders emerge from the haze. Gotta say, they made them look insanely intimidating during this sequence. Maybe a bit too much like zombies, but holy crap.

Zira congratulates Kovu on a job well done, which is such a terrible thing to do to him. In most other situations like this, Zira probably would have just done the predictable thing and called Kovu out for being a traitor while deciding to take matters into her own hands, but oh no. She decides to play pretend and act like Kovu was part of this ambush, deceiving Simba this whole time so she could simultaneously corner Simba, kill him and effectively squash any chance Kovu has of finding acceptance and happiness in the Pride Lands if Simba does get away. All to punish Kovu for balking on them. What an evil woman.

Zira commands the lionesses (And Nuka) to attack Simba. Kovu tries to get them off of Simba, but he’s flung into a rock and knocked out. Simba manages to knock the lionesses off, but he falls down a cliffside. He continues running, but he’s lead to a massive dam made of logs. He scrambles up the dam, with a now less unconscious Kovu watching from the top of the cliff. He immediately scurries down to help.

Nuka rushes in to kill Simba instead, taking his opportunity to impress his mother and have his moment of glory. He does nearly manage to pull Simba down, but he falls and is crushed by falling logs when Simba gets back on solid ground.

Yup, they killed Nuka. Crushed to death, which one of the worst ways they’ve had someone killed in Disney features. He didn’t even die immediately. Kovu rushes down to try and dig him out, but is swatted away by Zira who furiously digs to him. She’s devastated when she finds him near death. He weakly tells her,

Nuka: “I’m sorry, mother….I tried.”

In a deleted part of this scene, his final words were originally “Well…I finally got your attention didn’t I?” I like the changed version better because the original line makes it seem like Nuka’s kinda putting Zira on a guilt trip.

This scene, despite Nuka being a jackass, stayed with me through the years because it is such a dramatic and emotionally impacting scene. Zira, who has been nothing but an evil bitch and has never shown Nuka any caring, is visibly devastated by this. She rushes in to dig him out, not even caring at all that Simba got away, is shocked to find the state Nuka’s in, her voice cracks while trying to talk to him, and she even cradles his head and comforts him as he finally passes.

For a handful of seconds, you find yourself really sympathizing with both Nuka and Zira, which is something you never really got to do with Scar.

And let me point out that Nuka’s death is not quick, and it’s pretty morbid when you really pay attention. Not only did he not die immediately, which is what usually happens in Disney movies, but he was so badly pinned by the logs that they couldn’t extract his body and give him a proper funeral (however that’s done in the TLK world. They had a memorial service for Mufasa and Simba, but we never see if they did anything with Mufasa’s body.) They just had to have a short memorial service right there at the dam. Geez.

As much as I don’t care for Andy Dick, he also did a really good job acting during this scene too. He really sold it.

Back in the Pride Lands, Simba hobbles home. Zazu rushes to get help, and Simba is only able to convey that Kovu was part of an ambush on him before he passes out. Timon and Pumbaa help him back home, and as much shit as I give Timon it is very adorable that he carries Simba’s tail on the way back. However, Kiara is in shock and disbelief that Kovu would be a part of an attack on her father.

Meanwhile, back at Nuka’s funeral, Zira blames the entire fiasco on Kovu because, had he just killed Simba when he had the chance, none of this would have happened. She viciously slaps him in the face, leaving a very familiar scar across his left eye. Dun dun dunnnnnn…..however, even as a kid, I realized how bunk this was. Either she grazed him just enough to skim his fur off but not leave a wound or he has a permanent scar from a wound that didn’t bleed. In the closeup, you can see an indent in his skin, so I’m forced to believe the latter.

Again, questionable canonicity, but Scar and Kovu basically got their scars for the same reason, just on a flipside in regards to intent. Taka was scarred by a bison whom he had tried to trick into killing Mufasa, but his plan backfired on him. Kovu was scarred by Zira because she felt he had betrayed them, resulting in Nuka’s death. See? They both got scarred for ‘betraying’ their families/brothers.

….I know I probably look too much into some of this stuff, but I find it interesting.

Zira and Kovu get into a big argument about him betraying their pride and Scar, but he finally stands up to her. Zira will have none of it, though, and directly blames Kovu for Nuka’s death, even straight out saying “You’ve killed your own brother!” Damn.

Kovu runs off, but Zira refuses to pursue him. Instead, she rallies the Outsiders for one final attack now that Simba’s too weak to fend them off.

Back in Pride Rock, Kovu shocks everyone by showing up after he was seemingly a part of the attack on Simba. Everyone’s whispering about him, even pointing out the scar on his face.

Also, apparently Simba’s better now. He went from being half unconscious on the ground to acting perfectly fine when talking to Kovu. He never had so much as a visible scratch on him, but if you’re going to make the play that he’s now so wounded and weak that he’s prime for the assassinatin’ then at least…do…something with him. Dirty him up, scruff up his fur, weaken his voice, have him supported by Nala or something as he tries to maintain his balance. You’d never know he was just in a battle with dozens of lionesses and nearly died.

Kovu asserts that he had nothing to do with the attack and begs for forgiveness. Kiara pleads with her father, but he’s had enough. He doesn’t believe a word of what Kovu is saying and officially exiles him from the Pride Lands.

In comes ‘One of Us’ (See part one for my full analysis on this song.) Dammmnnnnn I love this song so much, it’s not funny. Admittedly, I might be overly attached to it because it was also put in a lot of Zuko fanvids back in the day, but it’s just such an awesome song.

The song shows all of the animals in the Pride Lands shunning Kovu as he hastily makes his way out after being exiled. It’s a very powerful and sad song because we know Kovu is innocent, but here he is being punished for a crime he didn’t commit…again. However, I can’t really blame Simba too much this time.

Sure, he can explain this away. Afterall, Kovu introduced himself as a rogue so it’s plausible that Zira would screw him over as revenge for turning his back on the Outsiders, but, all things considered, and given how much it took for Simba to even give him a chance, it’s understandable that Simba wouldn’t listen to him and choose to exile him.

In a cool shot, they throwback to the original movie and show Kovu looking into his reflection in the water and it turns to an image of Scar (which I guess means he must have met him before, so that doesn’t make things any less confusing.) In The Lion King, Rafiki showed Simba that Mufasa’s spirit lived in him by showing him his reflection in the water and it turning to an image of Mufasa. So here, Kovu sees Scar, but instead of being comforted and empowered like Simba was, Kovu is frightened of ‘his fate’ as Scar’s heir.

Kiara is fully pissed, though. She believes Simba should have at least heard Kovu out, but Simba’s just done. He even tells Kiara that she’s not to go anywhere without an escort from now on, which, again, while being a little understandable (he’s probably worried she might be the next target) she didn’t do anything and shouldn’t be punished for no reason. However, he makes it even worse by telling her she won’t leave Pride Rock period so he can keep an eye on her, which is way too far.

Simba: “I know he’s following in Scar’s pawprints….and I must follow in my father’s.”

Kiara: “You will never be Mufasa!”

Oh shit! Like, really, Kiara. Damn. Twist that knife, why don’t ya?

Although, points off because Kiara never knew Mufasa, so she doesn’t really have any ammo to shoot off that hot take.

Also, he kinda is like Mufasa in a lot of ways, both good and bad. It’s heavily implied that Mufasa exiled the hyenas (because they were too destructive) to a place where they had little food and water too. I think Mufasa had more diplomacy and a more even head about things, though. Those things come with experience and time.

Also also, fun fact, the hyenas were originally meant to be under Zira’s command in this movie instead of a bunch of other lionesses, but the lionesses make more sense. There’s no reason why the hyenas would be helping a bunch of Scar groupies. Remember, Scar betrayed the hyenas. Oh and there’s that little thing about them eating Scar alive in vengeance of him screwing them over.

The lionesses are a great deal more threatening, considering they seem more like true threats and soldiers than minions with teeth, but it’s just kinda hard to swallow that there were this many Scar fangirls out there, considering how shitty things were when he was king.

Moving on, Kiara escapes the den out of the back and goes off to find Kovu to no avail. She sees her reflection in the water and is shocked to see half of her reflection isn’t appearing. Which must mean she’s half vampire.

Sorry, I meant to say she’s missing her other half IE Kovu. Now, I do like this imagery and it does tie in well to the ‘We Are One’ theme the movie has going through it. And I am a bit of a schmuck when it comes to the idea of soulmates, but I am fully aware of how iffy the concept is, especially when it comes to imagery like this. Kiara is literally not a whole person unless she’s with Kovu now? That does sound romantic, but Kiara has enough issues as a character without implying that she’s less of a person without Kovu.

It is pretty cool that she’s revisiting previous locations from early on in the movie, though. The first place she visits is the rock that she was sitting on when she was a cub staring in awe at the Outlands. Also, it’s the place she nearly drowned in, but it barely covers her paws now. Next, she goes to the little cramped cave where she and Kovu first kissed, but doesn’t find him.

That night, we get our next song, ‘Love Will Find a Way.’ Kiara’s wandering around sullen looking for Kovu and, as movies typically do with heartbroken characters, she keeps stumbling upon a bunch of happy animal couples.

Now, as much as I do love this song (see part one for a full analysis);

Kiara: “I may not be brave or strong or smart….” I really hate that line so much. Stop highlighting how problematic her character is, and stop acting like the only thing she has going for her is Kovu’s love and her love of him.

More revisiting when Kiara spots the clouds that look like the shapes she and Kovu saw together. She also seems to think Kovu’s small enough to be the cause of the rustling in a tiny bush when it was really a frog. Yup, you may not be smart indeed, Kiara.

She finds herself in the burned out area of the Pride Lands (or maybe it’s more in a border area) and, when I first watched this, I was so confused on where she actually was because the colors and everything make this place look like it’s white sand dunes. The only indication that this is the same burned area is that there is one burned tree to her left.

Kovu appears behind her and they happily reunite, the song ending with Kovu also revisiting an earlier scene by pushing away some of the ash and showing a seedling, showing that he and Kiara have indeed grown better than the generation before.

They play around for a while, chasing a pair of butterflies, (Kovu’s actually the one who instigates the playing here, showing that sweet character development.) This is another sendup to earlier where cub!Kiara was chasing a butterfly, which is extremely cute. They eventually nuzzle near some water and find that their reflections merge together. Kovu points out that they are one, which gives Kiara a bit of an epiphany.

Kovu suggests running away together and…well;

Kovu: “And we can start a pride all our own.” You’re both really horny lions, ya know that?

I’m not looking too deeply into that line either. He’s got his ass up and waving it back and forth while saying that line in a sultry fashion.

Kiara, however, surprisingly, doesn’t want to run away. She knows they have a duty to end the strife between the Pride Lands and the Outlands because they’re their respective families and they can’t turn their back on their people. Kovu’s reluctant, but agrees with her.

Meanwhile, back in the rainy Pride Lands, buckle up buttercup because Zira’s had enough of plots and conspiring – she wants royal blood and she wants it now. It’s time for all-out war. You really gotta give her more credit as a villain here. She’s not cornered, she doesn’t have no other choice but to attack this way like many other villains of her caliber – she is just so pissed at Simba and the Pride Landers in general that she’s saying ‘screw it’ and calling for war in order to finally kill him.

This is also another reason why having Zira leading a bunch of lionesses is better than the hyenas because, again, we already know the lionesses of Pride Rock can beat them in a mass war with little issue. An army of well-trained lionesses is a much better match (Zira even mentioned earlier that they all have specific battle training.)

They do something kinda clever so you can tell the Pride Land lionesses from the Outlanders as they’re fighting. The Outlander lionesses wade through mud on the way over, so they’re covered in mud from the neck down.

It’s very foreboding that they show all of the animals fleeing the area in terror before the war even starts, but the only animals that remain are a bunch of vultures flying overhead – indicating death.

But of course Timon and Pumbaa ruin it a little by waving their asses at them and going ‘Na nana nana naaaaa!’

Zira: “It’s over Simba! I have dreamed of nothing else for years!”

Timon: “Boy, does she need a hobby.” *snort* Alright, that one was kinda funny.

Simba: “Last chance, Zira. Go home.”

Zira: “I am home!”

Love that line. Throwing his words right back in this face while also making it into a threat.

Zira: “Go for the eyes! Break his jaw! Hit him low! Get them! Do what you must!” Goddamn, Zira is vicious.

Actually, this whole battle is shockingly vicious for a Disney movie. They’re really not holding back here. It’s very intense. I mean, obviously, there’s no blood, but it’s about as violent as they’ve gotten.

Timon and Pumbaa flee the battle after one of the lionesses roars at them. When they’re cornered, we get a veiled fart joke because Timon pretends to use Pumbaa’s tail as a gun, implying he’ll make him fart at the lionesses if they come any further. It does work, and makes them run away in terror. I think this is just far enough for me to not be annoyed at another fart joke considering they didn’t actually make him fart. This entire battle would have been marred if they made him actually fart as a weapon.

Kiara and Kovu are rushing to the battleground. They run over the dam, which is currently starting to break apart due to the rain.

Simba’s being overrun, so Zira decides its her time to get in the ring. The instant she takes a swing at Simba, every other lion stops what they’re doing to watch this go down. They circle each other for a bit and are about to formally start the one-on-one when Kiara and Kovu interrupt.

And here’s where I have to basically halt the whole movie for a bit because I have a lot to say about the resolution to this battle.

Kiara tells Simba that they have to stop, and then we get this exchange.

Kiara: “A wise king once told me, “We are one.” I didn’t understand him then…Now I do.”

Simba: “But…they–”

Kiara: “Them? Us! Look at them. They ARE us. What differences do you see?”

First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Sassy McSmartass here to tell you that there are actually visible differences between lionesses of the Pride Lands and those of the Outlands. The Pride Land lionesses are, for lack of a better term, fuller, have more rounded edges to them and have a slightly lighter/brighter color palette. The Outlanders have more washed out/grayish-tan colorings, darker circles around the eyes, are skinnier and have more jagged edges to them. They also typically look scruffier.

The differences in the male lions are way more obvious – Orange vs. Black manes, gold vs. brown fur. Scar, Kovu and Nuka are said to be based on the now extinct Barbary lions, which had black hair and were notoriously more violent than their cousins due to their higher levels of testosterone. (Barbary lions are from a lion subspecies called P.I. Leo or Panthera Leo Leo, whereas the main branch is Panthera Leo.)

Second of all, if this movie really is trying for some undertones of a message against racism/classism then…this isn’t really a good way to get that across. I get that this is technically saying that we’re all humans…or…I guess in this case, lions, but if you take her words at face value, it’s almost like she’s saying because they look similar that they’re the same, which is uh…kinda tone deaf.

Looking the same shouldn’t be a factor at all. That’s kinda the opposite of what you should be going for here.

Maybe, instead, Kiara could have said something akin to them all being lions and being equal, but then you kinda have to factor in the idea that…yeah, all LIONS are equal. But all of the power in the Pride Lands is explicitly on the lions’ shoulders. They’re the royalty of the Savannah. No other animal has any sort of power besides what is allotted by the food chain.

….And, ya know what, just to cover all of my bases, let’s talk about a sexism angle too. Because the Pride Lands very obviously work king by king. There needs to be a king to lead, even if there’s a queen. Mufasa ruled with Sarabi, but what did Sarabi get to do? Mufasa died, and Simba left, but Sarabi didn’t rule – Scar did. And when she was with Scar, she got smacked around and treated like a servant. Simba’s ruling with Nala, but what does she do?

Kiara is the first ever, as far as I can see, Pride Land princess who will become queen, but since she’s with Kovu and he’ll be king, does that mean her power won’t mean as much?

Now you may be saying “Twix, you’ve been reading a lot into stuff throughout this review, but don’t you think you’re going a bit overboard here?”

And to that I say “Yes, yes….yes, very much.” Thing is, the stuff that they’re seemingly talking about in regards to any -ism is something I feel I have to address because it’s very clear they’re trying to say something. If you don’t look into this at all, it’s a fine message about everyone being ‘one’ we’re all the same, we’re all equal, stop being idiots and fighting for no reason. Understand each other. Get along. Your differences are just surface level and are never the deciding factor in you as people. Unite, don’t separate. And that’s a very good message, but the way they dealt with this down to the details is just….sloppy. Like all of this -ismness was residual from a scrapped script, but they still kept it slightly because they liked the message.

In regards to any -ism they’re addressing, it’s, at best, confusing and, at worst, tone deaf and overly simplistic if you follow along with every step of the story.

Which brings me to my final point about this.

Kiara….that’s not what’s happening here.

Now’s an apt time to remind everyone that this movie is heavily based on Romeo and Juliet. But, before I go on, I am…..How should I put this?….Uhmm…

I’m an uncultured twit.

I barely know anything about Shakespearean works besides 1) What I’ve seen out and about in TV and movies, and 2) What I research when I need to do so – such as with this blog post specifically. So, if I miss something in the themes and meanings of Romeo and Juliet, feel free to correct my uncultured ass.

Anyhoo, in Romeo and Juliet, the audience is purposely left in the dark as to what caused the rift between the Montagues and the Capulets. The audience can’t analyze their feud or take sides because they don’t know the circumstances of it. It’s kinda implied that they themselves don’t remember what caused it. All they know is that they hate each other and that’s just the way it is. Kinda sheds a light on how stupid their feud really is and how tragic Romeo and Juliet’s situation was.

However, as I mentioned, this movie does not follow Romeo and Juliet all that closely – and one of those changed aspects is in the fact that the families have a clear reason for their rift.

I mentioned how we don’t know exactly what went down between TLK1 and 2 to lead to Zira and her compatriots being banished to the Outlands, but we can deduce at least what must’ve happened if you believe Simba is at least partially reasonable and not a dick who just jumped off Pride Rock immediately after his roar to tell Zira, her cubs and her friends to get the hell out of dodge just for having I ❤ Scar t-shirts on.

Even if the Kopa theory isn’t valid, and it probably isn’t, especially not in a post-Lion Guard world, I can bet anything that Zira either attempted to assassinate Simba/Nala or conspired to do so, with the help of her friends, earning them all a banishment. This is a woman so desperate to kill Simba that she groomed her son from cub to adult specifically for the purpose of killing Simba. There’s no way she doesn’t have a track record of attempting to or conspiring to kill Simba.

And after they were banished, the hatred of the Outsiders only got worse and worse, considering the bad conditions of their land. I wouldn’t be surprised if more assassination attempts were made in the meantime too.

But let’s just say I’m wrong about all that. They were just banished because Simba’s unreasonable or at least overreacted to a group of bitches who wished he was dead but didn’t do anything about it.

They now HAVE attempted to murder the king – and nearly succeeded! And they technically nearly got Kiara killed in that fire, too – not to mention all the lands that were destroyed and animals that were killed in that blaze, probably. Meanwhile, all Simba and the Pride Landers have done is ‘welcome’ Kovu to live with them and tell the clearly dangerous Outsiders to stay the hell out.

Is war the answer to anything? Of course not. But if someone’s attacking you, you have every right to defend yourself, especially if you’re the first line of defense for a land filled with other creatures who rely on you for protection.

Imagine if someone was attacking you with a knife and you fought back and someone got between the two of you and scolded YOU for fighting.

Now onto the second half of the resolution.

Zira: “Vitani, NOW!”

Vitani: “No, mother….Kiara’s right. Enough.” She doesn’t even know Kiara. She’s never exchanged dialogue with her. And the last time she talked about her was during the battle in which she told Nala in a very mocking tone;

Vitani: “Where’s your pretty daughter, Nala?”

Why is Vitani, Zira’s right-hand lioness and daughter, so easily swayed by this? I mean, maybe the stuff about Scar can easily be assuaged, she may or may not barely remember him, but she also blames them for Nuka’s death. Maybe a little line like “Nuka would still be alive if it weren’t for our hatred and vengeance.” would’ve helped a little here, delivered by either Kovu or Vitani.

Anyway, Kovu’s standing his ground against Zira, and now Vitani is standing up to her too, so Zira proclaims that they’re both going to die for it. She commands the other lionesses to attack, but they join the Pride Landers and refuse to fight too. I understand this one a little better because the other lionesses don’t decide to leave until they hear Zira telling her own children that she’ll kill them to achieve her ends, which is way more swaying. I, too, prefer to side with the people who don’t kill their children.

Simba tells Zira to stand down and let it go, but she refuses. Now completely alone, she decides to go ham and attack Simba herself. Kiara, however, intercepts the attack and they end up tumbling down the cliffside together. The dam upriver bursts, filling the canyon below with rushing waters filled with karma.

Kiara manages to get her footing, but Zira is hanging on for dear life. To her credit, Kiara tries to help her, even after Zira tries to claw at her paw, but Zira’s too stubborn to accept help, so she falls into the river and drowns. It’s rather poignant too, if you think about it. I mean, Nuka’s body has to be in that water now….

Kiara: “Daddy….I tried.” There’s something about this line that makes me think it’s meant to be a throwback to Nuka’s death, but for the life of me I can’t see the significance besides similar wording.

After Zira’s death, Simba admits he was wrong and welcomes Kovu as well as all of the Outland lionesses back to the pride.

Later, we get a Lion King wedding as Kovu and Kiara are wed on Pride Rock, surrounded by a bunch of the lionesses. Also, it’s insanely hard to tell if Vitani’s here. I THINK she’s the one sitting next to Kiara, but I can’t see her hair tuft, so it’s hard to tell. I can’t imagine she wouldn’t attend her brother’s wedding, but I honestly can’t discern her from the others.

After some cute as hell cuddles, they ascend Pride Rock and roar in celebration while all the animals down below cheer.

Mufasa’s spirit tells Simba “Well done, my son.” No pat on the back for Kiara, too? Or Kovu? They’re kinda the reason this all happened. Oh you’re not gonna say anything else? Could only get James Earl Jones in the studio for two lines? Okay.

With Mufasa’s spirit proclaiming “We are one.” the movie ends.

——————————–

And that was The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, the last Disquel to review for this series, what I truly believe to be the best Disquel and one of my favorite movies.

I’m not going to lie and say the movie doesn’t have its faults. I’ve written way too much about it to not go over as many as I thought were worth discussing, obviously, to say it doesn’t. Even when I was a kid I was bothered by the weird consistency issues between the two movies, which is quite a bit of the reason why this review so far has been insanely long. When you’ve watched a movie as many times as I have, and it means as much to you as this one does to me and you overthink things to a concerning level like I do, it’s hard not to get it all out when you finally have the chance.

However, I do think this movie has plenty of quality to weather its faults without affecting the outcome that much. I still enjoy this movie as much now as I did when I was a kid, and I think it’s a very deserving sequel to the original Lion King. I just wish more of the interim between movies had been fleshed out and Kiara were a more interesting character. Everything else is more or less awesome, particularly the plot with Kovu and Zira as a villain.

I keep imagining how incredible this movie might have been if they aimed for a theatrical release. Slightly longer runtime, even better animation, more elbow room for everything – It could have been even better. But I thank my lucky stars that The Lion King was one of the first to get the Disquel treatment because GEEEEEZZZ it’s mostly downhill from here. It’s amazing how we went from this to stuff like Hunchback 2, Fox and the Hound 2 and Mulan 2….

The voice acting is top notch, even if Neve Campbell as Kiara was kinda weak. Like I mentioned, I adored the performance of the late Suzanne Pleshette as Zira. She absolutely killed it. I also think Jason Marsden did a great job as Kovu. They also managed to get everyone else back from the original movie, barring two people.

Scar’s brief cameo was covered by Jim Cummings, who voiced him briefly in ‘Be Prepared’ in the original movie (he does a damn good job emulating Jeremy Irons) and Sarabi didn’t return at all because her voice actress, Madge Sinclair, died in 1995, just a year after the first Lion King movie. There is speculation that she is there in dialogue-free shots in the background, especially when Kiara goes on her first hunt, but I think that’s a stretch. I feel more comfortable saying Sarabi passed away with Madge.

The music is hands down the best you’ll find in the Disquels. People still reference and play several of the songs to this day.

The animation, while not being nearly to the original’s standards, is still extremely good for direct-to-VHS. It definitely could have gotten a theatrical release with no problem. Really, the only art and animation issues are when the characters are seen from far away, because they lose many features and become blobby. No real issues beyond that, though.

I highly recommend anyone see this movie. Even if you’re not a big Lion King fan, it’s still a good movie with emotional moments, intense action, an awesome villain and a sweet romance.

As for Dissecting the Disquels, sunset may be here, but I still have a couple things left to do before we move on to the Disquel spin-off TV series and even, yes, we’re going there, the Disney live-action reboots (I’ve been reading/watching a lot about their latest victim, Mulan, recently…..Someone hold me….) so stay tuned!

Recommended Audience: Disney+ gives it a G, but there are some darker themes here like a lot of mentions of murder, two counts of accidental death, child abuse, violence. Maybe 6 or 7+?

UPDATE 9/29/20: So quick update on TLK, they literally just announced a day after I posted this that they’ll be making a sequel to the live-action Lion King movie……but it won’t be a live-action version of TLK2 – instead, it will focus on Mufasa’s origins and be a prequel, while also somehow expanding on the main story even though he’s dead for most of the main movie? What? Don’t get me wrong, I’m relieved as all hell they won’t be doing a live-action TLK2, they’re ruining enough as it is, but I’m also getting dreadful feelings because now they’re making unnecessary prequels, which has so much Disquel vibes it’s not even funny. What the hell are they doing?


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Dissecting the Disquels: The Lion King 2 – Simba’s Pride (Part 1: The In-Depth Analysis)

Rating: 8.5/10

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, not kidding, reciting entire scenes in my head line by line when I would pause the video and anticipate what was coming up next while rewatching 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.

Prologue

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 more easily. 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 of them.

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.

Simba’s Son/Daughter?

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?

….Yes.

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 Origins

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.

Disquelisms?

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.

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 that 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 wants, 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 interesting. 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 Lullaby

My favorite villain song ever is ‘Be Prepared,’ so this movie really had to deliver on its villain song to kmake 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.

Upendi

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 – afterall, 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.

Character Analyses

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 over protective 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 reigns 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 she’s just not interesting enough or fleshed out enough as our main protagonist, 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 naive, 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. 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 replace for Scar. She doesn’t have all of his finesse or full 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.

Part two coming soon….


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Dissecting the Disquels: Leroy and Stitch (2006) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: After reforming all of the other 625 experiments and finding where they belong, Lilo, Stitch, Jumba and Pleakley are all honored by the Galactic Alliance. Jumba’s access to his old lab is restored, Pleakley has been named a professor at the Galactic Community College as an expert in earth studies, Stitch has been given the rank of captain and has access to a brand new massive spaceship called the BRB and Lilo has been named ambassador of earth.

Trouble is, this means Jumba, Pleakley and Stitch will be staying in space while Lilo goes back home to earth. They feel guilted into staying with Lilo, but eventually Lilo encourages them all to go, realizing that their true place is in space.

Jumba wastes no time taking advantage of his old lab – getting to work immediately on a new experiment. Dr. Hamsterviel, freed from prison by Gantu, orders him to design it the way he wants it: almost exactly like Stitch, but better and more evil. He names the new creation…..Leroy. With an army of cloned Leroys at his disposal and Pleakley, Jumba and Stitch out of commission, Hamsterviel plans to take over the galaxy and destroy all 625 of Stitch’s cousins.

Breakdown: I couldn’t even get through the first fifteen minutes of the movie without needing to jump on my computer and start writing about this because, goddamn, rant mode was activated in record time.

It should be noted that this movie is not technically a Disquel…really. Lilo and Stitch The Series got a movie series finale. I guess the movies do link together fine without the series, but you’d definitely be left wondering about all of the other experiments, who they are, what they do and what their homes were – that’s pretty important.

Speaking of which, we never do get to spend adequate time with all 625 experiments in the series – far from it in fact. Given that the series was made in the time of Disney’s 65 episode rule, the show was ended long before it ever got a chance to showcase all of them. Kinda makes you wonder why they’d slap that premise onto a show that they knew would never get enough episodes to go through every experiment.

But that’s not what I want to focus on right now. I want to focus on the foundation of this plot. Jumba, Pleakley and Stitch are all jazzed to return to space when given these amazing opportunities, but they feel guilty when Lilo looks sad that they’ll leave, so they agree to stay. They’re miserable back on earth, basically spending their days dreaming of what they could have had, so Lilo makes the very mature and adult decision to let them go for the sake of their happiness.

Pleakley and Jumba are….well, assholes about it. They’re jumping for joy, they give zero shits about Lilo as they’re packing and Jumba even throws the consoling words Nani gave her earlier back in her face saying they don’t make sense. It’s not until Lilo gives them parting gifts do they show a modicum of caring about their departure. They don’t even give her a way of contacting them – Later, Lilo has to ask 625, who is properly named to Reuben here, to use the video phone in Gantu’s ship.

Leroy and Stitch 1

Stitch is more visibly upset, but he’s still making the choice to go. And Stitch is the reason my rant switch got flipped.

The whole reason Lilo and Stitch were given the task of finding proper homes for the other experiments and reforming them is because Lilo was able to do that with Stitch (And Sparky, but Stitch was the starter.)

His home was with Lilo. He said as much at the end of the first movie. His one true home is back on earth. So why is he so enticed to live in space without Lilo now?

He’s not excited to go back to space because of some fancy captain title and fighting bad guys – he just wants to pilot the shiny new spaceship they gave him. The entire time that he’s sulking about not choosing to go to space, he’s making a BRB out of pans and pipes and playing with it and looking at the hologram of the ship. He’s very clearly just enamored with the damn ship.

He cares more about the shiny spaceship than staying with his family on earth. Congrats, Stitch! You’ve joined Jumba and Pleakley in assholeland.

And what was that saying?…Uhm….They said it in the first movie….Errr, it was something like uhm….Oh yeah, yeah. Ohana means ‘family’ and family means ‘Nobody gets left behind.’ I understand that it’s healthy to let go of people and part ways if you believe doing so is for their betterment. Lilo was even ready to do that in the first movie (“I remember everyone that leaves.”)

That’s why I was okay with the idea of Jumba and Pleakley leaving, though they could have been less rude about it. Jumba belongs in space in his lab (though, considering his past crimes and the fact that he talked about all of the exciting EVIL work he could do in his old lab at the friggin’ ceremony where his access was restored, he shouldn’t be getting anything. And, whatdya know, the first thing he does when he gets his lab back is start creating a new evil experiment…) and Pleakley…should….maybe be an earth professor. He’d be happy doing it anyway and he has a passion for it.

However, despite having the opportunity to do good as a space captain, is piloting a ship and commanding a crew really something Stitch would be adept at? He is good at flying, but moreso in a solo fashion. Also, I must reiterate that he didn’t seem to give a flying fork about the captain job or fighting space crime – He. Just. Wanted. The. Shiny. Ship.

Leroy and Stitch 2

The main conflict of the movie is intertwined with this plot for the most part. Jumba makes a new experiment the instant he gets back to his lab, because of course he does. He may have helped Lilo and Stitch capture the other experiments and softened up a bit, but he has always stayed pretty consistent in wanting to be evil. Perhaps to take the blame off of Jumba, Hamsterviel and Gantu burst in demanding that he make the new experiment an evil and better version of Stitch – which seems pointless because, by all means, that seems like what Jumba was planning anyway.

If you follow the TV series, and I actually did this time, you’ll probably notice that this idea isn’t really new. You can guess as much by the fact that Leroy’s number is 629 not 627 (following Stitch’s 626)

Experiment 627, who was never reformed or named, was created as a better and more troublesome version of Stitch to knock Stitch down a peg after he had gotten cocky about his ability to find and reform his cousins. Even though he’s clearly a different design than Leroy, he’s pretty close. They’re both red, have more slanted eyes and are basically just slightly different versions of Stitch. Leroy looks closer to Stitch, has different ears and is a deeper color red – also 627 has a cone-head kinda going on. As I mentioned, 627 couldn’t be reformed (which was supposedly a purposeful programming choice of Jumba because he wants actual evil experiments) so he was dehydrated and kept in his pod form.

We don’t know what 628 was. He was only shown in pod form and foreshadowed shortly after 627’s defeat. I think we can assume, considering Leroy is also an ‘improved’ version of Stitch that 628 was another ‘improved’ version of Stitch that we simply never saw.

It’s just a shame because they could have used this opportunity to make a brand new experiment that was creative, innovative and more intimidating, but nope. It’s just another recolored Stitch…..Well, he did make hundreds of clones of him, which made for a pretty good army v. army finale, so I suppose that’s something.

Here’s another something – I really loved watching Reuben and Lilo team up. This is pretty much the first and only time we see Reuben actually utilize his powers. He’s always had all of the same powers that Stitch had, but he never used most of them out of laziness. He’d mostly just make sandwiches all day.

However, Lilo recognizes his potential and bonds with him, and he finally uses his powers – quite impressively, I might add. I really enjoyed watching him and Lilo just hang out as well. When he put his hand on Lilo’s shoulder when Hamsterviel told her that Stitch was launched into a black hole, it was very touching. I wish we could’ve seen them interact more over the course of the series, with Reuben being an active good guy.

Leroy and Stitch 3

Most people who watched the series probably wanted to see all of the 626 experiments being used in some way, and, congrats, you (pretty much) do! Even though it’s unreasonable to see all of the experiments in action, not enough time or budget, honestly, you still get to see a large amount of the experiments on screen at once and most of them get a time to shine during the finale.

Even though the overall galactic takeover plot was a bit too rushed for my tastes, the ending battle is extremely well done with plenty of action and comedic moments. It’s such an interesting battle because of all of the various powers of the experiments come into play. It’s also understandable that they get overwhelmed ultimately because even though there are 626 of them, there are just as many if not more Leroys, and Leroy was designed to be even more powerful than Stitch.

The ending of the battle might seem goofy to some people, but I actually found it to be very fitting and a little touching. Jumba thought ahead when he was creating Leroy and installed an emergency shut off program within Leroy. He used Lilo’s gift, an Elvis record, as the trigger. The song he chose was Aloha oe. Lilo, Stitch and Reuben sing it to shut off the Leroys, but there’s a moment where they all sing the part ‘Until we meet again’ straight to the camera.

It was then that I remembered that not only is Leroy and Stitch the end of the TV series, it’s also the ending of the main franchise. Lilo and Stitch would never have any animated features again to date. Stitch has starred in a couple of anime since then, but Lilo is not with him, instead having adventures with other girls while Lilo has aged and departed from him. (I might talk about those series in the future, but I never had much of an interest in them, to be honest.)

When they sing that part of the song to the camera, they’re telling the audience ‘Farewell to thee. Until we meet again.’ which made me rather sad, especially considering that part of the moral of this movie was learning to accept when you need to say goodbye. Even though the series has technically been ended for well over ten years, there’s still a pang of sadness that they’re saying ‘Until we meet again’ when, as far as I know, we won’t….

Leroy and Stitch 4

Lilo and the others are honored by the Galactic Council again, but this time Stitch realizes his true place of belonging is with Lilo and relinquishes his position as captain. Gantu….somehow gets offered the position.

To his credit, Gantu did help Lilo and the others at the end, but he’s still been an enemy and Hamsterviel’s right-hand man this entire series and two movies (Three if you count the first, but he was technically just doing his job.) In fact, if it wasn’t for Gantu breaking Hamsterviel out of prison, none of this would have happened. Does the Council just not care about past actions? I can understand giving Reuben a pass, he was too lazy to be considered a criminal, but Gantu not only being let off without penalty but also getting a captain position? Are you daft?

Reuben is named Gantu’s galley officer, and Jumba and Pleakley also relinquish their lab and professor position respectively and choose to go back to Hawaii with Lilo – this time happily. Lilo and the others return to Hawaii, happy with their ohana being whole once again.

…..But Mertle’s still a bitch. Yeah, if there’s one thing that’s always been really consistent in this series it’s been Mertle’s constant bratty behavior. She’s not too prevalent in this movie, thank god, but the brief moments she is on screen, she’s being her typically bitchy self.

When Lilo’s having a low moment, right after Stitch and the others leave, Mertle kicks her when she’s down telling her she’s weird and that Stitch probably ran off because of it. She’s always been unreasonably focused on bullying Lilo, to the point where she blames her for everything, and if there’s one thing I’m thankful for with this series ending it’s that I’ll never have to see this little shit stain’s face or hear her awful voice ever again.

However, that doesn’t stop them from trying to wrap up her character in a more even light. They hint that Mertle’s father either abandoned them or is divorced from her mother, which is weird because she talked about him in a good light in Stitch has a Glitch, and even advertised his store. Then, at the end, she says she still thinks Lilo is weird, but Gigi, her pet dog who is also an experiment, wants to be with her ohana, so she kinda just barges in on their group photo at the end, which is not in the least bit earned….

Leroy and Stitch 5

For a series that is mostly based on taking evil beings and reforming them, the writers really do a crap job at doing that when it comes to any non-experiment character. Jumba’s probably the best example, but he never paid for his crimes and he’s still a decent degree of evil. Gantu never pays for his crimes, either, and now Mertle gets no comeuppance. We’re just meant to sympathize with her because they wedged in this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-and-is-questionably-canon-whatever-they’re-implying-here story about her dad being gone somehow.

I’m sorry – no. Lilo has NO parents and an overworked big sister guardian as well as a horrible bully who has barely ever said a positive word to anyone, even her mostly equally bitchy friends. My sympathy well for Mertle is so bottomed out that I’ve broken through the bottom and am making my way to the center of the earth.

As an added bonus to the end credits, they include a scrolling list of every single experiment. As I mentioned, obviously not all of these experiments were seen in this movie. However, I do really appreciate that the writers bothered to come up with names and (likely) powers for each experiment and shared them with the audience before the series came to a conclusion. It shows that they truly cared about both their product and their fans enough to complete the set, even if we only have names for a good chunk of them. You can find a list of every experiment here.

Bottomline: Leroy and Stitch is actually a pretty good movie and a great way to the end the series. The final battle adds a great touch of epicness, and I loved mostly everyone’s interactions with each other, particularly, oddly enough, Lilo and Reuben. The writing is very snappy and there are some really great jokes in here.

There is a depressing lack of Lilo and Stitch in this Lilo and Stitch movie, though, to be honest. They’re together for the first twenty minutes and don’t reunite until the last twenty minutes in this hour and fifteen minute long movie.

The pacing is fairly rushed in the Hamsterviel department, but I’m willing to overlook that. They did get a little too lazy with the redemption arcs for some of the characters with Mertle’s being ridiculously lazy, if you can even say she got redemption and if you can even call that an ‘arc.’ Also, there’s the obvious rant fodder at the start of the movie. I knew they’d stay with her in the end, but the fact remains that Jumba and Pleakley were jerks to her about leaving and Stitch left Lilo for a ship…..

The animation was really good, though again not really up to the original movie’s standards. That’s to be expected since this is basically designed as a TV movie.

Their use of music this time around was good, but not a lot that was new. We got the TV series theme song, Aloha e, Komo Mai, a bunch of Elvis songs, which is the franchise’s trademark, and the Hawaii Five-O theme song for some reason. I particularly liked their use of I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry. It was a great implementation of Jumba’s record gift and made for a nice montage of everyone after they departed for space.

Aloha, Lilo and Stitch. Hopefully, we’ll meet again.

Recommended Audience: I guess you can imply that some of the Leroy clones maybe died in the battle, and there’s a fair amount of violence, but it’s obviously not severe or graphic. These are the same people who couldn’t get up the balls to show Lilo with a scratch on her face. 5+


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Dissecting the Disquels: Lilo and Stitch 2 – Stitch has a Glitch

Rating: 6/10

Plot: Stitch starts experiencing odd bouts of uncontrollable destruction. While everyone, even Lilo, starts believing Stitch is reverting back to his old ways, Jumba and Pleakley know the truth. Stitch’s molecules were never fully charged when he was created, and now he’s experiencing massive glitches in his programming that are causing these destructive episodes. They scramble to find a way to recharge him before he loses so much energy that he dies.

Meanwhile, Lilo and Stitch are preparing for a hula competition. Her mother won the competition years ago and she wants to win to make her proud. However, Stitch’s malfunctioning behavior continues to get in the way.

Breakdown: I’ve never had such massive mixed feelings for a Disquel before.

The main plot is solid. Have Stitch revert back to his destructive behavior, but make it more of a Jekyl and Hyde situation based on him glitching instead of having him turn bad for no reason. There’s a lot that could’ve been done with that, but they dropped the ball pretty bad.

We have three plots running through the movie – Lilo and Stitch’s hula plot, Nani and David are having relationship issues again and Pleakley’s being an annoying dumbass trying to ‘help’ him, and Jumba is trying to make a new fusion chamber to recharge Stitch before it’s too late.

Let’s start with Nani and David’s plot because that’s the shortest and most pointless. First of all, are these two ever happy together? I don’t remember a lot of their interactions from the TV series, and I love David a lot, he’s a great boyfriend and father/big brother figure to Lilo, but he and Nani, as a couple, seem very rocky. I feel like every time the focus is on them in this franchise, they’re having relationship issues.

Lilo and Stitch 2 Screen1

This time, as Pleakley puts it, their relationship is just fizzling. Nani doesn’t seem to be paying much attention for him or making time for him. David keeps making the effort and Nani either doesn’t acknowledge it or can’t attend to it.

I know that Nani is very busy being a young single guardian to a small child, especially in the house filled with aliens they now inhabit, but she can usually make time for Lilo and does have downtime, yet never seems to be willing to give similar attention to David. Even when they’re just having a relaxing family fun night at home, he gets shafted.

The plot is mostly just David, for some reason, listening to Pleakley’s horrible dating advice, then Pleakley himself ruins it more and Nani gets mad for some reason. The plot is resolved by David helping Nani up a mountain. Not kidding. One minute she’s giving him the silent treatment at Lilo’s hula competition, then they’re making eyes at each other when he helps her up the mountain. Truly a romance for the ages.

That doesn’t solve anything, by the way. Their relationship is still ‘fizzling’ You can’t solve actual relationship issues with goo-goo eyes.

The hula plot, which takes up more of the runtime than the glitch plot, oddly, involves Lilo and Stitch trying to come up with a hula for an upcoming competition. Her mother won the competition one year and she wants to win in order to make her mother proud of her.

Lilo and Stitch 2 Screen2

A lot of this plot is montages of them coming up with ideas, creating the hula and practicing for the hula. Some parts were entertaining and a little funny, but it really felt stretched out when we got to our third montage in this hour long movie. Not to mention that I think they’re hitting the Elvis button a bit hard in his movie. I know she loves Elvis and it does make for a good soundtrack, but I’ve seen Elvis movies with less Elvis.

There are also numerous emotional moments in this plotline because Stitch keeps destroying her plans when he has freakouts and Myrtle and her goons keep making her feel like she’s not good enough. I also really liked the ancient story they based the hula on.

I feel like Lilo was a bit out of character with Stitch, though. I know she’s emotional right now, but she never once, until the end, even questioned if something was wrong with Stitch. Instead, she just believed him to be flatout bad, told him so and said he would always be as such. Ouch.

Speaking of the moment of realization, even though the freakout that prompted that revelation was the same as all the others, she questioned if something was wrong with him this time for some reason. He cuts her cheek, even drawing blood, and the very next shot, not but five seconds later, the cut and blood are gone. Either Disney didn’t commit to this ‘shocking’ moment, the animators got lazy or they forgot.

Either way, that was an opportunity for something emotional and impacting, like Nani freaking out that Stitch actually hurt Lilo or Stitch having a horrified look on his face after he injured her and reprised the shame later after she found him on the cliffside. But, no, just Disney magic’d it off her face.

This was meant to mirror a part of Stitch’s nightmare where he does the same thing, but, again, the impact is lost if you magic it off her face.

Lilo and Stitch 2 Screen3

The ending of this plot was alright and pretty sweet. At least they didn’t go the cliché route of having her return to the competition and win, and it’s implied that Mertle definitely didn’t win because her hula was crap. I realize now that Mertle’s pretty much the only surviving embodiment of the annoying jerkass mainland tourist characters, besides the silent fat beachgoers, that they had in the original cut.

There are numerous deleted scenes from the first Lilo and Stitch movie where Lilo encounters obnoxious mainland tourists, some of which being borderline racist, but they were more or less all cut before the actual animation started. Mertle does live in Hawaii, but she’s the only white character in the entire series, and the hula implies that her father brought her family from the mainland to Hawaii to sell cheap ‘authentic’ Hawaiian merchandise.

I might be reading too much into that, but it’s interesting to consider.

Now to the actual plot of the movie, the glitch. This is the part with which I have the most problems.

First off, while it’s a solid plot, it’s ultimately wasted potential. All Stitch does is mess up a few things and give Lilo an insta-healing scratch. I didn’t want him to do too much damage or hurt people, but they had the foundation of a really decent plot here, one that could’ve been much more emotionally impacting and interesting for Stitch, but they decided to just have him be a slight nuisance.

Lilo and Stitch 2 Screen4

Secondly, half of this movie would never have happened had Jumba and Pleakley just told Lilo, Stitch and Nani what was going on. I never understood why they were keeping this a secret or why they were letting this malfunctioning destruction machine stay running loose with a small girl.

If they had just told them what was happening, they wouldn’t have treated Stitch like a monster, Stitch and Lilo would’ve never fought, Stitch would realize he’s not inherently bad and wouldn’t feel like garbage and maybe they could’ve helped save him. They also could’ve kept him contained to prevent him from causing damage and hurting people. But nope, it’s a secret for no reason.

Lastly, the resolution to this plot is so predictable it’s depressing. I predicted it by just reading the little blurb for the synopsis. Stitch causes problems, everyone gets mad at him, his glitches get too bad, death fakeout, Lilo’s love awakens him, all is well.

To make it even worse, they foreshadow the ending with Lilo’s hula story. It also has two friends being torn asunder by outside forces, resulting in one of their deaths, and love brings the other back to life.

Do I even need to mention that this lesson isn’t exactly a good one? Look, Disney, I know you love love, I know you love love=magic too, but teaching kids that love can be so powerful it can bring the dead to life is not really a healthy message.

To anyone who cares to disagree, let me remind you that Lilo is an orphan. She is probably one of the worst characters to be partaking in this trope. I just keep imagining:

Doctor: “I’m sorry, Nani and Lilo. We did everything we could to revive your parents, but I guess you just didn’t love them enough.”

Lilo and Stitch 2 Screen5

I was actually going to give this moment a pass because Stitch did spend some time in the fusion chamber before he was revived in Lilo’s arms. Maybe he got enough power and then Lilo woke him up. But then we get this exchange.

Pleakley: “But…how is it possible?”

Jumba: “It’s not!”

So, the fusion chamber seemingly had nothing to do with it. Also, not only did Lilo’s love for Stitch bring him back to life, it also fully recharged his molecules.

Yay, science?

Despite all of that, I can’t say I hated or even massively disliked this movie. It has plenty of funny moments and some pretty heartwarming ones too – the aforementioned death fakeout nearly had me getting misty-eyed, especially with the song they put in there – it’s just sloppily written and disappointing.

The art and animation are better than Stitch! The Movie. It’s somewhere between TV quality and the original movie’s quality, siding more with the movie quality.

The music is also definitely better than Stitch! The Movie with many more tracks, some new, some old, and a new vocal song made just for the movie, “Always.” which was very nice and relaxing.

The voice acting was well-done. Most of the cast reprises their roles from the original movie, except Daveigh Chase is replaced by Dakota Fanning. She does a remarkable job, though. I couldn’t even tell the difference.

I can’t believe I never realized David Ogden Stiers voiced Jumba. That’s so awesome.

All in all, the technical quality is great, but the story falls flatter than pancakes. It’s predictable out the gate, only gets more predictable with foreshadowing and most of the problems would’ve been fixed had Jumba and Pleakley just told them about what was going on. It’s not unsalvagable because it does have its moments, but it’s still a mess. It’s definitely on the higher end for a Disquel, but firmly middle of the road for a movie as a whole.

Recommended Audience: There’s kinda blood, a little, but the wound magically vanishes. Death is mentioned and there’s a reversed death. 5+

AVAHS – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys (GoodTimes Entertainment)

Rating: 2/10

Plot: Rudolph the plot you already know. I know that you’ve heard the song. And if you haven’t by now, I’m gonna break your knees with tongs. All of the other reviews have this same redundant joke. I can’t think of anything clever, so sit back and drink a coke!

Breakdown: Hey, 2001! You’re looking awful down in the dumps.

2001: “Well….yeah, it’s…been a rough year.”

That’s a shame. Hey! I know what you need! Some Christmas cheer!

2001: “That might help, actually.”

A day before Halloween!

2001: “Er…Okay.”

You relax, and I’ll whip up a nice movie. Hey, do you remember Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

2001: “Yeah, of course! That’s a Christmas classic!”

Good! You sit tight and I’ll whip a sequel!

2001: “That grea—what?”

A sequel!

2001: “A sequel to a stop-motion Christmas special made in 1964?”

Yuppers!

2001: “Wait, are you sure you’re not confusing this as a sequel of the 1998 movie?”

Nope. Same company – different continuity!

2001: “How does that even happen?”

Don’t worry. We’ll make it in some of the worst CGI we can create, rip off the character designs just to hook in nostalgia whores and fill it with B-list celebrities!

2001: “What the—that sounds terrible…..Wait. I know you! 1998 warned me about you!”

And you wanna know something else?

2001: “He said something about a poorly animated retelling of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and saying I’d have it worse.”

Rick Moranis, who himself proclaimed he was not retired but was ‘picky’ about what movies he’d be in, chose this as his first movie to perform in after his hiatus in 1997.

2001: “Is that good?”

Not really! 😀

2001: “That poor man.”

I’m done!

2001: “What—you made the movie already?”

Sure thing!

2001: “How?”

I’m a demon from the future!

2001: “I actually believe you….”

Wanna watch?!

2001: “Not partic–”

It’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys!

AVAHS Rudolph island 1

We start off with the song because of course we are, but, interestingly, the elves are ‘singing’ it (A unlisted singer is actually singing it, but in the scene the elves are meant to be singing it)…right in front of the other reindeer…and Rudolph. Just seems a bit awkward to go ‘You know Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, but do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?’ as we pan over all of the reindeer.

Like, yeah, thanks for reminding us that we’re not as special as Rudolph. And why do you not question if everyone knows us but you question if they recall the most famous reindeer of all? Do you not know what famous means? At least one of us always gets forgotten when most people recite the song. You don’t see people going ‘Uh, is it Ralph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?’

What’s even weirder is that the animators remembered to put Comet in his signature coaching hat, but forgot to color or design Donner any differently than the other reindeer. I know I don’t like Rankin/Bass Donner, but he’s Rudolph’s dad, at least change his coloring a bit.

AVAHS Rudolph island 2

Then you include the guilt-trip part of the song ‘All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.’

And I don’t know about anyone else, but wouldn’t you feel awkward if you were Rudolph? I don’t like being sung to as it is, but if someone’s literally singing my praises, especially above others, I think I’d feel really embarrassed.

This rendition of the song, by the way, is one of the most boring renditions of it I’ve ever heard. Like a good chunk of the music in the movie, the melody sounds like it’s being done on an old Casio, and like they’re actively trying not to make it sound fun.

They light the Christmas tree, but it trips the breaker. Santa uses Rudolph’s nose to light the way to the basement so he can reset the breaker and start the lights back up. That scene literally had no other purpose whatsoever other than to remind us that Rudolph’s nose can be useful. No flashlights anywhere, Santa? Not even a lantern?

AVAHS Rudolph island 3

The movie, like the original, is being narrated to us by a snowman. But instead of Sam the Snowman, voiced by the late Burl Ives, we’ve got Scoop T. Snowman, voiced by Richard Dreyfuss. His design is nightmare inducing, and he spoils the movie at the very start by telling us that he’ll tell us the story of how Rudolph and his friends defeated the evil Toy Taker and saved Christmas.

AVAHS Rudolph island 4

But forget nightmare snowman – we’ve still got Bumble around! And boy howdy this CGI is not doing his character design any favors. Have you ever seen those production error versions of Sully from Monsters Inc.? They seem to have kidnapped that for this design. Seriously, guys, if you can’t do long fur, don’t try. It’s like he’s been stabbed with a million white wires.

AVAHS Rudolph island 5
How is it possible to make Bumble’s design even more frightening?

At least his deafening screech is gone – replaced by what I can only so lovingly refer to as a complete moron voice. Lots of ‘Duhh’s and ‘Gaah’s and whatnot.

Yukon is also here, sticking his dirty pikaxe in the eggnog and licking it. Mmm sanitary.

Something you’ll notice about Rudolph almost immediately is that he no longer has proper adult antlers. He has very small antlers like a spike now. I have no clue why. This movie is supposed to be a direct sequel to the Rankin/Bass special, meaning he should still be an adult. If we want to apply real reindeer logic to this, reindeer do shed their antlers and regrow them, but male reindeer do this in winter or spring, meaning Rudolph’s head should either be bare (winter) or be fully back by now (spring).

Then again, if we’re applying real reindeer logic here, Clarice should also have antlers since most female reindeer have antlers. In fact, there’s a theory that Santa’s reindeer are actually females because female shed their antlers in summer and have them fully grown back by winter, which is when most males lose their antlers…….So I’m stalling. Sue me. The next scene has a song break, have some mercy.

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The song break in question is a brief love song for Rudolph and Clarice called Beyond the Stars. It is probably one of the most generic love songs I’ve ever heard – loaded with every love song buzzword you can think of. And what better way to end the segment than cutting to another scene while the song is still going and said scene including a nightmare fuel kite with a face?

Rudolph is feeling sad because now he’s sick of the attention he’s been getting – mostly because now everyone’s focusing on his ‘heroics’ instead of letting him be a normal reindeer like he wanted in the first place. They even make him do tricks with his nose, like shining his light on the disco ball. Also, apparently now Rudolph’s nose can be focused beams of differing size. Earlier, it was like a flashlight and now it’s like a laser beam.

So now Rudolph’s back to calling himself a misfit and whining for a normal nose. Congratulations! You’ve now nullified the message of the previous movie! WHOO!

But don’t worry – over the course of a song break, We’re Perfectly Fine, Rudolph’s happy again. The song’s chorus melody is catchy, but the rest of it is just difficult to listen to. Rudolph and Hermey keep singing over each other and the melody gets too muddled.

AVAHS Rudolph island 7

Also, the ending is incredibly jarring. One second they’re on an iceberg nowhere near the toothmobile, the next millisecond after the last note of the song and we see them closeup having a conversation in the toothmobile.

Hermey and Rudolph were alerted by a kite that King Moonracer is in desperate need of a dentist, so they’re traveling to the island of misfit toys to treat him.

We get another song break, because it’s been all of a minute and half since the last one, explaining the island of misfit toys, which is pointless because we should already know that and the previous movie had a song about it. For anyone about to bring up the time gap between the release date of the first movie and this one, remember, the writers expect you to not ask who the burly mountaineer who licks his pikaxe and the yeti with no teeth are.

This song, The Island of Misfit Toys, is just terrible. It’s infuriatingly annoying, especially the chorus. If it went on for any longer, I was going to start chewing on my computer screen.

AVAHS Rudolph island 8

Also, there’s ANOTHER Jack in the box who’s not named Jack and ANOTHER train with square wheels. If I’m not going to bring up the continuity thing, I’ll just have to chalk this up to pure laziness.

We get a joke that actually works pretty well when we see one of the misfit toys is a depressed phone who keeps getting people calling only to have them hang up. Kite says ‘he’s a telephone with hangups’ I almost legit cracked a smile at that one.

Despite the song explaining what’s wrong with these toys, we then get a scene with the toys explaining what’s wrong with them. I will give this movie one thing, though. These misfit toys have far more significant problems than the toys from the last movie. A piggy bank with no coin slot, a kite that’s afraid of heights, a phone that keeps dropping calls, a boomerang that won’t come back, binoculars that can’t see well, a bouncy ball that doesn’t bounce (though I’m convinced they just didn’t want to go to the trouble of making a decent bouncing animation) and a plane that keeps nosediving. It’s way worse than a doll with no issues, a polka dotted elephant and a cowboy on an ostrich.

Oh my god, Moonracer, what did they do to your voice and character? You went from majestic and powerful to whiny little bitch boy. GoodTimes Entertainment, thou hast sinned a mighty sin!

AVAHS Rudolph island 9

Hermey doesn’t seem to have gotten any better at dentistry because he’s using the same dental practices he used on the doll in the last movie – IE, hit their teeth with something – that’ll help. Moonracer needs a root canal, and if you’re worried about your kids being scared of the dentist, just show them Hermey with a drill twice as big as he is, shaking around like crazy as an auto-mechanic’s air compressor drill sound effect plays.

Back at Santa’s workshop, knowing the Toy Taker is wreaking havoc, Santa locks up the toy warehouse good and tight and puts his toy soldiers on high alert. But before they even get done with a quarter of the scene, you realize they’re just going to come in that giant unnecessary glass ceiling they have. And they do……but not by breaking it. There’s a door on the damn glass ceiling that seems to open automatically when something’s close to it.

But enough of Santa’s toys getting stolen, let’s have Hermey have a flashback to something that makes no goddamn sense whatsoever. As Hermey chats up Rudolph about him and Clarice, he decides to share a tale of love from his past. He talks about graduating from the Elf Academy of Dental Arts.

AVAHS Rudolph island 10

…..Yup…..The ELF ACADEMY OF DENTAL ARTS…….Did they not see the last movie? Hermey was a misfit because he was an elf who wanted to be a dentist, and that seemed ridiculous to everyone because elves are damned to be toymakers and dentists aren’t a thing there. I get that his desires were accepted by the end of the movie, but it hasn’t even been a full year since the last movie. You’re telling me, in that time, not only was there an Elf Academy for the Dental Arts created, built and fully established, but that there was actually enough interest in the elf community to warrant such a thing? The graduating class is pretty sizable, too. Who’s even teaching there?

….And what the hell are ‘dental arts’? That sounds horrifying!

Anyway, Hermey was handed his diploma by the tooth fairy, which makes a lot of sense, actually, and he fainted. End of flashback, no not kidding. The scene literally lasts 25 seconds.

I would say the tooth fairy’s the only teacher, but it seems like that’s the first time he’s ever seen her.

Hermey and Rudolph are now caught in a terrible storm. They hit an iceberg, causing it to crumble, and supposedly sinking the truck/boat thing. The animation on the iceberg falling apart is not just terrible, horrible or disgusting. It’s terrihorgusting. I had to pause the video because I was so baffled by how horribly animated it was. They weren’t even trying.

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They’re alright, however, because flying reindeer. This triumphant moment is accompanied by one of the most awkward synthesized trumpet ‘renditions’ of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to ever be conceived.

They land on Castaway Cove, which is guarded by gingerbread men dressed as toy soldiers……Okay.

The soldier brings the boys into a giant elegant castle filled with living gingerbreadmen (and women) to meet Queen Camilla – a flying hippo wearing a feather boa. I feel I should question this more, but we also have an island ruled by a flying lion, inhabited by factory reject toys.

She won’t listen to what they have to say and believes they’re there to steal her toys.

Queen Camilla: “Quiet, before I mount you over that mantle!” Ya know, between us not knowing what kind of toys she’s talking about and that line, I feel like I should be more concerned.

She wants them sent to the dungeons for 300 years.

Rudolph: “But he’s a dentist!”

Hermey: “And he’s a beloved holiday icon!”

Two jokes that work! Good job!

The guards try to wrangle the boys, and it’s taking them way too long to combat gingerbread cookies. I don’t want to be morbid, but Rudolph, have a snack.

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They all stop when Rudolph’s nose starts shining, making them realize he’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer….Uh….you couldn’t tell from the fact that he’s a reindeer with a red freakin’ nose? Even if it’s not lit, it’s still a red nose.

Camilla says Castaway Cove is a place for broken, discarded toys to come for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Basically just a slightly reworked version of the island of misfit toys. Actually, scratch that, this place is better than the island of misfit toys. These toys live in the lap of luxury. Last we saw, the toys on the island were little more than homeless. They’re almost always outside and we’ve only ever seen one house there besides the castle. Plus, one of the last scenes of the original movie had the toys huddling around a fire trying to stay warm during the storm.

This information is being given to us in a lounge act type song sung by Camilla, complete with an embarrassingly horrible reflection animation in the mirror. It’s not like the scene focuses on it, but the reflection starts late and stops early then freezes and the light source changes over it for no reason. It honestly would’ve been better if they just neglected to put the reflection in. It’s at such an angle that no one would really question why it wasn’t showing up anyway.

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This song doesn’t make any sense. Camilla is very body image positive, saying that even broken toys and everything are beautiful, but immediately after she says they’re beautiful, she says she makes them beautiful again by fixing them up and basically giving them makeovers. The line literally goes ‘Everything is beautiful, so beautiful, I make them beautiful’ Which is it? Are they beautiful, or are you going to make them beautiful? Because those are two very conflicting statements.

The toys have nowhere to go once Camilla fixes them, so Rudolph suggests that he get Santa to find them homes like he does for the misfit toys on the island. Camilla agrees and offers to grant them their fondest desires as payment. Rudolph wants a nose job and Hermey wants a date with the tooth fairy. By the way, the nose job crack wasn’t my joke. Camilla literally says she can give him a nose job.

Rudolph happily accepts, but Hermey urges him to think about it since a nose job is permanent. He asks what Santa will do if there’s another foggy Christmas eve.

Camilla: “Santa can’t afford headlights, darling?” Hey, stop poking holes in things I’ve already poked holes in! Also, when the characters in the actual continuity bring this up, it really brings to light (no pun intended) that Rudolph was really in no way necessary to save Christmas.

Hermey asks what he’ll do if Clarice doesn’t like it and Rudolph immediately turns and tells Camilla he’ll have to think about it.

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Pffthahaha!

“What if Christmas is in danger again?”

“Eh.”

“What if you lose your sex ticket?”

“OH GOD, I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THIS!”

The gingerbreadmen fix up the toothmobile and Rudolph makes it home in time for his flying lesson with Clarice, which is another interesting aspect I like. Every adaptation makes it seem like the females either aren’t allowed to fly or can’t. It’s nice to know they can, but why don’t they get invited to the reindeer games?

Clarice isn’t good at it, which depresses her because she wanted to impress Rudolph. Surprisingly, she feels a bit down on herself since she’s so ordinary and he’s so famous. Rudolph admits that he loves her, and Clarice starts joyously running around yelling that he loves her. This is pretty adorable, especially when Rudolph shoves his head in a snowbanking out of embarrassment and Clarice starts flying around very well because she’s so happy. The Clarice part is especially nice because it’s a bit of a throwback to the original movie where Rudolph starts his impressive flight because Clarice said he was cute.

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Comet comes to get them stating that the warehouse was robbed. As everyone discusses it, we learn the toy taker even took the toy soldiers guarding the place…..It never even occurred to me how doubly stupid it is to guard a toy warehouse with toy soldiers from someone named the TOY TAKER.

Hank the elf suddenly says he saw a giant flying football outside the night of the robbery, and Clarice says it must’ve been a blimp. I’m sorry, how does Hank the bookworm elf not know what a blimp is? It’s 196..5? Rudolph comes up with the grand idea to investigate the scene of the crime and catch the Toy Taker so they can get the toys back by Christmas.

As they’re investigating the warehouse, Hermey’s old boss shows up.

Boss: “YOU AGAIN!”

Hermey: “Actually, I’m a dentist now.”

Uhh….were your script pages stuck together? Because that line doesn’t follow properly.

His boss complains that Hermey left his crew one elf short…..again, have they not seen the original movie? His boss gave him the okay to go off and be a dentist at the end.

Hermey: “You’d better be nice. One of these days, you’ll need a dentist. And I’m the only one around.”

Boss: “I wouldn’t let you touch my chompers with a ten foot pole, you tooth maniac!”

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What the? First of all, is Hermey threatening his boss here? Because nothing sounds quite as horrific as a dentist with a vendetta.

Second, the only dentist around? What about all those other elves who graduated from the Elf Academy for the Dental Arts? Where the hell did they all go?

Third, uh Boss man? You already have let him near your chompers. At the end of the last movie, remember? You even set up an appointment for more dental work.

Clarice finds a clue, which is stuffing for stuffed animals. Santa sniffs and licks it—okay, new rule. No more licking stuff in these movies. Thank you.

Santa says the stuffing is a type he hasn’t used in years. How he knows that by sniffing and licking it, I don’t know. Rudolph and his friends make a map of the Toy Taker’s hit locations and try to figure out his next destination. They realize he’s likely heading for either the island of misfit toys or Castaway Island and head out. Along the way, they recruit Yukon. They redo the gag of Yukon pulling the sled with the dogs on it, which is cute. This time it’s including Bumble, but bullshit he’s pulling Bumble.

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Cut to the Toy Taker, who, by the way, looks like a giant Vivi. We learn of the Toy Taker’s intentions, which are to save toys from children. He says the happy times with a child are fleeting and that they’ll easily throw away toys when they’re bored of them. Old toys from the island of misfit toys, such as Charlie in a box, the doll and the elephant try to argue that their children love and need them, but the Toy Taker convinces them that, no matter how much they may love and enjoy the toys now, they’ll tire of them soon enough and throw them away. He also pointlessly picks up a duck toy for a few seconds without dialogue then puts it down. *shrug*

Charlie: “Wait a minute! I read about you in the papers! You’re a crook!”

Nooooo! What gave it away? The fact that he stole you? Keep up, Charlie.

The Toy Taker wins them over even more with a villain song. It has its moments, but like most of the songs in this movie, the melody is screwed up. You can’t catch the beat at all and it’s hard to follow.

Also, he rhymes ‘modus operandi’ with ‘Ghandi’ by pronouncing Ghandi’s name wrong.

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Scoop: “Maybe, just maybe, they had a chance to catch the Toy Taker at his own game.” BEAT him at his own game. What you said makes no grammatical sense.

Castaway Island has already been hit, so Rudolph and the others meet with King Moonracer and devise a plan.

Sure enough, the Toy Taker’s next target is indeed the island of misfit toys. Rudolph, Clarice and Hermey dress up as toys to fool the Toy Taker and find out where he’s taking them. Hermey is dressed up as a molar……Hermey, we need to have a talk. You’re getting a little too obsessed with teeth. I know I made that serial killer joke in the original movie review, but I’m starting to believe there’s more merit to that claim than I thought. Please seek help. Is there an elf being chastised for wanting to be a psychiatrist, perhaps?

Also, Yukon’s dressed as a ballerina. No, I didn’t ever need to envision that either. But since I had to see it.

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You’re welcome.

Bumble’s dressed as a bunny, and this movie continues to impress me with how they can continuously make this monster who used to legit give me nightmares even creepier. The Toy Taker can’t take Bumble with him because he’s too big. No, I didn’t ever want to envision Bumble having an emotional breakdown in a bunny suit either. But you must share my torment.

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No worries, though, because Bumble follows them.

The toys are entranced by the song of the Toy Taker’s flute, and when they realize Rudolph and the others aren’t toys, they alert the Toy Taker, who drops them from the blimp. You were nearing sympathetic until the whole attempted murder thing.

Also, Clarice saves a knocked out Rudolph from falling, so she’s a legit flying reindeer now. Hooray!

They fly up and confront the Toy Taker, who escapes. Yukon tries to follow, but his cleats start destroying the blimp. Yukon falls from the blimp and–

Scoop: “Looks like our friend, Cornelius, is done for. Or is he?”

Looks like that was a pointless and intruding interlude. Or was it?

It was.

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Just reminding everyone that’s I’m still here and still not nearly as entertaining as Burl Ives.

Bumble catches Yukon. Hey, have you ever wanted to see Bumble in a bunny outfit tickling Yukon while he wearing a ballerina outfit?

2001: “Who would even conceive such a–No!”

Neither have I! But I have now! And now so have you!

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2001: “My soul is hurting.”

Rudolph and Clarice go to combat the Toy Taker….not knowing that Yukon was caught by Bumble, meaning they just left their friend to die. Nice. The Toy Taker, afraid of Rudolph’s light, jumps from the blimp. Spoiler alert – there’s no reason why the Toy Taker is afraid of Rudolph’s light. They just needed to make it useful. He lands insanely conveniently right outside of Yukon’s peppermint mine. Enter mine cart chase!

Meanwhile, Hermey’s trying to control the crashing blimp and is caught by Bumble. Can we please get some consistency on Bumble’s size? One minute, he’s about the size of a bear the next he’s big enough to catch a blimp.

Back with Rudolph and Clarice, we finally get a shot that seems interesting and fun with a first person view of them riding the mine cart like a roller coaster, but it’s 95% ruined by the ugly intrusion of the red light from Rudolph’s nose. No hate, man – the light is just not conducive to this shot.

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Again, the Toy Taker tried to legit murder them by throwing lanterns at them, which promptly explode on the tracks below them. They don’t damage the tracks, however, because that would be too much work to animate.

The Toy Taker changes the track direction on them, but it’s pointless because the tracks then intersect back together a short while later….*shrug* Also, who knows their ‘chase on something on tracks’ tropes?

2001: “The tracks are unfinished?”

YUP!

2001: “How did Yukon work like that?”

Dunno, and the creators won’t care enough to address it. They both make the jump, though, so it was entirely pointless.

The tracks are unfinished again, this time it crashes, but they’re flying reindeer, so it was, again, entirely pointless.

Rudolph saves the Toy Taker from falling and corners him.

Rudolph: “Surrender, Toy Taker!”

Toy Taker: “Surrender? I don’t know the meaning of the word!”

Clarice: “It means you give up!”

It’s called ‘sarcasm’, Clarice. Jesus Christ.

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They let the Toy Taker get away insanely easily just because they hear their friends coming. Good job.

Don’t worry, they capture him less than a minute later. Hooray for pointlessness!

They uncloak him to reveal that he’s actually a teddy bear.

Toy Taker: “Pay no attention to the teddy bear behind the cloak. I am the Toy Taker! Fear me! RRRAAGGGGHHH! BLAHHH!!”

That was probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve seen put to film in years. Congrats, Toy Taker.

He’s an old teddy bear with stuffing falling out of him, connecting the stuffing from the warehouse to him…..which means, technically, Santa licked the fallen entrails of the Toy Taker…..Ughghhghghg.

The bear, named Mr. Cuddles, gives us his backstory in song. The song itself isn’t that bad, it’s the vocals that kill it. His voice cracks on every other word. I don’t know if teddy bears go through puberty, but he desperately needs to do so right now…..Oh by the way, Rick Moranis is the Toy Taker/Mr. Cuddles…..Sorry. Love him in practically anything else, but he really is terrible here.

Mr. Cuddles used to belong to a boy named Steven, who loved him and played with him all the time-You know what, just watch that scene from Toy Story 2 where Jessie explains her backstory. They’re nearly identical and the song is much better.

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The line accompanying this shot is ‘holding me tightly in his arms.’ Looks like he’s holding him pretty loosely there. Also, he’s sleeping on top of the covers with no blanket…..with his jeans on….and his sneakers.

Also, you might want to pay attention to your timelines, GoodTimes. From everything we can gather, it’s supposed to be 1965 right now. And Mr. Cuddles is supposed to be old – at least a few decades or so. Yet his Steven is playing a video game that looks like it’s from the NES or Sega Genesis era.

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Gee willikers, these noobs sure are poor at this video game. I should tell them that I just necked with their mothers.

Santa: “I happen to know that your boy’s been looking for you. I’ll gladly take you home to him.”

MmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmNooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo……

What the hell is this? Mr. Cuddles is very old, meaning Steven must be fairly old by now. At least in his twenties or thirties or something. I seriously doubt he’s looking everywhere for his teddy bear.

If he means so much to him anyway, why did he ignore him, let him get all tattered, throw him in a cardboard box and then throw him away?

This is the worst possible way to address this plot point – mostly because they’re not really addressing it. Let’s be unrealistically optimistic. Steven didn’t mean to throw Mr. Cuddles away and feels remorseful for letting him get all crappy. Even if he’s an adult now, Steven still wants his bear. That doesn’t mean that Mr. Cuddles’ worries are invalid.

One day, whether through being bored of him or after Steven dies, Mr. Cuddles will probably be back in a dump. Most toys do end up with the fate of their children outgrowing them and throwing them away – Even the ones he stole. Either that or they end up in cardboard box purgatory for decades.

What are you going to tell the toys in Cuddles’ hideout after they’ve been convinced by Cuddles’ speech?

“We’re returning you home!”

“That’s great, but what about our owners someday growing up and throwing us away?”

“Don’t worry. They’ll love and keep you forever!”

“That seems very unlikely. Also, we may be near immortal, but people age and die.”

“No they don’t!”

“What? Of course they d—”

“Shut up and get in the sleigh.”

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Let’s go back to Toy Story 2 and even 3. They didn’t fix Jessie’s problems by trying to find her old owner because they knew she had outgrown her and didn’t care about her anymore. They knew the solution was finding her a new owner who was young and would actually play with her and care for her.

In Toy Story 3, they all faced this fate because Andy and Molly had both grown up and outgrew toys. They were eventually given to another child to keep the cycle going. Even very old toys can find love and adoration if you find them the right owner. Usually it’s another small child, but you can also find (not crazy) collectors and enthusiasts who enjoy the history and designs of these toys.

Also, you might be able to forgive his thievery, but he tried to kill Rudolph, Clarice, Hermey and Yukon at least twice. Put that bear in toy jail.

Camilla fixes Cuddles and asks if Rudolph’s made up his mind about the nose job. He remembers that having a light affixed to his body that doesn’t require batteries is kinda convenient, so he declines.

……Again, that doesn’t solve Rudolph’s actual problem. He didn’t really hate his nose – he hated that it was basically a novelty now that he was famous. He didn’t learn to deal with the annoying aspects of being famous or being treated like a side-show act. He just learned to accept his nose….which he already learned how to do in the first movie.

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There’s a final song, it’s awful.

Wrap up: Bumble gets dentures, which defeats the purpose of ripping his teeth out in the first place, and Hermey gets some sweet tooth fairy tail.

2001: “I completely forgot about that.”

So did everyone else. God forbid she get some characterization outside of that one line from earlier. She’s now literally a prize for Hermey.

Santa arrives at the now adult Steven’s house. According to him, he never meant to throw Cuddles away. He was saving him to be a family heirloom……Bullshit. He was ignored and left to get all ratty for years, thrown in a closet, thrown in a box and then thrown away without anyone even looking in the box, but he was meant to be an heirloom? What kid or teenager is saving heirlooms at that age – especially a rather plain teddy bear? And if he was, why didn’t he fix him up? Leaving a ratty toy in the closet just makes their existing problems worse and harder to fix. And, again, that doesn’t really solve the problem at hand for any other toy.

I’m sorry if I’m sounding like a cynical butthole, but it’s the truth.

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The end.

Bottomline: This movie was unnecessary, poorly written and was purely banking on the nostalgia factor of people who loved the old Rankin/Bass special. They also probably wanted to try and squeeze out some profit after the abysmal box office numbers for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie.

The plot is flimsy, but would have been something on the ‘suitable for a direct to video crap sequel you put in dentist offices and hair salons’ shelf if not for the terrible resolution that doesn’t solve any of the legitimate problems Cuddles brings up. They could have easily solved the issue in the manner I suggested, but they just decided to lazily say ‘oh, Steven never meant to throw you away and has been longing to see you for years!’

In the aspect of being a sequel, it’s baffling how many little details they remember about the last movie while completely ignoring major aspects of it.

Rudolph’s plot is basically a non-plot that is rehashing the problem he had from the last movie just in the opposite direction. Instead of hating his nose for all the negative attention it’s getting him, now he’s hating it for the positive attention. There’s no question if Rudolph will get a nose job at the end, and boy do I feel like an idiot saying the words ‘Rudolph will get a nose job’….If he got a nose job, not only would it completely destroy the message from the last movie, but then he’d no longer be the titular ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. No one wants to sing ‘Rudolph the Reindeer. Had perfectly normal features. And he lived a normal life. That’s about it I guess.’

I have to call out the title too. Barely any of this movie takes place on or has to do with the island of misfit toys. I’d have to go back and clock it, but I think they spend more time at Castaway Cove. A more fitting title would be Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Wrath of the Toy Taker or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the CGI that Nearly Ruined Christmas.

A few good things I’ll give this – I definitely enjoyed the interactions between Rudolph and Clarice and it had a few humorous moments. They didn’t destroy many characters from the original movie. They backtracked the character development of Hermey’s boss and completely destroyed Moonracer, but that’s about it. For the most part, they’re just not really as endearing anymore. Bumble’s nicer, but indefinitely creepier, and Hermey’s a little closer to being a serial killer. Oh and also they completely deleted Donner and Mrs. Donner. They bring back Hermey’s boss for a few minutes, but completely forget Rudolph’s parents?

The most I can give the plot is that it’s not a flat-out retelling of the original movie’s plot. It is an original story – it’s just not a good one.

I’d like to conclude this by giving a bit of a warning. Some people on IMDB have been saying that someone’s been falsely jacking up the rating on this movie and the 1998 Rudolph movie on review websites by making fake accounts and giving it damn near perfect scores.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. This movie’s not an unholy abomination upon God, but it certainly doesn’t deserve a 5.5 on IMDB or even a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes. I can believe some people find this movie to be an alright little kiddie movie to play to shut the younglings up, I can even believe some people like it because of the nostalgia, but I’ve legit seen people in reviews call this one of their favorite movies.

To each his own, really. I respect people’s opinions, but the only way I’d believe this is anyone’s favorite movie is if this is the only movie they’ve ever seen…..and even that’s a stretch.

Voice Acting: The voice actors are absolutely wasted on this project – and I can bet most of the budget went towards getting their names on the movie. No one was particularly bad. Jamie Lee Curtis as Camilla was particularly good because I could barely recognize her. Scott McNeil (Yes, famed anime voice actor, Scott McNeil) as Hermey, Yukon and Comet was also surprisingly good. His impressions were….impressive. Kathleen Barr, who voiced Rudolph in the other GoodTimes movie, does a fairly good impression of Rankin/Bass Rudolph as well. Rick Moranis…..Oh boy. I’m just going to assume you were directed to act like a prepubescent boy pretending to be a teddy bear.

Art and Animation:

vomitfuturama head explodecrying troyburn it fire

This is some of the worst art and animation I’ve ever seen. It’s borderline Ratatoing or Food Fight levels of bad. The textures are nonexistent, there are animation errors and polygons everywhere, nobody moves in the least bit naturally, some of the models look so horrible that you really think they’re not finished such as Scoop, Bumble and Yukon, everyone is dead-eyed and creepy, especially the kite, gingerbreadmen and the reindeer themselves, there’s weird and ugly lighting, and nothing feels like it’s there.

When you’re being beat out by a mile in realistic animation, designs and feelings by a cheap 1960’s stop-motion movie that many people describe as having creepy animation, you have major problems. I’m not expecting CGI miracles in 2001, but if you’re going backwards in your graphics quality after nearly FORTY YEARS OF TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT maybe, just maybe, you might want consider other avenues of animation.

Music: Mediocre at best and terrible at worst. Each song seems like it suffers from the same problem – remnants of a catchy chorus that is ultimately ruined by something annoying followed by a terrible out of whack verse and bridge.

What do you think, 2001?

2001: “I think a bad year was just made exponentially worse.”

Sorry about that.

2001: “No you’re not.”

Hey, look at the bright side. You’re in the peak time for boy bands!

2001: “…..Hooray?”

Bye, bye, bye!

AVAHS – Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas

Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: A sequel to Once Upon a Christmas, this is basically the same premise just with different shorts and super duper early 2000s CGI.

Breakdown: Before we go any further, I want to address something that will bug the crap out of me if I don’t say anything. When I was looking for poster art to use on Once Upon a Christmas, I saw posters for Twice and the thumbnails constantly confused me because they all looked like they said ‘Twice a Christmas’ I thought maybe I was finding a screwed up poster or something, but then I watched the opening of the movie and saw this.

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For some stupid reason, they decided to make the word ‘upon’ really tiny and shove it in the line above everything else like it’s superscript. It’s like they had the template for the title card then realized the font wasn’t fitting in properly so they resized the words and forced it to fit.

Our first short is Belles on Ice, a Minnie and Daisy cartoon. You would never guess this is a Christmas short until the very end where they write ‘Peace on Earth’ in ribbon and wish each other a merry Christmas.

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Daisy and Minnie are in a figure skating competition, separately, and Daisy accidentally skates out when the announcer starts playing up the next competitor, which turns out to be Minnie. When everyone starts loving Minnie’s performance, Daisy gets very angry and decides to literally steal the show by skating out and being a showboat.

Understandably, Minnie starts to up her game even more to skew focus back on her. They keep going back and forth with this until Minnie suddenly wipes out. Daisy, seeing her friend fall, apologizes. Minnie apologizes too, even though she shouldn’t have to, and the two make a grand finale together.

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Realistically, there’s a bunch of issues with this short. First and foremost, it’s not Christmas-y. Like I already mentioned, outside of shoving two Christmas lines at the end, you’d never know this was a Christmas special.

Second, Minnie’s also made out to be in the wrong when she was just defending herself and trying to rightfully take back her performance.

Third, Daisy is incredibly petty and jealous here. She’s so intimidated by Minnie’s performance that she can’t even let her finish a full minute of it before she jumps out onto the ice and tries to steal her thunder.

If Daisy’s such an amazing skater to steal the show from Minnie, why didn’t she just wait until it was her own damn turn? The only reason I can think of is that she was pissed about being embarrassed for going out on the ice early, but Minnie didn’t do that – she was just assuming it was her turn based on how the announcer was building up the next performer. Surely they gave them a program that shows the order of participants so stuff like that doesn’t happen.

I didn’t like this segment very much. I liked the reactions of Donald and Mickey a bit and for some reason I was very entertained at the thought of Minnie’s background ice skaters being alligators, but Daisy’s being a bitch, we have two girls who are supposed to be friends being the petty vindictive stereotype that plagues so many girl friend characters and it has an ending that is unrealistic.

Daisy would be disqualified the instant she went out on the ice either for sabotage or trying to do her performance when it was someone else’s turn.

And I think they might both be disqualified at the end for having a duo performance when they didn’t enter as such.

The next short is a Huey, Dewey and Louie short called Christmas Impossible.

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The boys, Donald and Daisy are spending the holiday at Scrooge’s mansion. The boys have learned jack from last year’s Christmas because they’re back to being rude selfish brats. Scrooge tells the boys that he’s been selfish his whole life and never got on Santa’s nice list. The boys ask why that even matters since being selfish made him rich, but he says that being rich never got him what he really wanted. He tells the boys to not follow his example and to clean up their acts to make it on Santa’s nice list. However, it’s so close to Christmas that the boys conclude there’s no way for them to make up for all the crap they’ve done over the past year to be considered nice before Santa heads out to make his deliveries.

They decide to mail themselves to the north pole and write their names on Santa’s list themselves. By the way, Max, you could’ve saved yourself a lot of trouble with your Santa faith in the last movie if you just mailed yourself to the north pole. Apparently, they live in a world where you can mail yourself to the north pole and back within the time frame of a night on Christmas eve.

They’re still jackasses while traversing the workshop. They’re trying to get the key to Santa’s office so they can put their names on the list, but they end up destroying all of the wrapping on the gifts in order to find it. They don’t seem to care until they realize that their actions are going to ruin Christmas for everyone. They decide to fix their mistake and help the elves get everything back to normal, including a very distracting fast-motion scene that is ridiculous in CGI.

They finally get into Santa’s office and are about to write their names on the list when they decide to write Scrooge’s name instead. Why they didn’t write their names too, I don’t know. They never came to the realization that they didn’t deserve to be on the nice list, and there was plenty of room on that paper.

The next morning, they see Scrooge’s gift and it’s bagpipes…..I get that the message is that Scrooge wanted to be on the nice list and you can’t buy your way onto it, but the way it’s written, it was like he asked for something that money couldn’t buy and he never got it because he was never good enough to be on the nice list. Pretty sure you can buy bagpipes pretty easily.

Huey, Dewey and Louie are surprised to find that they also have a bunch of gifts from Santa, meaning they got on the nice list. A note from Santa states that there’s always room on the nice list for kids who put others before themselves and thanks them for helping out at the workshop.

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*sigh* First, the only reason they were even at the workshop to begin with was because they were putting themselves first. They wanted to fraudulently put themselves on a list they didn’t deserve to be on just to get toys.

Yes, they put Scrooge’s name on the list instead of their own, but that’s something else to ponder. If they had to write Scrooge’s name on the list, doesn’t that mean he didn’t deserve to be on the list either? Their hearts were in the right place when they did that, but they still technically tried to manipulate Santa for the sake of getting a naughty person a gift.

Second, they only helped clean up the mess they caused. It’s a good thing that they realized they should fix their mistake and help save Christmas, but they’re the reason it was ever in danger. It’s not like it was an accident either – they were purposely destroying everything to find the key to Santa’s office. It’s like thanking an arsonist for putting out their fire. And even after they did that, they were still planning on putting themselves on Santa’s list.

This short had its somewhat funny moments, but it’s a tad predictable and I can’t say I’m really understanding the full message here.

The next segment is a Goofy and Max short called Christmas Maximus, and I need a minute to understand the logistics of this one.

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I assumed that this movie was taking place only a year or two after the first one yet Huey, Dewey and Louie are still basically the same age, but Max is now in college. You can’t apply the excuse of the movies being shorts and not existing in the same timeline because the first movie ended with all of the characters meeting up to sing Christmas carols. The only logic I can apply to this is that dogs and ducks age differently? But if we’re taking that excuse, why isn’t Goofy in the least bit older looking?

Anyhoo, Max is coming home for Christmas with his girlfriend, Mona. He asks Goofy to be cool so he won’t embarrass him around his girl, but Goofy, being Goofy, can’t stop himself. Mona finds most of his shenanigans to be charming, but Max keeps getting irritated.

We suddenly get an original song break. The song is called ‘Make Me Look Good’ and it’s told by Max’s perspective. It’s basically what you’d think it is from the title. Max worrying internally about Goofy embarrassing him and telling him to make him look good. It’s not a musical number sung by Max – it’s just a background song that we’re meant to believe is being sung by someone who kinda sounds like Max.

I don’t get why this short and this situation is where we get a song break, which, by the way, is the only original lyrical song break of the movie. It’s not a Christmas-y song, and it’s hardly a song that works out of context. The song’s not even all that good. I suppose it’s catchy, but it’s a bit cluttered.

What’s even worse about this song break is that it’s the only thing moving the plot forward. It’s like this short is the song with the only dialogue being an intro to it, a minor interlude and a short finale. That’s the main reason it’s so cluttered. It’s trying to jam everything that would be in the short as regular scenes into short verses in a song.

Goofy does embarrassing things a few times, it’s obvious Mona’s charmed by it, but Max still gets pissed. He has the tiniest of blowups at Goofy, walks away about ten feet before realizing he’s been an ass and that Mona’s having a great time, then he returns and has a nice holiday with his dad and Mona. The clincher of her being ‘the one’ revealing that Mona has the same two lone teeth that the Goof’s have. Okay.

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I really think this short would’ve been a million times better if the song wasn’t there and they took the time to just run the segment like normal. It’s so rushed and awkward as a song. It’s a damn shame that this is so messy, because the Goofy short in the last movie was my favorite.

The next short is called Donald’s Gift.

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Donald wants nothing more than to go home and enjoy a nice mug of hot cocoa by the fire after a long day of shopping and people annoying him with Christmas stuff. Daisy, Huey, Dewey and Louie arrive, inviting Donald out to go to the mall. He says he doesn’t want to, but Daisy forces him to go. The boys want to see some spectacular display at Mousy’s, and while they’re waiting, Donald decides to get a hot cocoa. He’s bombarded with everything suddenly turning into sounds that play ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’, which leads him to accidentally destroying the Mousy display.

The boys and Daisy think he did it on purpose for some reason and leave him behind at the mall. Donald sulks around town for a while until he finds a bunch of carolers arguing over singing ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ Donald, having learned the song inside and out by now, conducts for them. Their singing gathers a crowd, including Daisy and the boys who instantly forgive him and they all sing the finale of the song.

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This short was….confusing and hard to sympathize with. I didn’t dislike it, but I believe I would’ve liked it more if Donald actually deserved any of this crap. Was he a little bitchy about going to the mall? Sure. But what we saw of his day included a charity Santa literally grabbing him and holding him, singing ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ until he donated some money, a barbershop quartet, singing the same song, cutting his hair into a powdered wig design for some reason as he ran by, and nearly getting run over by a bus which promptly burned his groceries to cinders. I don’t know if I’m just old, but I am very understanding of Donald’s desire to want to avoid Christmas stuff for a while and just sit home and relax if all that stuff happened to me, and I’m a Christmas junkie.

Daisy and the boys pestering him was also a bit hypocritical. Daisy’s telling him not to be selfish, but isn’t it selfish to force someone to do something they don’t want to do just because YOU want them to do it?

Donald wasn’t even ruining their outing at all. He went…to get….a drink. Something he could easily carry around with him while they did their mall stuff. Somehow, that means he’s being a selfish ass or something and deserves to have a ‘The Raven’ style torture of the aforementioned song haunting him until he accidentally causes the display to break because there was a ‘speed everything up to a point where everything spins out of control and breaks’ button right in plain sight.

And, again, for some reason, Daisy and the boys believe he’s that much of a vindictive ass that he would do that on purpose.

The final and longest short of the movie is Mickey’s Dog-gone Christmas – A Pluto short! HOORAY! I’m also happy to report this is the best short of either movie.

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Pluto is helping Mickey decorate for a big Christmas party he’s having, but Pluto accidentally breaks everything while trying to put up the star. Mickey yells at him for misbehaving, tells him he ruined Christmas and sends him out to his dog house while he goes out and buys more decorations.

Pluto is very guilty and depressed over what he did, and decides to ditch his collar and run away. He somehow ends up on a train to the north pole where he’s adopted by Donner, who is a much bigger sweetie than he is in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer….but also a lot stupider. He’s made a pseudo part of the reindeer team lead by Blitzen.

Pluto enjoys his time with the reindeer while Mickey fixes up the house. Once he’s gotten everything back to normal, he tries to make amends with Pluto and offers for him to put the star on top of the tree. He quickly realizes Pluto’s missing and drops everything to search all over town for him. He even goes to the mall Santa to wish for Pluto back.

Back at the north pole, Pluto is missing Mickey more and more, and it turns out that the mall Santa was the real Santa. He offers to take Pluto back home, and he happily agrees. He bids a fond farewell to Blitzen and Donner and reunites with Mickey, who proudly puts his collar back on and allows him to put the star on the tree.

The house is nearly demolished by a plow truck who has seemed to have it out for Mickey the whole short, but it’s revealed that Goofy was the one driving. He, Max, Scrooge, Donald, Daisy, the boys and Minnie have been driving all over town in the plow truck looking for Pluto. They enjoy the Christmas party and play us out with the same Christmas song mashup they had at the end of the first movie.

The end.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this short. It’s almost hard for me to believe it’s a part of the same movie as the others. Each short has a different set of writers, so maybe Colin Goldman and Matthew O’Callaghan just had a bit more Christmas spark than the others….including someone named, not kidding, Carole Holliday. It has some great comedy, nice character interactions with everyone, especially Blitzen and Donner, whom I really wish come back in some way in another Christmas special, and heartwarming moments. Plus, it’s a Pluto short – who can resist that?

It’s also, a bit sadly, relatable. I can’t count how many times I’ve lost my temper because my dogs have ruined something I worked hard for. If my dogs could understand human language, I can bet there’d be at least a couple times they would’ve felt like running away. But no, they have to make you feel like garbage by giving you the sad eyes, cowering over to you and asking for pets. Of course I forgive you, you furry source of utter destruction.

I do have a few questions, though, like why let Goofy drive? And why buy a whole plow truck company just because you need to use one plow truck? Why is Mickey suddenly very comfortable financially again? Also, since everyone’s back together again, it proves that Max grew up by about a decade yet Huey, Dewey and Louie didn’t grow at all.

This is a great short that would be an awesome standalone for Christmas, but the movie as a whole….

Well, I really enjoyed how the bookends are done in a narrated pop-up book style. I thought that was very clever and a great way to retain some of the traditional-style artwork. It was also a better way of bookending each story than the three random presents holding title cards from the first movie. The CGI had its moments of downright terribleness (I’m looking at you fast-forward scene) but it actually stands up very well for a fully CGI movie from 2004.

Most of the shorts are very weak, though the last one is worth the trouble. I didn’t necessarily hate or even seriously dislike any of the segments. It wasn’t a chore to sit through them, but most of them had glaring logic issues or vaguely bad or unclear messages, and they just weren’t very funny or heartwarming most of the time.

I would’ve been content if the whole movie was just the Pluto short, to be honest.

 

Dissecting the Disquels: Stitch! The Movie

* “Meet two other experiments, see previews of about ten others and watch the TV series and other sequels to get at least glimpses of the rest. Also, 625 is not their friend, I don’t know why he’s in the dune buggy or hanging out with Lilo and Stitch.”…What? Not a catchy tagline?

Rating: 7/10

Plot: Dr. Hamsterviel, former evil assistant of Jumba, is after the other 625 experiments that came before Stitch. In an effort to retrieve them, he enlists the help of Gantu, who kidnaps Jumba and obtains the pod for experiment 625. Lilo and Stitch have to protect Stitch’s cousins and rescue Jumba or else the universe will be threatened by the powers of the failed experiments.

Breakdown: We’re kinda nudging what might be considered a real Disquel here, but it fits the criteria well enough. It’s a sequel of what many would call a recent Disney classic. It was a direct-to-DVD movie. And, best of all, it’s obviously masquerading as a sequel when it’s really the pilot to a TV series.

However, unlike many other Disquels, I think this works quite well as both a sequel and a TV pilot.

Exploring what the other 625 experiments are like is a valid question left behind from the original movie. One can assume that a good chunk of them are just duds, but many of them have to have amazing powers and abilities as well as interesting character designs.

Finding and reforming each experiment by finding where they truly belong is actually a great idea for a long-running series, even if we don’t ever get to formerly meet all 625 experiments (Damn the Disney 65 episode rule), and this movie sets up this plot in such a way that doesn’t seem incredibly forced or like it’s a bunch of episodes stitched (puns!) together. It’s also interesting to note, though it’s not mentioned in the movie, that each experiment had a different purpose in addition to power set. While Stitch was designed purely for chaos and destruction, other experiments were designed with different purposes such as psychological warfare and elemental manipulation.

Even the art and animation don’t take a huge hit. It’s obviously nowhere near the original movie’s, but it’s still some of the best animation we’ve gotten for a Disquel. It’s somewhere between the original movie’s and the TV show’s quality. Some of the CGI is noticeable, but it’s alright.

The writing is still pretty good, though what the hell is up with David? Was he always such an apathetic asswad? ‘Gee, a little girl and her alien pet as well as her two alien babysitters are missing, the spaceship is missing, the door is broken down and there’s a big hole in the roof?….Eh I’m sure she’s fine. I’ll fall asleep watching TV while her older sister, my sorta girlfriend, searches over the island for her in a panic.’

There are still many jokes and funny scenes that work well and I was never rolling my eyes at anything. However, unlike in the original movie, there is a distinct lack of heartwarming scenes. Lilo and Stitch share one while imprisoned, but that’s about it.

The fact that Stitch can’t fit in with people also doesn’t mesh very well with the end of the first movie. I thought he was going out in public and being around people just fine, but here he is making almost as much of a mess as he was when he was evil. They didn’t need to make Stitch feel like an outsider to make the connections to his ‘cousins’ worthwhile. How about him wanting to give his cousins what he’s found? A true home, family and happiness.

At the end of the day, this is still one of the better Disquels and it actually spawned a TV series that was pretty good. I followed it somewhat closely when I was younger, and I enjoyed it a lot. It was interesting to see the various experiments and their varying powers and personalities. I may even do a Cartoon Step-by-Step for it.

It’s certainly not as grand as the first movie, and the tension is basically non-existent due to everything about Hamsterviel being a joke (and the whole ‘I’m a hamster not a gerbil/rat/whathaveyou’ schtick is already really old) and the fact that the only experiment he has in his possession is also an annoying joke.

Experiment 625, later named Reuben, is obviously the last experiment to be made before Stitch. He has all of the powers and abilities of Stitch, but the catch is that he’s incredibly lazy and never follows orders. His one schtick, that never was or is funny, is that he does nothing but make and eat tons of sandwiches, hence his name. That’s it. How funny. Bust a gut.

Still, it’s a fun movie that doesn’t lose the style or appeal of the original movie. It’s probably the shortest of the Disquels, clocking it at a flat hour including credits, but it has more quality than several Disquels combined.

As a final note, there’s no real memorable soundtrack this time around. The original Lilo and Stitch had several Elvis songs as well as numerous Hawaiian songs made specifically for the movie. However, here, all we have is one Elvis song and one custom Hawaiian song that isn’t even really all that Hawaiian. Plus, I think that song was made specifically for the TV series not necessarily the movie because that song, Aloha e Komo Mai, will later be the Lilo and Stitch The Series theme song.

Oh well, at least there’s no song about friendship or makeovers.

Recommended Audience: E for everyone!

Final Notes: I have a Stitch Doll from the Disney Store. It’s one of my favorite things that my dad ever got me.

Also, I’m aware of the Stitch anime and the Chinese cartoon. I haven’t seen either and I’m not entirely sure I will.