A Second Look: The Lion King II: Simba's Pride
In 1998, Darrell Rooney released The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, which was influenced by William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. A direct-to-video sequel, the film starred Matthew Broderick, Neve Campbell, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Moira Kelly, Andy Dick, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Jennifer Lien, Edward Hibbert, James Earl Jones, and Jim Cummings. Nominated for the Annie Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production and Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production, the film won the Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Home Video Production, the DVD Exclusive Artistic Achievement Award and First Prize at the Vancouver Effects and Animation Festival for Animated Feature Film.
After Simba assumes the kingship of the Pride Lands, he and Nala have a daughter who grows to be rebellious towards his rules. Soon, she falls in love with Kovu, a lion from a banished pride living outside the Pride Lands who refused to submit to Simba and continued to follow Scar’s ways. Simba tries to keep her away from Kovu, but his mother, Zira, sees her son as Scar’s legacy and plots revenge against Simba through Kovu’s interest in Kiara.
A decent follow up to a great film, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is a little bit lighter in terms of plot and scale, but it still manages to be pretty good. It follows Kiara and Kovu as they go through the beginnings of a romance while Kovu is charged to use his romance as a means of getting to and killing Simba. What’s fascinating is the film shows that the Outsiders hate Simba because he banished them just as much as Simba hates them for being loyal to Scar with none of them realizing that their hatred for each other is keeping them from seeing how they’re exactly the same. Not only does it take a somewhat epic battle in the mud and rain for them all to realize that there aren’t any differences between them, but the film presents some good irony early on when Simba sings “We Are One,” pointing out how the pride is one and all its members are important, ignoring that he splintered the pride into a separate one before the film begins.
When it comes to characters Kiara and Kovu are star-crossed lovers played pretty straight, especially in how Kovu requests to join the Pride and then gets exiled through false accusations.
That being said though, Zira is great villain. An essential foil to Scar from the first film, as she has less composition and self-control, the film demonstrates that she still possesses the same penchant for manipulation that he had. Zira was able to train Kovu from a cub to an adult in the art of taking Simba down. Further, whatever love she may have originally had for her children, it’s seen in Nuka’s death that her lust for revenge consumed her so much that she lost it all. This can also be seen when Vitani sees the logic in what Kiara and Kovu say when they break up the battle to convince everyone else that they aren’t different. Vitani turns on Zira who then attacks Vitani for even attempting to reconcile, which ends up being the impetus for the other Outsiders to switch sides. However, even though everyone switches sides because they’re convinced by Kiara and Kovu, Zira has been so blinded by her desire for revenge that not only can she not accept the idea in and of itself, but she chooses to push herself off the cliff and fall to her death rather than join the pride.
Nuka is also an engaging character, considering how everything he does is meant to get the attention and love of his mother, all the way up until his own death. In fact, the desire for his mother’s affection is what drives him through the film rather than revenge or an appreciation for Scar. What’s really noticeable is that he’s a villainous foil to Scar. While the two of them may be second fiddle to the favored son in the family and dream of being a leader because of a sense that it’s deserved, Nuka is motivated by devotion, never tries to hide that he hates Kovu, doesn’t want to destroy his own family and is killed by a lack of awareness.