The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata Review
*Note: This film has been released under the title Lion King 1 ½ in the U.S.A.
It’s often the sidekicks that end up being the most memorable characters in Disney movies, as they tend to get the greater number – or dare I say it, the lion’s share – of the genuinely funny lines, and this was certainly the case for Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), the laidback merecat and pungent warthog. They have starred in their own TV series, but now Disney have seen fit to give them their very own movie, but does that there was a fantastic concept, that demanded another outing, or is there simply another TV series in the works Disney need to promote?
The concept of The Lion King 3 is simple, whilst you may not have been able to see Timon and Pumbaa in many parts of the original film, they were there, directly influencing what you did see, and here they are to explain how. We join them at their own private screening of the movie that launched their careers, Timon is eager to skip through the film to their appearance, but with some prompting from Pumbaa he begins to recount the tale of how they ended up being Simba’s (Matthew Broderick) best friends. It seems way back when, Timon wasn’t the most popular mere cat in the pack, his inability to follow the rules leading to tunnel collapse after tunnel collapse, and - after goofing around on sentry duty – allowing a pack of hyenas to sneak in and run amok. Depressed at his inability to fit in, Timon sets out to find the part of the world where he can fit. Along the way he bumps into Pumbaa, who is desperate for a friend, as even the other warthogs find his aroma distasteful, and the two of them bond as they amble towards Pride Rock, and wouldn’t you know it, that just happens to be the day Simba was born.
But how, you ask, can these two unlikely friends influence so much of the first film, before they even met Simba? Well that day at Pride Rock is a perfect example, as poor Pumbaa wanders frightened into the gathered crowd to get a better view, he makes his presence more than apparent, by letting his ghastly wind escape. This causes a wave of fainting animals across the plains, the animals not affected by the smell, assume that the others are bowing, and follow suit. That’s right, the huddled masses weren’t bowing out of respect for their new king, they were bowing because a warthog farted. That, sadly, is the tone you can expect for the duration of the movie, as Timon and Pumbaa are tenuously woven into all the major events from the original film, with results somewhat lacking in either the charm or comedy that made the original so well loved.
It’s clear that this concept was rather stretched for the movie, as scenes of actual interaction between the original and this are thin on the ground, even though it runs for a brief 72 minutes there is still quite a lengthy introduction to Timon’s family life and his reasons for leaving, along with the contrived silhouetted viewings of the original film that pop up quite regularly. So what could have been a rather entertaining retelling of a familiar tale turns into a familiar rehashing of a once entertaining story. I suppose it was wishful to expect anything more, even though the voice cast is full of quality names - the original cast have returned and the likes of Jerry Stiller and The Simpsons' Julie Kavner fill the new roles – Disney sequels are rarely anything more than an advertisement for a new TV series or toy line, the lack of a theatrical release is usually very telling with regard to their quality. All of which makes this installment an exciting prospect only for younger viewers, rather than fun for the whole family.
The transfer is handled excellently, the colours are vivid, the edges crisp, or at least as crisp as they can be given the standards of animation. It’s immediately apparent which sections of he film are original and which are recycled footage, as there is a noticeable difference in quality, but this – as with all the Disney sequels – is certainly a fault of the original artwork and not the transfer.
The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it’s a pretty aggressive track, making good use of the surrounds and, particularly, the sub whenever the opportunity arises. Disney are getting good at making their mixes rather enthralling but sadly, and almost unusually for them these days, there is no DTS track included on this release. Don’t expect the mix to match that on the new platinum edition of The Lion King, there isn’t near the levels of action in this release to work with, but it does a good job with far less interesting material.
There are 7 deleted scenes present on the first disc, 2 Opening Concepts, Old Fearless Buzz, Timon Talks to Dad, Timon, Dad and Mom, Intro to “Scurry, Flinch and Sniff”, Timon and Pumbaa Look for Oasis. None of them are fully produced, being presented only as line art with mostly temporary voices, and this fact speaks for their quality. There isn’t much to recommend about them, and most are similar to what made it into the film, though all come with introductions by producer George Mendoza and Director Bradley Raymond, who try to explain the choices they made.
Timon: Behind the Legend
This 4 minute look into the legend that is Timon, presented by Peter Graves (star of the original Mission Impossible TV series) is meant to be a funny mocumentary, bad sadly seems devoid of any actual humour.
Before the Beginning: The Making of Lion King 3
This making of is probably one of the least informative I’ve ever seen, running for around 15 minutes, and displaying a distinct lack of modesty, crew members from around the world talk about how they are making a fantastic Disney masterpiece in the grand tradition, and everyone seems to be very much under the impression they have produced a much better film than they actually have.
Grazing in the Grass – Music Video performed by Raven
A suitably wholesome piece of Disney pop nonsense from Raven, AKA Raven-Symone, who you may remember from Eddie Murphy’s take on Dr. Dolittle, or if you’re old enough, as the irritating youngest Cosby family member way back in 1989.
Timon and Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari, Rafiki’s Challenge, Find the Face, Hidden Mickey Hunt
The disc is positively overflowing with interactive elements for the under 5s, but anyone who was actually alive when the original movie came out will have to endure these rather than enjoy them. The CG virtual safari doesn’t entirely relate to the movie (poetic licence apparently) and Rafiki’s Challenge isn’t entirely challenging, but at least they all feature voice work from the original cast.
The first disc also contains trailers for Home on the Range, Brother Bear, Finding Nemo, The Pixar Collection, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, Mulan 2, and The Three Musketeers, all of which can be skipped individually, but cannot be selected for any of the menus.
The Lion King 3 is yet another disappointing sequel from Disney to a much revered classic, though with the levels of originality that have been going into their features of late that is hardly a surprise. Now Disney have parted ways with Pixar it will be interesting to see when the next film bearing their name worth watching will arrive, on this evidence, no time soon. It’s also interesting to note that without the huge number of trailers that play before you get to the menus, this package would have fitted comfortably on a single disc, would Disney feel they could get away with charging an inflated price for a 2 disc set if the second was comprised only of trailers? But then I suppose Disney have never been accused of giving their customers value for money.