Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog stole the show in the original big-screen movie The Lion King. Now, they are the show in the direct-to-video animated dramedy/musical The Lion King 1½.
Viewers join best buds Timon and Pumbaa in a movie theater as they start to watch The Lion King; then the action rewinds to before the beginning of the film to show what really happened. Timon is the bungling outcast of his village. Then he finds Pumbaa—his first real friend. The pair sets off to find the perfect home as their story runs parallel to the original movie. They see Simba being dedicated on Pride Rock. They avoid hyenas. They dodge stampeding wildebeests. Etcetera.
It isn’t long before they save Simba from buzzards and begin raising the young cub. Of course, Simba grows up, meets childhood friend Nala and returns to Pride Rock to defeat his evil uncle and avenge his father. Timon and Pumbaa help their friend and learn what it takes to make a place into a home. Numerous narrative-style comments from Timon and Pumbaa, and general silliness highlight this 77-minute video.
Two themes rise to surface in The Lion King 1½: strong family relationships and the importance of friendship. Timon and his mom hug and say they love each other. Timon and Pumbaa genuinely like each other (faults and all) and say, “Friends stick together till the end.” They also learn the difficulties and joys of parenthood with young Simba.
When Simba needs his friends, Timon and Pumbaa come to his aid. Simba hugs his friends and says, “I couldn’t have done this without you guys.” Timon’s mom tracks down her son to help him after he leaves his village.
Not nearly as much as in the first Lion King. Meerkats do yoga. Rafiki sits in a lotus position as eerie music plays. Refering to Rafiki, Timon says, “The monkey’s getting all existential.” Snippets of the song “Circle of Life” are played. Simba’s father’s head appears in the clouds in the distance.
Timon and Pumbaa “kiss” in a Lady and the Tramp-like scene where they both eat the same worm. Nala and Simba snuggle and hug as the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” plays. Timon proposes marriage to Shenzi the hyena in an attempt to save his life.
More talk of violence than actual violence shown. Meerkats are said to be food for everyone—it’s nature’s design. Uncle Max says, “Meerkat, it’s what’s for dinner.” Later, Uncle Max gets beaten up by hyenas (all that’s seen is his mangled fur). The elephant graveyard features lots of bones. As wildebeests stampede, Timon and Pumbaa run for their lives, fall into a river and over a huge waterfall. Timon falls over a large waterfall while trying to save Simba. Scar falls off of Pride Rock in the background of a scene. Timon’s mom and uncle help him build an underground trap for the hyenas. An explosion in a cave scares off some hyenas. Music builds to a scary pitch as Timon meets Pumbaa in some tall grass.
One “heck.” One “tush.” Timon is called a “tunnel klutz.” Hyenas say, “I thought beans were the only musical food.”
Some bathroom humor, but nothing that will surprise families familiar with the original movie. Pumbaa passes gas and other animals pass out as Timon’s head catches on fire. When Pumbaa gets out of a small pond, the Jacuzzi-like bubbles stop. There are numerous gross insect-eating scenes, including one in which Simba and Timon have a snail-slurping contest. Timon picks his nose and wipes it off, but Pumbaa catches him. There are comments made about morning breath and belches. Pumbaa says, “And that’s why they call it a dung beetle.”
Also, Timon wears a dress to distract some hyenas. And he sings a song that states, “Looking out for No. 1; that’s all I need” (later, he realizes he needs friends). When he collapses the meerkats’ tunnel, they all lose trust in him. He quips, “Great big fat guy to protect me” about Pumbaa, and “This crazy chick is going to eat us” about Nala. Uncle Max says, “Kill me now.”
When I first saw trailers for The Lion King 1½, I wondered why it was going directly to DVD instead of back onto the big screen. Featuring the original cast and songs from Elton John and Tim Rice, it appeared to be worth more than “straight-to-video.” After watching it, I wonder no longer.
Young children will like the songs, sight gags and action. And parents may enjoy occasional allusions to such things as Riverdance and Fiddler on the Roof. The plot focuses on the importance of friendship, and Disney does a fairly good job of staying away from negative language and themes. But 1½ lacks the story, scope and musical excellence of the original, feeling more like a Saturday-morning cartoon than a worthy continuation of The Lion King.
Bonus DVD Material includes deleted scenes (black-and-white storyboards with voices behind them), and clues for finding 20 hidden Mickey Mouse heads in the movie. There are also several featurettes and games. “Timon & Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari” allows players to choose their way through the “Pridelands Adventure Ride.” The “Who Wants to be King of the Jungle” trivia game hosted by Meredith Vieira puts kids in the “hot seat,” like on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” “Find the Face” lets kids match famous Disney silhouettes with the real faces. Mostly clean fun, but parents should know that mishaps and pile-ups are around every corner, and there are a few additional references to passing gas and taking “poetic license” with a story—i.e., lying.