The film centers around Simba and Nala's daughter, Kiara, who falls in love with Kovu, a male lion who was raised in a pride of Scar's followers and Simba's enemies, the Outsiders. Desperate to be together, they must overcome the two obstacles that are keeping them apart: Kovu's mother, Zira, and Simba's prejudices against the Outsiders. While the original film's plot seems to have been inspired by William Shakespeare's Hamlet, this sequel's plot is similar to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
A discussion began about the possibility of a sequel to The Lion King before the first film even hit theaters. Most of the original cast reprised their roles from the first film, with the notable exceptions of Rowan Atkinson, who was replaced by Edward Hibbert as the voice of Zazu in this film and its follow-up/predecessor The Lion King 1½ and Jeremy Irons, who was replaced by Scar's singing voice actor from the first film Jim Cummings as the voice of Scar in this film. Also, Madge Sinclair, who was the voice of Simba's mother Sarabi, had died one year after the first film was released; therefore her character has non-speaking cameo appearances in this film.
Despite mixed reviews from critics, the film was warmly received by audiences and was a success, with the videos selling well.
The film opens a few months after the events of the first film where Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) gathers the animals of the Pride Lands together for the presentation of King Simba (Matthew Broderick) and Queen Nala's (Moira Kelly) new daughter Kiara, with Mufasa's spirit (James Earl Jones) proudly watching over the ceremony.
Months later, Simba becomes very overprotective of young Kiara (Michelle Horn), assigning Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) to be her babysitters. One day, while Timon and Pumbaa are distracted because they're arguing over their lunchtime, Kiara sneaks into the Outlands where she meets a young cub named Kovu (Ryan O'Donohue). After escaping a river filled with crocodiles, the two become friends, but Simba and Kovu's mother, Zira (Suzanne Pleshette), quickly end their playtime by roaring at each other. Zira claims that the Pride Lands belonged to Scar, and reminds Simba that he banished the Outsiders, and notes that if he wants to punish them, Kovu is Scar's hand-chosen successor. Unwilling to harm the cub, Simba orders them to leave and later scolds Kiara for endangering herself and reminds her role as future queen. In the Outlands, Zira's eldest son, Nuka (Andy Dick), complains to his younger sister Vitani (Lacey Chabert) about Kovu's status as "the Chosen One" despite not being Scar's real son. At that moment, Zira returns and rebukes both of her sons, but then decides that she can use Kovu's new friendship with Kiara to get her revenge against Simba.
A few years later, an adolescent Kiara (Neve Campbell) heads out to do her first solo hunt. However, Simba is worried and fearful of his daughter unprotected and sends Timon and Pumbaa to watch her again, despite promising not to. Furious to find out her father has lied, Kiara decides to hunt away from the Pride Lands, though is still unsuccessful in her efforts. Nuka and Vitani (Jennifer Lien) set fire to the plains where Kiara is hunting, causing her to faint and give Kovu (Jason Marsden) the chance to rescue her, as part of Zira's plan. Drawn by the smoke, Simba and Nala find them together and Simba reluctantly thanks Kovu for rescuing his daughter and allows him to come to Pride Rock, though he is ordered to sleep outside the den. That same night, Simba has a nightmare about his father's death, only in the dream, Scar morphs into Kovu and throws the panicked and frightened Simba off the cliff into the stampede.
The next day, Simba walks outside the den to drink at a watering hole where Kovu contemplates attacking him. However, Kiara interrupts and they go off together so Kovu can help her learn to hunt. During the lesson, they run into Timon and Pumbaa struggling with some birds, so the two lions help them chase the birds off. Together, they have fun playing, something Kovu notes he has never experienced before. From this point, Kiara and Kovu grows closer. That night, Kovu tells Kiara that he is not Scar's real son, but feels that he's still a part of him and fears he may have the same darkness as Scar had. Simba, who is hesitant to trust the young Outlander around his daughter, seeks guidance from the "Great Kings" and Nala gently advises him to give Kovu a chance. Kovu decides to leave after trying to confess his real intentions, but Rafiki stops and invites the young lions to experience "Upendi" – which means love in Swahili. After a musical journey through the jungle, the two fall deeply in love. Simba finally warms up to Kovu and invites him into the den to sleep. Unbeknownst to them, Vitani observes them and alerts Zira of Kovu's treachery.
In the morning, Simba invites Kovu for a walk and tells him the true story of Scar, which Kovu had never heard before. However, their walk is interrupted by Zira and her pride. After Zira deceitfully praises Kovu for leading Simba away from his pride, Simba believes that Kovu had set him up. Kovu truthfully claims he had nothing to do with it, but Simba is distrustful. After a brief fight, Simba manages to escape by scaling a wall of logs in a gorge. In chasing after him, Nuka slips and is killed by falling logs. Zira blames Kovu for Nuka's death, resulting Kovu to breaking from his mother for good. Kovu returns to the Pride Lands and begs the king for his forgiveness. Still believing Kovu was behind the ambush, the distrustful Simba exiles him and strictly orders Kiara to be confined in Pride Rock and forbids her to leave unescorted. This angers Kiara who scolds her father for not seeing Kovu for who he is, leading her to escape from the den to find Kovu. After a long search, she reunites with Kovu. Upon watching her and Kovu's reflections complementing each other's, Kiara realizes the meaning of what her father told her when she was a cub, that "[they] are one". Realizing what they must do, Kovu and Kiara returns to reconcile their prides.
Meanwhile, Zira leads her pride in a war against the Pride Lands, and a fierce fight breaks out. As Zira and Simba face off, Kovu and Kiara leap between them and Kiara tells her father that the fighting has to stop, reminding what he once said to her that they are one, pointing out that the Outsiders are also part of them. Kiara's words manage to sway Simba and the rest of the prides, but Zira refuses to stop fighting. When Vitani decides to side with Kiara and Zira tells her daughter that she will die too if she will not fight, the other Outlanders turns against her and join Simba's side. Still unwilling to let go of her hatred, Zira make one last attempt to kill Simba by leaping at him, but Kiara pushes her away and they fall over a cliff. Kiara safely lands on a rock, but Zira is sliding towards a storm-swollen river. Kiara offers to help, but Zira, like Scar, is unable to let go of her hate and falls to her death. Simba helps his daughter back up the cliff and allows the Outsiders, including Kovu, to return to the Pride Lands. Additionally, Kovu marries Kiara before joining her and her parents at the top of Pride Rock roaring at the cheering animals. Mufasa's spirit proudly watches over from among the stars and praises his son for his decision.
Cast and characters
- Kiara (voiced by Michelle Horn as a cub with Neve Campbell as a young adult) is princess of the Pride Lands, Simba and Nala's daughter, Mufasa, Sarabi, and Sarafina's granddaughter, Scar's great-niece and the main protagonist. Her singing voices are Charity Sanoy (as a cub) and Liz Callaway (as an adolescent).
- Kovu (voiced by Ryan O'Donohue as a cub and Jason Marsden as a young adult) is Zira's son and the lion chosen by Scar to be king after Scar's death, but after Scar is killed in the first movie, Zira trains him to avenge Scar's death as his adopted son and take back the throne of the Pride Lands. He is the deuteragonist. His singing voice is provided by Gene Miller (as an adolescent).
- Zira (voiced by Suzanne Pleshette) is Kovu, Nuka, and Vitani's mother and the main antagonist of the film. Both she and a small pride of lionesses were exiled by Simba as they still followed Scar. She fanatically worships Scar and is obsessed with revenge on Simba. She trains Kovu in the hope that he will one day kill Simba and take back the throne in Scar's honor.
- Timon and Pumbaa (voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella respectively) are Simba's best friends and royal babysitters.
- Simba (voiced by Matthew Broderick (talking) and Cam Clarke (singing) is the king of the Pride Lands as Mufasa and Sarabi's son, Scar's nephew, Nala's mate and Kiara's father. He is a secondary character. Although a loving and caring father, Simba is very mindful and cautious of his daughter's safety and suspicious of Kovu, but later learns that over-protectiveness and lack of trust and forgiveness only makes it worse.
- Nala (voiced by Moira Kelly) is the queen of the Pride Lands as Simba's mate and Kiara's mother. She is more accepting of Kovu than Simba is and shows immense love and support for her daughter.
- Rafiki (voiced by Robert Guillaume) is the wise shaman mandrill of the Pride Lands.
- Nuka (voiced by Andy Dick) is Zira's somewhat neurotic son, Vitani and Kovu's older brother and the secondary antagonist. He feels wholly inadequate compared to Kovu and feels that he should be "the chosen one," because "I'm oldest, I'm the strongest" and that, "Scar wasn't even his [Kovu's] father, he just took him in".
- Vitani (voiced by Lacey Chabert as a cub and Jennifer Lien as a young adult) is Zira's daughter, Nuka's younger sister and Kovu's older sister.
- Zazu (voiced by Edward Hibbert) is the king's advisor and majordomo.
- Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) is Simba's father, Sarabi's mate and Kiara's paternal grandfather who was killed by his younger brother Scar in the first film. However, he still appears in the film as a ghost in the sky and in Simba's nightmare.
- Scar (voiced by Jim Cummings) was Mufasa's younger brother, Simba's uncle, Kiara's great-uncle and the main antagonist of the first movie, who was defeated by Simba and killed by the Hyenas. He makes a brief appearance in Simba's nightmare, where he transforms into Kovu.
In 1998, Disney believed that The Lion King II: Simba's Pride would be so popular that it shipped 15 million copies to stores for the October 27 release date. Disney sold 3.5 million copies in three days. Thirteen million copies were sold while it was still in print in the late 90s.
The film was first released on VHS in the United States on October 27, 1998, and on DVD as a limited issue on November 23, 1999. Both the original VHS and limited issue DVD were placed into the moratorium on January 19, 2000. It was not released again on DVD until August 31, 2004, when it was a two-disc special edition. The special edition went into moratorium in January 2005. The film has been rendered in high definition and, from October 4, 2011, became available in a trilogy set with the other two films. The Blu-ray edition of the film was released as a stand-alone version on March 6, 2012. The Blu-ray edition has two different versions, a two-disc package containing a Blu-ray and DVD and a DVD-only edition. The Blu-ray edition has also been attached with a new Timon & Pumbaa short, in which the two friends gaze at the night sky as the star constellations resemble their favorite meal, insects. The Blu-ray edition of The Lion King II, along with the other two films in the series, were placed into moratorium on April 30, 2013. The film was re-released on DVD, Blu-ray combo pack, and digital on August 29, 2017.
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride received mixed reception by critics. Siskel & Ebert gave the film a "two-thumbs up" and said it was a "satisfactory sequel to one of the most popular films of all time, The Lion King". However, they also said it was best that it went to video, citing that the music was lacking and not remotely equal to the original's soundtrack. James Plath of Movie Metropolis gave the film 6/10, saying that, "Simply put, we've seen it all before."
TV Guide gave the film 2½ stars out of four, claiming that, despite being of slightly higher quality than Disney's previous direct-to-video animated sequels, "comes nowhere near the level of its big-screen predecessor", either musically or artistically. The review later went on to say that "Though most of the original characters and their voices are back, they all sound bored, apart from the zesty addition of Suzanne Pleshette as the scheming Zira. The overall result is OK for kids, who will enjoy the low humor provided by the comical meerkat Timon and the flatulent warthog Pumbaa, but it could have been so much better."
Among "normal" audiences and fans of the original film, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride has been received better than most other Disney sequels of its nature, and is at least "approved of" by most of the Lion King fanbase. Fan approval has increased dramatically in recent years, however.
- "He Lives in You" - This is an original song by Lebo M and his African choir. This song represents Kiara's birth and is also the equivalent of "Circle of Life". The song can also be a reference to when Rafiki told Simba in the first film that Mufasa "lives" in him. Also appears in the Broadway version of the first film. It was considered as the only song to be composed by Hans Zimmer, the man who composed the original film.
- "We Are One" - Sung by Cam Clarke and Charity Sanoy. Following Kiara's encounter with Kovu and Zira, which puts herself in danger, Simba explains how important she is to the pride and that the pride is one. The musical equivalent to the first film's talk about the Great Kings of the Past with Mufasa and Simba.
- "My Lullaby" - Sung by Suzanne Pleshette, Andy Dick, and Crysta Macalush. Zira's lullaby to Kovu, which outlines her plot for him to kill Simba and how proud it would make her. The equivalent to "Be Prepared" as the song is talking about how they plan to murder Simba just like how Scar's song talked about killing both him and Mufasa in the previous film. The song's ending is similar to the end of "Be Prepared" with Zira towering over the Outlanders mirrors Scar towering over the hyenas at the end. They are even standing on similar structures; For Scar, forms of rock that suddenly came out of the ground during the song, and, for Zira, a massive termite mound that is part of the group of termite mounds that the Outsiders live in. Zira's treatment of Nuka during the song also resembles Scar's abuse of Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed.
- "Upendi" (Swahili for "love") - Sung by Robert Guillaume, Liz Callaway, Gene Miller, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Rafiki's song to Kiara and Kovu about love and happiness. Sung by Rafiki and his animal friends. Also the equivalent to "Hakuna Matata", from the first film, as well as "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" visually.
- "Not One of Us" - Sung following Kovu being exiled by Simba after he wrongfully accuses Kovu of betraying him in an attempt by the Outlanders to assassinate him. This was the first time the animals outside of the main characters (they talk in Lion King 1½) and the lions in both films (they congratulate Kiara when she hunts) have been seen talking. This is the only song to not have an equivalent to the first film, but lyrically, may reflect on Mufasa's death.
- "Love Will Find a Way" - Kiara and Kovu's first encounter following Kovu's banishment where they realize that their mutual romance is too strong and genuine for their differences to keep them apart. Similar to "Can You Feel the Love Tonight": Liz Callaway and Gene Miller provide the singing voices for Kiara and Kovu in the film. The end title is performed by R&B artists Kenny Lattimore and Heather Headley.
Return to Pride Rock
An audio CD entitled Return to Pride Rock: Songs Inspired by Disney's The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was released on September 8, 1998. Although not promoted as a soundtrack to the film, it contained all the songs from the film and some additional songs inspired by it by Lebo M. Tina Turner recorded a version of "He Lives in You" for the film.
On August 31, 2004, Disney released an "enhanced soundtrack" to coincide with the release of the film's 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. However, the CD only contains the songs featured in the film, without any of the inspired songs in The Lion King.
Related television film, series and sequel
In November 2015, Disney Channel aired a television film called The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, which was followed in January 2016 by a series called The Lion Guard. Both the film and series serve as midquels to The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (taking place after Kiara's first meeting with Kovu and before her first hunt as an adolescent).
The film and series focus on the son of Simba and Nala, Kiara's younger brother Kion, who as second-born, becomes a leader of the Lion Guard, a team that protect the Pride Lands and defend the Circle of Life.
In the Season 3 premiere, Battle for the Pride Lands, Kion departs Pride Rock in search for the Tree of Life, after being injured in the final battle against the ghost of Scar, the main antagonist of the original film (whom had returned previously in Season 2), explaining his disappearance from the sequel.
The series' finale Return to the Pride Lands serves as a sequel to The Lion King II.
- Cam Clarke replaces Joseph Williams as Simba's singing voice.
- In France, in the closing credits, it used Tina Turner singing "He Lives in You" and a cover of "Upendi" over it, instead of instrumental music and "Love Will Find a Way".
- Its surge in popularity in recent years is likely due to the fact that the director, Darrel Rooney, stated on Twitter that Kovu was an orphan.
- This significantly alters the film from every other film Disney made based on Romeo and Juliet in the fact the character that resembles Romeo is an orphan.
- On the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, the film is in widescreen, unlike its previous home video releases. Showing more picture on the sides.
- When Timon shouts "Let me at 'em!" and tries to make a run at Kovu, he has Pumbaa hold him back, but he lets go afterward, and Timon tells him that he "missed the basic point." This is a would-be reference to Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo.
- The film is similar to The Fox and the Hound. Both protagonists meet friends when they are supposed to be enemies (Copper for Tod, Kovu for Kiara) both protagonists are encouraged to fall in love, and later on they do (Tod and Vixey, Kiara and Kovu) and both antagonists have someone who is a pawn in their plan, but later sacrifice themselves (Chief and Nuka) however Nuka died and Chief survived.
- Sarabi, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed were supposed to appear in the sequel, but the ideas were dropped. Sarabi made a small cameo in the film but had no lines, because her voice actress, Madge Sinclair, died before the production of the sequel. However, in the original script, this character has an important role. Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed would've been Zira's henchmen, but the producers dropped the idea, when they remember that the three hyenas with the Hyena Clan were the real murderers of Scar.
- Matthew Broderick returned to play Simba since 4 years after the 1st Film in 1994. Especially 4 or 5 Months after his role as Dr. Niko "Nick" Tatopoulos in the Live Action 1998 sci-fi Film Godzilla.
- Later, Jason Marsden and the late Suzanne Pleshette would do voices together in Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away, with Marsden as the voice of Haku, apprentice to Pleshette's wicked Yubaba (and Pleshette also voiced good-natured twin sister Zeniba).
- Kiara and Kovu's love story as the members of feuding prides is somewhat similar to that of Romeo and Juliet in the William Shakespeare play of the same name. However unlike the story where Romeo and Juliet died, Kiara and Kovu are still alive and lived happily ever after together.
- The Lion Guard episode "Return to the Pride Lands" takes place after the movie and also mirrors the ending of the movie.