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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Bradley Raymond
Cast:
Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Shaun Flemming, Julie Kavner, Jerry Stiller, Robert Guillaume, Moira Kelly, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin
Writing Credits:
Roger Allers, Irene Mecchi, Tom Rogers, Evan Spiliotopoulos

Tagline:
The Circle Of Life Will Never Be The Same.

Synopsis:
Hilarity reigns in this all-new motion picture starring Timon and his windy pal Pumbaa - the greatest unsung heroes of the savanna! Featuring the original voice cast and music by Elton John and Tim Rice, The Lion King 1 1/2 takes you waaaaaaay back to the beginning before Simba's tale began ... and beyond!

In this all-new comedy-adventure, Timon and Pumbaa reveal where they came from, how they met, and why some of the greatest moments in The Lion King look a little different from their perspective. Tag along as they search for their dream home, raise a rambumnctious young lion cub and help Simba save the Serengeti.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 76 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 2/10/2004

Bonus:
Disc One
• “Hidden Mickey Hunt”
• Deleted Scenes
• Sneak Peeks
• THX Optimizer
Disc Two
• “Timon: Behind the Legend” Featurette
• “Before the Beginning: The Making of The Lion King 1 ½ Featurette
• Raven “Grazing in the Grass” Music Video
• Timon and Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari 1.5
• “Who Wants to Be King of the Jungle?” Game
• “Find the Faces” Game


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Lion King 1 1/2 (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 10, 2004)

2004’s first “direct to video” (DTV) project from Disney starts the year’s endeavors on a fairly good note. No one will mistake The Lion King 1 ½ for classic Disney fare, but it seems decidedly superior when compared to the vast majority of the studio’s DTV material.

King opens with a scene of Timon the meerkat (voiced by Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa the warthog (Ernie Sabella) as they watch the original flick. They decide to tell us their own backstory, so we go back to see Timon’s roots. We meet his meerkat clan, which includes his Ma (Julie Kavner) and Uncle Max (Jerry Stiller). Though the former sticks up for Timon, the latter thinks of him as a useless screw-up, and the rest of the meerkats feel the same way. Timon dreams of escape to someplace where he doesn’t have to live in tunnels and hide, but Ma tries to convince him to try harder to fit in with the group.

When Timon messes us another tunnel dig, he gets sentry duty to watch for hyenas. The easily distractible rodent instead breaks into song and misses hyenas Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai(Cheech Marin) and Ed (Jim Cummings) until they come right up to him. Timon and the other meerkats narrowly escape death, but since he let down the clan, all but Ma turn their backs on him.

Given the circumstances, she provides her blessings and Timon strikes out on his own. As he wanders, he encounters a mystical simian named Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) who espouses the philosophy of “Hakuna Matata”. He tells Timon to “see beyond what you see”, which the literal-minded meerkat takes in a concrete way. When he gazes into the distance, he espies Pride Rock and chooses it as his destination.

Along the way he runs into Pumbaa. Timon wants the warthog to accompany him essentially as a bodyguard to repel dangers. Desperate for a friend, Pumbaa agrees, and they stumble toward their destination. Bizarrely, Timon settles on the inhospitable Elephant’s Graveyard as their home, but they end up getting literally swept away from the site. They end up at a much nicer place that they build into their dream home.

Up to now, parts of the flick intersected with the original Lion King, but from here they connect more closely. Soon young Simba arrives, and the unlikely pair raise him as their kid. We watch Simba grow up and eventually see the arrival of lioness Nala (Moira Kelly). The movie continues through the same events that occurred in the first film and ends at the same point, but it does so from Timon’s perspective.

In a nutshell, that’s the flick’s gimmick, and it’s not a bad one. Actually, it’s fairly clever and offers some potential fun. There’s something oddly compelling about seeing a familiar story from a different point of view; it almost makes it feel like we’re watching an “alternate angle” take on the first flick.

Sometimes 1 ½ tries a little too hard to have fun with these connections. It reveals the “truth” behind some of the first movie’s iconic events. For example, the various animals didn’t bow during the presentation of baby Simba out of respect; no, they ducked their heads to avoid the stench when Pumbaa unleashed a killer fart. I don’t mind the demythologizing aspects, though this does mildly detract from the grandeur of the original scene. Instead, I mainly don’t like it because it’s a fairly lame joke.

I could have lived without so many of that sort of moment, though they occasionally add a saucy irreverence to 1 ½. It seems clear it holds no parts of the first flick as untouchable and sacred. Pretty much every aspect of the original comes up for gentle lampooning, and this allows 1 ½ to enjoy some fun elements.

This even extends to the presentation of the material. We watch 1 ½ as Timon and Pumbaa watch it. This means we occasionally cut to MST3K style shots of the pair in their home theater. This tone works only sporadically, but it certainly gives the flick an air that seems unique among Disney fare. Heck, this piece is tougher on the studio’s tendencies than the allegedly incisive Shrek.

Not that it strays too far from home base. Indeed, the movie includes the usual morals. Here it tells us to follow our own path to happiness and that friends stick together. Happily, it doesn’t perseverate on these topics, as it prefers to toss out the wacky hijinks.

Most of the original cast returns for 1 ½. Of course, Jonathan Taylor Thomas no longer plays young Simba; since he’s now 22, he’s way too old to portray a little one. Otherwise, only Rowan Atkinson fails to rematerialize; instead, Edward Hibbert voices Zazu.

Ultimately, The Lion King 1 ½ won’t replace the original, but it stands as one of the better Disney direct to video efforts. The movie seems consistently entertaining and irreverent, and this allows it to create its own identity. Too many DTV flicks just remake the originals; while 1 ½ indeed follows many of the same events, its unique take on the elements means that it doesn’t seem like a bland rehash. Lion King fans will likely get a kick out of this fun flick.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Lion King 1 ½ appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the project’s status and vintage, I expected a fine presentation, and that’s what the DVD provided.

Sharpness seemed very positive. At all times, the movie remained detailed and concise. No significant examples of softness or ill-defined images appeared in this tight and firm presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects appeared absent, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I noticed none, as the movie looked clean and fresh from start to finish.

The jungle setting of King meant that it boasted a vivid and varied palette, and the DVD presented those hues well. The colors consistently looked solid. From the lush landscapes to the animals to all other elements, the hues came across as lively and tight. Actually, I thought they could have been a little more eye-popping, but I still found nothing about which I could complain. Black levels looked solid, with appropriately dark and rich material. Low-light images were concisely displayed and tight, with no excessive opacity. Overall, Lion King 1 ½ gave us a fine presentation.

For this DVD, we got both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. As I compared the two, I noticed no differences. Across the board, the pair sounded identical to me.

That was fine, as the mixes mostly seemed solid. Though oriented toward the front, the soundfield appeared pretty engaging and active. The forward speakers offered very good placement and localization. Effects cropped up in logical spots and meshed together well, with some nice movement and panning. A fair amount of speech came from the side speakers, and those bits were well placed. Music showed good stereo imaging as well, and the forward channels generally presented a fine soundscape.

The surrounds didn’t offer a tremendous amount of material, but they bolstered the presentation well. The rear speakers kicked in with good ambience and provided a strong feeling of atmosphere. Occasional examples of more surround specific information occurred, and those created a fine sense of the setting. The rears weren’t terribly involving, but they added enough to the mix to make them useful.

In general, audio quality appeared very good. Speech sounded distinctive and concise, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects appeared dynamic and lively. They showed full, rich tones, and presented loud and firm bass response. Music sounded decent but was a little thick. Midrange dominated the score and songs, and they didn’t offer the depth and range I expected. To be sure, the music seemed reasonably fine; those elements simply lacked the vividness and clarity they should have displayed. Nonetheless, the soundtracks of Lion King 1 1/2 were fairly positive and both merited “B” grades.

With Lion King 1 ½ we get the first Disney “direct to video” project that rates a two-disc set. On DVD One, we start with a creative feature called a Hidden Mickey Hunt. Disney fans know about “Hidden Mickeys”; mischievous animators conceal images of the world’s most famous Mouse within the frames in clever ways. With this piece activated, an icon occasionally appears on screen during the movie. This alerts you that a “Hidden Mickey” will soon show up; you need to hit “enter” at that time. It’s a cute and interactive way to watch the flick.

Next we locate seven Deleted Scenes. These last a total of 11 minutes, 44 seconds. Introduced by producer George Mendoza and director Bradley Raymond, they explain that what we’ll see don’t really comprise true deleted scenes; instead, they present storyreels without actual animation. They also talk about each sequence and let us know why the bits failed to make the final cut. The scenes generally seem interesting to see, and the filmmakers’ comments add good insight into their decision.

As the DVD starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Aladdin, Home on the Range, Brother Bear, The Three Musketeers, Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride special edition DVD. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with ads for Mulan II, the Lion King 1 ½ video game, Walt Disney World, Toontown Online, and Toon Disney.

Lastly, DVD One features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.

On DVD Two, the extras split into two areas. Featurettes contains three elements. Timon: Behind the Legend runs for four minutes and four seconds as it presents a faux documentary about our favorite meerkat. Hosted by Peter Graves, this gives us a quick biography of the wisecracking rodent. It’s a short but fun little piece.

Before the Beginning: The Making of Lion King 1 ½ fills 15 minutes as it gives us some actual information about the creation of the flick. It features the standard mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from Mendoza, Raymond, actors Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Cheech Marin, associate producer Michael Paxton, unit director Ryan O’Loughlin, assistant director Pieter Lommerse, clean-up artist Nicole Zarubin, leads animator Bob Baxter, Lianne Hughes and Alexs Stadermann, CG animator DJ Nicke, production color stylist Wes Champion, and background supervisor Beverley McNamara. They go some of the basics related to the flick’s creation such as animation continuity with the first flick and the new one’s music. Occasionally tongue in cheek, it seems like a rudimentary program, but a few interesting stories appear along the way.

Finally, we get a music video for “Grazing in the Grass” by Raven. Mostly she lip-synchs and struts around the video set as we also see clips from the movie. Since all the “crewmembers” join in, this seems a little more creative than most videos of its ilk, but it’s not anything special.

The second domain covers Games and Activities. The highlight here is Timon and Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari 1.5. A sequel to a similar feature on the Lion King DVD, this lets you take a virtual theme park ride along with our favorite warthog and meerkat combo plus Timon’s Ma and Uncle Max. I didn’t expect much from this mostly computer animated piece, but it’s actually quite a lot of fun. Since it presents occasional choices to be made by the viewer, it enjoys decent replay value as well, since each trip will be a little different. As with the original feature, this one offers a very fun experience, especially in the way it parodies real Disney theme park attractions.

Who Wants to Be King of the Jungle? parodies Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and even features host Meredith Viera. Timon appears on the show, and we help him pick his answers. All the questions cover things from the first movie plus 1 ½ and the sequel Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, and the format works the same as the TV show. Most of the items come from the original flick, so many of them seem fairly easy, but the inclusion of the obscure Pride gives us much more challenge, at least for those of us who’ve not seen it in years. Some of the banter becomes repetitive at times, but this offers a generally fun and well-done piece.

Lastly, we go to Find the Face. This displays silhouettes of guests at Timon and Pumbaa’s home theater; you need to select the character represented in that image. Disney fans won’t find much challenge in this simple task. Unlike “King of the Jungle”, it also presents no reward or replay value; the questions remain the same with additional takes.

It never equals the heights of the original, but The Lion King 1 ½ nonetheless proves to offer one of Disney’s strongest direct to video pieces. The movie seems light and irreverent as it demythologizes the original in a frisky and clever way. The DVD presents excellent picture with very good audio and a minor roster of moderately fun extras. There doesn’t seem to be quite enough here in the way of supplements to warrant a two-disc set, but the package still works well. Lion King fans will want to give this fun alternate version a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3898 Stars Number of Votes: 59
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