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MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

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In an effort to milk the Lion King franchise for all it’s worth, Disney presents, only on DVD, The Lion King 1 1/2. The movie’s production values and the DVD’s special features are above average for a straight-to-video release, but the story is thin. This one is only for kids and Lion King fans.

Return of the Sidekicks

Straight-to-video LK 1 1/2 highlights the sidekicks
Straight-to-video LK 1 1/2 highlights the sidekicks

This movie tells the back story of Timon and Pumbaa (voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, who provided the voices in the original movie), the wacky meerkat and warthog sidekicks from The Lion King. We find out how the two met, found their home and came up with their philosophy of Hakuna Matata (which is a good excuse to reprise the song).

At many points, the story of the sidekicks intersects with the original story. We see, for example, that when the animals bow before baby Simba, they are not showing deference, but are actually felled by Pumbaa’s flatulence. The movie also shows a key role the two play in distracting the hyenas while Simba and Scar have their final showdown.

Where its predecessor was often deadly serious, 1 1/2 aims for irreverence. In fact, the movie often freezes and the camera pulls back to reveal Timon and Pumbaa in silhouette in a movie theater, commenting on the story. The movie has some enjoyable moments, and fans will enjoy the inside jokes, but the overall story is thin. The asides by the characters in the theater are funny, but they feel like padding.

Special Features

There are two discs in this release. Disc one has deleted scenes, although most of them never made it to the animation stage. The scenes are actually concepts for the movie that were later discarded. Each is introduced by director Bradley Raymond and producer George Mendoza, who explain why these concepts were abandoned. What follows are sequences of storyboards with a rough soundtrack. This feature provides an interesting look at the creative process.

The other feature on disc one is a hidden Mickey hunt. While the movie plays, a Mickey Mouse icon pops up every few minutes. Pausing the disc at the right moment will reveal a frame with Mickey Mouse hidden within (the one I found was a constellation).

The features on disc two are geared toward kids. Timon: Behind the Legend is a tongue-in-cheek look at the wisecracking meerkat’s life, although since the whole movie is a tongue-in-cheek look at Timon’s life, this feature seems redundant. A behind-the-scenes featurette consists mainly of people who worked on the movie saying how much they enjoyed working on it. This disc also has a music video for Grazing in the Grass, the song that played over the end credits.

The games and activities on disc two are intended to keep kids occupied. Timon and Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari 1.5 is a CGI theme park ride in which viewer can choose which direction to go. Find the Face is for very young children to match a silhouette of a Disney character with their face. The best feature on this disc is Who Wants to Be King of the Jungle, a version of the popular “Millionaire” game show, with a live-action hostess and Timon as the contestant. The viewer gets to answer the questions, which are mainly associated with the Lion King movies. According to the press packet, there are 80,000 possible questions in this game.

Picture and Sound

The quality of animation isn’t as good as a typical theatrical release, but it’s better than the average straight-to-video releases. The Dolby Digital 5.1 was very good and the surround sound stood out in our home theater.