Vault Disney

The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar

Original Release:  November 22, 2015

Written By:  Ford Riley

Directed By:  Howy Parkins

Hello all.  A couple weeks back we talked a bit here about the excellence of The Lion King and how amazing the whole thing was.  Yet here we are, 20 years later, thinking, man, what I wouldn’t do for some pride lands adventuring right about now.  Disney has heard your wish and answered with The Lion Guard.  The show actually premiered with an hour long TV movie back in November but episodes officially start on January 15, so it seems a good time to talk about the show.  I had seen the news of it being put together but had completely forgotten about it until I noticed the soundtrack on itunes.  This prompted us to download the first episode and give it a watch.

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Stupid Mufasa up in the clouds laughing at all my problems.

The show, which has been described as The Lion King meets The Avengers, centers around young lion Kion, who just so happens to be Simba’s son.  One day while out fooling around with his friend Bunga, a honey badger, they run into some hyenas who are still up to no good.  In an attempt to save Bunga from being eaten alive, Kion roars and suddenly the clouds roar with him.  Rafiki and Simba pull him aside later to inform him that he has inherited the ability to lead the Lion Guard, a group of lions who protect the pride lands and the circle of life by using a mystical roar which is given by the ancestors in the clouds.  Turns out Scar was the last to have this power, but he used it for evil and the Lion Guard was destroyed.  Yikes.

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Kion! Cloud roar attack!!

Aside from Mufasa and Rafiki, Nala, we also see Timon and Pumbaa as well as The Lion King 2’s Kiara in some capacity, but the meat of the story here is really about Kion getting some friends together to form the Lion Guard itself and then proving to his father that these friends don’t have to be lions just to be strong and brave.  The members include Bunga, who is labeled the bravest, Fuli, a cheetah who is the fastest, Beshte, a hippo who is the strongest and Ono who has the keenest of sight.  That’s right, his ‘power’ is that he can see things better.  Oh boy.  You can start to see that Avengers part though, right?  It’s like a kid’s super hero team…except with animals.

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Come on guys. It’s time to fight Ultron.

I won’t ruin the whole story but I will say that aside from some tiny missteps, it plays rather well.  The call backs to The Lion King don’t feel too rehashed and the songs that come into play are quite fun and catchy and have a range from upbeat to ballad.  In fact, anyone who likes Disney Channel musicals will probably want to check this one out.  In particular is a song called Zuka Zama, which is a bit like Hakunnah Matata.  It’s quite fun and I’ve included it below so you can get a good idea of what the show looks and sounds like.

If you can’t tell from that, the animation is also quite top notch.  I proclaimed several times while watching that everything looked really beautiful.  Especially when we actually get to see this powerful ancestor driven roar and the clouds becoming lion heads.  It’s a cool visual and there are plenty like it.  From manipulating the colors for one song with the hyenas to seeing a whole herd of antelope stampede, everything has a great production quality.

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The look of the hyenas was rounded out and changed based on a test group of kids who watched the show and their response to the hyenas.

Any complaints I have might come down to writing.  The whole thing is definitely meant for a younger audience.  This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but just know what you’re getting into.  This is meant for Disney Junior, not Disney XD.  Two individual scenes are worth call-outs.  In one scene, Kiara’s friend gets her claws stuck in a tree branch and loudly whines that she is going to break a nail.  It’s cliche and immediately made me worried for the girl characters on the show, though I will say that I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t all act like that.

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Luckily Timon and Pumbaa are expert finger nail plucking…animals…

Also, I really hope to see more to do with Ono, the bird, as his keen sight ability just seems silly, especially since there’s this weird animation of his eyes shining over as if he is ‘activating’ his power.  He’s a bird, flying high above everything.  He shouldn’t need to activate being able to see.

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That would be like Bunga having to activate being overly excited about everything. Just silly.

I think kids are going to love this show.  It’s got great characters, humor and lots of great songs and colors.  It’s got a great pace and I definitely never felt bored.  I can’t wait to see what sorts of trouble theses kiddos get into and I also can’t wait to see what other villains come into play or how the mythology of The Lion Guard evolves.

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The Lion Guard is primarily only one lion.

So what did you guys think?  Did you check this show out?  Will you?  Let me know in the comments down below.

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NOTE:  Obviously all the photos are courtesy of Disney Entertainment and I would never in a million years claim them as my own.  That being said, all are actually taken with my phone during our viewing in order to capture the moment in a slightly different way than originally intended.

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5 replies »

  1. I am just downright angry that this (and the attendant TV series) was made. If Disney felt they absolutely NEEDED to make a new LION KING film, then what they should have done is create a story about what happened after the events of the direct-to-video sequel THE LION KING 2: SIMBA’S PRIDE, in which Kiara (Simba and Nala’s daughter and heir) and Kovu (Scar’s paw-picked successor) reunited their two prides. This new film should have focused on Kiara and Kovu learning the ropes in running the Pride Lands, and maybe even having a cub or two of their own.

    Another issue that I have with this film is their decision to recast the voices of many of the characters, notably Simba, Nala, and Rafiki. Rob Lowe, Gabrielle Union and Khary Payton sound absolutely NOTHING like the characters! Instead of them, they should have called back Matthew Broderick, Moira Kelly and Robert Guillaume. (Also, even though Kevin Schon sounds enough like Timon to make the cut, he’s not as funny as Nathan Lane- not by a LONG shot!)

    • Well obviously from my article you will know that I disagree as I liked it quite a bit. That’s not to say you’re wrong. I agree with a lot of your points. I just think to the demographic the show is made, these annoyances we might find simply don’t matter. My nephew can watch frozen five times in a row and laugh at the same parts every time. My point is, they don’t need a new tale that expands the mythos further into the future. They want fun characters with funny bits and hopefully a good lesson in the end. At the very least I’m excited to see where it goes and knowing that it has tested very well with its target audience is a good sign.

    • Sorry I took so long to respond by the way. With comments that make a lot of points, I like to think on it, digest it so that I can give the response I want to, rather than my first reaction. As always, thank you 🙂

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