I’m not sure who asked for a Lion King animated series for small children but we have gotten it with Disney Jr’s The Lion Guard. I recently watched the 1 hour premiere and had mixed feelings about it. I love Lion King and had it in my Top 50 Animated Films, but am not quite as high on it as many who have it as their favorite animated film ever. I’m not sure what those fans will think of this addition, so if you are let me know!
Let’s talk about the things I liked in the premiere.
The most important stand-out is the animation. Disney has been doing an amazing job with their 2D and CG TV offerings. Whether it is Star Wars Rebels, Wonder Over Yonder, Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Gravity Falls, the TV animation is on par with the film animation. It really is and Lion Guard is no exception. While perhaps not the masterpiece quality of the original it still looks great.
I haven’t seen the sequels for some time so I can’t compare the animation in those but Lion Guard I thought looked smooth, bright, colorful with beautiful backdrops.
I also thought the mythos behind the Lion Guard and Scar losing his roar was pretty good. The group of 5 in the guard should be fun for small kids to follow on adventures protecting the Pridelands from villains.
The voice casting was solid with Rob Lowe voicing Simba and Gabrielle Union Nala. I also liked Atticus Shaffer from underrated show The Middle as the voice of Ono the egret of the Lion Guard.
The score by Christopher Willis and Beau Black is excellent even if the songs were very lame.
Here is the trailer
I am not a fan of the sarcastic, hip tone we got from lead Kion but there was admittedly some of that in the original with Simba wanting to be king and all. For some reason, I found it more grating here. Also the character of Bunga, a honey badger that reminded me of Terk from Tarzan, was very annoying. He’s supposed to be Kion’s snarky friend but most of the time it came across as forced and obnoxious.
I also didn’t like the way the females were all either insecure or arrogant divas. In a way I kind of wish that Kiara would have been the lead of the story but she is relegated to being rescued in the premiere. I particularly didn’t like Zuri who complains about her nails and getting dirty.
I also did not like the constant winks to the original. It felt very lazy to me and forced. Like they sing instead of Hakuna Matata, Zuka Zamba. Why not have a reprise or new arrangement of Hakuna Matata? I mean would Timon and Pumba have gotten a new word/philosophy to life? Plus, Timon and Pumba are still living by the no worries philosophy? Wasn’t that kind of proven wrong in the whole ‘it allowed Scar to take over and ruin the pridelands?’
Plus Hakuna Matata was not about not working. It was about not worrying. That’s not exactly the same thing. It’s about not having problems and Simba realized it was wrong and certainly wouldn’t have been teaching his son some new version of it called Zuka Zamba.
It just felt kind of like a bargain basement rip off of a highlight from the original film. There are also lots of jokes and puns about the original, which got a little old. Even Rafiki saying ‘it is time’ and then Kion singing ‘It is Time’ song made me roll my eyes! Couldn’t they have thought about something else for Rafiki to say?
I also did not care for a scene where Mufasa visits Kion with the voice of James Earl Jones. In the original film when Simba see’s his father in the vision of the clouds it is an emotionally powerful moment. Here it’s like ‘oh hi Grandpa…’
I was also disappointed to see the hyenas as the main villains. They are so stupid that I don’t think they will be tough for the Lion Guard to defeat. I understand it is a show for very small children but why not have a child of Scar be the main villain? That would be really cool. You’ve got to imagine as King he fathered cubs? Scar is possibly my favorite Disney villain so this seems like a serious downgrade.
Overall, I think it is an all right animated series that small children will probably enjoy. The animation is good quality and the voice work I liked. It’s basically Lion King fan fiction so its appeal will partly depend on how open you are too new properties in that world.
However, I felt many of the attempts to tie back into the original felt lame and generic. The attempts at potty humor, songs like Zuka Zama annoyed me. They don’t show any growth on the part of Timon and Pumba from the original film. The songs in general were mediocre.
I also didn’t care for the way the girl characters were portrayed and Bunga I found very annoying.
That said, not a bad watch and will be curious how the series works out.
If you have seen it put in the comments section and let me know what you thought- especially if you are a big Lion King fan.
Overall Grade- C+ (good animation make it just a hair above average Disney fare)