Forget Mufasa, The Lion King peaked with this underrated sequel

Jessica Cullen
Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King

The upcoming Lion King prequel, Mufasa, might be able to make minor improvements on the 2019 remake, but it has nothing on this classic sequel.

Considering the lukewarm reception to 2019’s The Lion King “live-action” remake, it would probably surprise many to have seen the trailer for the upcoming prequel, Mufasa, drop today. However, there’s a reason for this dead-eyed, photorealistic nightmare — the remake made absolute bank.

Earning $1.66 billion at the box office, Lion King (2019) was a bona fide success for Disney. So, bringing in esteemed director Barry Jenkins to take over for this Mufasa-centric sequel seems like the right move on paper.

But really, it’s almost as much a mistake as remaking one of the most beloved animated movies of all time in the first place, for one reason: The Lion King already had a follow-up movie that can’t be beat.

Disney is not a one-and-done brand

In the late ‘90s, Disney began mining their properties like never before, revisiting some of their greatest hits to produce some pretty dumpster-fire sequels. Many of these were straight-to-video and mostly forgettable.

“Uncanny valley” is the term that comes to mind — most of these movies were pale imitations of what came before, and were downgrades by all accounts. But one remains a gem for a lot of fans, and that’s The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride.

Set in the years following the events of The Lion King, the sequel sees Simba as an adult, ruling over the Pride Lands and trying to keep his mischievous lion cub daughter, Kiara, in check. But uh-oh, much like how the animated classic was inspired by the tale of Hamlet, Simba’s Pride took a page out of Romeo and Juliet’s book, having Kiara fall in love with the outcast son of Scar, Kovu.

A jewel in the sequel crown

Make no mistake, Disney was not betting on Simba’s Pride being a hit. But it proved to be a pretty successful little sequel, selling more than 15 million VHS copies by September 2001. (Consumer spending ended up being almost the same as the original’s theatrical performance by that time.)

But enough about profit! By this point, Disney had thrown out sequels for Aladdin (twice), Beauty and the Beast, and Pocahontas. They were well-versed in this game, foreshadowing their ability to make creative mountains out of molehills and giving a symbolic warning of what was to come with their live-action remake takeover almost two decades later.

Not all of these were good (I’m looking at you, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World), but Simba’s Pride actually hit the mark for a good portion of the millennial generation. No, it’s not as beautifully made or as iconic as the original, but it far surpasses the other movies of its kind by simply being memorable.

Why is Simba’s Pride so good?

The key to Simba’s Pride’s successful legacy hinges on a few things. Namely, it’s a digestible sequel concept. Seeing Simba years into his reign and dealing with parenthood (not too distant from the original film’s themes) is believable and simple enough to work. The enemies-to-lovers aspect was also inspired and definitely formed the cultural frontal lobe for the many kids that watched it, namely girls. (Ask any woman in the aligning age range what their opinion on adult Kovu is, and you might get some weird answers.)

The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride

Following on from the masterpiece that is The Lion King is a hard task, but Simba’s Pride does offer something similar: musical bangers. Yes, The Lion King had some genuine hits, but the sequel’s counterparts do not mess around. The former might have had ‘Circle of Life,’ but the sequel had ‘He Lives In You’ (which, to be fair, was already in the stage musical. Buuut Simba’s Pride had the good sense to use it again!).

Oh, you like ‘Be Prepared’? Get ready for ‘My Lullaby’. Step back, ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’, it’s ‘Love Will Find A Way’’s time to shine. And if you’re not convinced, then you need only listen to ‘One of Us’, the accusatory number sung by soulful antelope and zebra who were working like their rent was due.

Good luck, Mufasa

Simba’s Pride succeeds as a companion film because it has what feels like style. It has a soul — which, despite its ability to make money, was the one thing the 2019 Lion King remake decidedly did not have. Unless they can put aside their reliance on visual bewilderment at how realistic everything is and focus on creating something with more substance and fun, there’s not really much hope for Mufasa.

Yes, it’ll probably make money. Yes, it’ll probably be better than its 2019 predecessor, and a prequel is actually a worthy spin on a story we already know. It’s just a shame that they didn’t do this first. If Mufasa had been the initial result of Disney’s return to one of their best movies, that might have avoided the empty and boring film we got.

But that’s not what happened. Now, we’re getting one of the most brilliant directors working right now, stepping foot into an already uninspired franchise on the rise. And, try as they might, they’re never going to outdo Simba’s Pride — the one true heir to the cinematic animal kingdom.

For more, take a look at our guide to the best new movies coming out this month, as well as all the new movies to watch on streaming.

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About The Author

Jessica Cullen is a TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's previously written for The Digital Fix, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Slate and more. Aside from being the residential Yellowstone expert, she also loves Westerns, '90s action movies, and true crime. You can email her here: