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My youngest son has recently been learning about Africa at school, and one of the things they had been doing is watching clips of the Lion King, so he was pretty excited to find we had all three lion king films in the cupboard so he could watch at home too.
Hakuna Matata is a bit different to other Disney films in its approach. Released 10 years after the original in 2004, and released straight to DVD, this film focuses mainly on the characters Timon and Pumba, allowing you to understand their relationship a bit better, and also giving a unique perspective on some of the more memorable sequences from the original film. There is something quite appealing about this film that makes it very watchable - we've seen it a number of times since my son discovered it, and I have to admit that although its a bit juvenile, it does make me chuckle and I really enjoy watching it with them.
We start with a cinema screen - Timon and Pumba are watching the Lion King on the big screen, so you can see them as shadows in front of the screen as they discuss what they can see. This technique is used at various points in the movie, alternating with normal animated sequences to give you more uniqe insight into these characters.
We start by rewinding past the start of the Lion King where Simba is being presented to the crowd at Pride Rock. We go back to see a young Timon living in a meerkat colony, always in trouble for destroying the tunnels and longing to live above the ground and not have such a meaningless life. I love this part of the film, seeing how Timon is different to the other meerkats, and there is a very memorable musical track as the meerkats work, 'Digga Tunnah Dance'. A tribal type song that really sticks in my head, and annoys the kids when I carry on singing it all day after watching it.
After Timon leaves the colony, he bumps into a very lonely Pumba. The two decide to travel together to find a new home for Timon. Rafiki the monkey has advised Timon to look for a place 'beyond what you can see' which takes them to a location close to Pride Rock which gives them a good vantage point to events going on there (even if they are a bit oblivious to the signifcance of the events) and places them nicely for meeting Simba.
Another thing I love is that during Lion King, you see Simba grow from cub to fully grown lion over the course of one song, Hakuna Matata. Here, the time they spend together during these years is expanded upon.
The aim of this film is fun. A lot of the gags are toilet humour, focussing on Pumba's gas problems. This sort of thing really engages my two boys, and it is pretty cleverly done that I am amused by it too. Fart gags are not my usual humour level, so I have been impressed by how it is done.
Its also nice to show other sides to Timon and Pumba, how they act around each other and around Timon's relatives. I enjoyed seeing Timon get chance to be a real hero when Simba was battling to regain control of pride rock from the hyenas.
I think it is going to be the sort of film you will enjoy seeing more for being a fan of the original film as you will appreciate some of the gags a bit better. It also focusses on some of the better bits of the first film, such as three of the biggest musical numbers - Can You Feel The Love Tonight, Circle of Life, and I Just Cannot Wait to Be King. It really is quite heartwarming seeing these again in a slightly different way, and I don't think I will ever watch the original in quite the same way again.
There is no reference to The Lion King 2 at all, so you could watch this without any knowledge of that sequel.
Our DVD is a two disc one featuring special bonus features. My sons enjoyed watching the Making of Hakuna Matata feature, as it gave a chance to meet the actors who voice the roles of the main characters and some of the animators. The guy who voiced Pumba is a particularly warm guy, and there is a lot of chat about him performing the fart noises by blowing a raspberry on the back of his hand, and you realise how much of it is them actually improvising then the pictures being drawn around it. I was laughing at the female artist who was interviewed was talking about how the guys were so amused by the fart jokes and she was a bit disdainful of it being a bit of a guy thing.
Other features on the bonus disc include a couple of computer games with characters from the movie.
Overall, this is not high brow entertainment. The quality of the animation is good, and the soundtrack is also quite catchy. Colours are bright and colourful and reminiscent of the Lion King, so you can't really distinguish new footage from bits from the original film. Even when animation is from a slightly different angle to that used in the original feature, you get a sense of cohesion and you don't get confused where it is from.
This is a good fun film, with something for all of the family in my opinion, and I am happy to give it 4 stars and recommend it to other people to watch with their families.