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Review: 'Life in the Pride Lands' completes the circle of life

Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 4:35 PM Central

by John Couture

The Lion King was a revelation and one of the films that helped to put Disney animation back on the map. Sure, there were other films such as Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid that also played a key part in the Disney's resurgence, but it was The Lion King that was a true cultural phenomenon.

The film's impact was felt for many years after its 1994 release and helped to spawn several direct-to-video sequels and prequels. It's the was the 1990s after all and to be honest, these films only tarnished the original film's brilliance, albeit ever so slightly.

Finally, Disney has reached a point where they have multiple TV properties that are in need of original programming, so it's not surprising that they are delving back into their vault for inspiration. While you have to be careful when treading on these classics, when you hit on a winner, you often end up with a home run.

And that's what they have in The Lion Guard.

This week's release The Lion Guard: Life in the Pride Lands is the second home entertainment release and features five episodes from the first season. My kids were big fans of the original The Lion King so, it was a natural fit for them.

Like many of Disney's other new animated properties, the strength of The Lion Guard lies in its ability to combine valuable lessons in an entertaining product. And trust me, there's a lot of children's programming that does not stand up to repeat viewing.

Many of the themes from the original film such as pride and friendship feature prominently, but they also expand the series to cover topics that many children face in today's society such as bullying. As a parent to two young children, it's refreshing that such quality programming exists to help reinforce the values that we teach them.

The reason that The Lion Guard stands above those lesser sequels is that they don't try to reinvent the wheel. The action revolves around Simba's (who is now King) second-born cub Kion who is in charge of The Lion Guard. The responsibility of The Lion Guard is to protect the Pride Lands and it's a position that once upon a time fell to Scar back in the day.

That's another great part of the The Lion Guard. While none of the original voice talent returns, many of the main characters from The Lion King return in cameos here and there. Sure, it's nice to catch up with Simba, Timon and Pumbaa, but they only add to the series and don't distract from the stars of the seris, Kion and his friends in The Lion Guard.

Heck, even the spirit of Mufasa makes the occasional appearance to pass along his wisdom.

The Lion Guard: Life in the Pride Lands is a great example of Disney taking one of their high-profile properties and creating a new series that stands on its own merits. If you have children who love the original film, then you must seek out this series and re-live all of the memories (and make some new ones) from the Pride Lands.