Ultimate Disney Tournament: Remember the Titans vs. The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride

Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament! We’ve got a good match-up today. It’s #33 Remember the Titans versus #224 The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. I like both of these movies. In fact, I have such fond memories of both that I wasn’t sure who was going to win before re watching them. I knew that Remember the Titans was a great movie, but would my nostalgia for everything Lion King win out? Let’s jump into it and figure out together.

#33 – Remember the Titans (2000)

Director: Boaz Yakin

Writer: Gregory Allen Howard

Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Donald Faison, Craig Kirkwood, Ethan Suplee, Ryan Gosling, Burgess Jenkins, Kip Pardue, and Hayden Panettiere

Plot: A black man is hired to coach the football team of a newly integrated high school.

Mini-Review: I forgot how much I loved Remember the Titans. I watched this movie quite a bit as a kid, but I was afraid to go back to it. I was afraid that it’d be too cheesy or too simple. Like I said during my post on Angels in the Outfield, sometimes stuff from your childhood just does not hold up. That’s not the case with Remember the Titans though. It is still a very good, very important movie.

Honestly, it’s kind of impressive that Remember the Titans is as good as it is. The plot is fairly straightforward. You know exactly what’s going to happen from the moment the Disney logo comes on the screen. However, you still find yourself getting deeply connected to the story. I still fist pumped every time the Titans scored. I cheered when they stood up to adversity. I cried when the sad parts inevitably happened. It’s a tried and true formula, but it’s one that works. And, in this case, it works really, really well.

Plus, it’s nice to see Disney actually make some social commentary. Is it oversimplified and melodramatic? Of course it is! This is Disney! But, for a family film, it’s brave of them to even approach the topic. And the fact that we’re still having problems with this super simple message 20 years later (50 from the events in the movie) means that maybe, for some, the message isn’t that simple. I can see some kid born into a backwards thinking family stumbling upon this movie and learning a thing or two. And, if no one is there to teach them that people are people, I guess a movie is the next best thing. 

My favorite part of Remember the Titans and what makes it stand out is the chemistry the team shares. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the concept of teamwork portrayed as well as it is here. While they start off kind of distant, they eventually come together and want whatever’s best for the team. And, there are a ton of fleshed out characters, each with their own moments to shine from the coach to the second string quarterback. It’s no wonder this is known as one of the best football movies. 

Overall, I loved Remember the Titans. It can be formulaic and oversimplified at times, but the talented cast and important message outshines any potential problems.

#224 – The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998)

Directors: Darrell Rooney and Rob LaDuca

Writers: Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Neve Campbell, Andy Dick, Robert Guillaume, James Earl Jones, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, and Ernie Sabella

Plot: Simba’s daughter, Kiara, falls in love with a member of a disgraced pride of Scar loyalists.

Mini-Review: “The Disney sequels are trash.” That’s all I’ve heard my entire life. And, to be honest, most of them are. But, I’ve always argued that a few of them are worthwhile. They’re not instant classics or anything, but they’re good for a viewing. They give you more insight into the world and let you spend more time with the characters that you love. To me, that’s exactly what The Lion King II is. It’s not high cinema. It’s definitely a step down from the original. But, I still found myself enjoying it. 

Let’s start off with the inevitable comparisons to the original. Of course, it’s not nearly as good. The animation is definitely not on par. The characters look slightly off. The fire and water effects look a little wonky. Just nothing looks as natural as it did in The Lion King or even really any Disney hand-drawn movie for that time period. You can definitely feel the budget cuts. But, unfortunately, the animation isn’t the only part that’s suffered. The music is a definite step down. There’s nothing super iconic here, while the original was packed with hit after hit. And, the plot just doesn’t seem as important. The first felt like a gripping tale of legacy, destiny, and finding your purpose. This just doesn’t have that depth. But, I would argue that there’s no way it could live up to those expectations. The Lion King is one of the best animated movies of all time. There were crazy talented animators with huge budgets and big-name talents working on that movie. Of course a direct-to-video movie isn’t going to compare. And, it’s probably more than unfair to set the bar that high.

On its own merits, The Lion King II is pretty decent. While the plot doesn’t match the importance of Simba’s journey, it still feels like a next logical step. Like, of course, you’d follow up a Hamlet interpretation with a Romeo and Juliet one. It’s still an entertaining plot too. It’s not like I was bored. Also, unlike other Disney sequels, most of the voice cast returned so we’ve still got a lot of super talented actors involved. None of the characters act out of character either (except maybe Simba at certain points). And, the new characters that are introduced are likable enough. Plus, it’s just good to be back in the world of The Lion King. It’s one of my favorite movies ever made, so I’ll eat up almost anything set in the Pride Lands. 

Overall, I enjoyed The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. I loved it as a kid, but as an adult it’s hard to ignore its flaws. It’s not nearly as groundbreaking or artful as it’s predecessor but that’s a hard bar to clear. It’s still an entertaining enough movie. I’d definitely recommend it if you enjoy the original as much as I do. It’s one of the better Disney sequels.

The Disney Smackdown

This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.

Our Heroes: Our hero in Remember the Titans is Coach Herman Boone. He is put into an extremely difficult situation. He has to coach the football team for a school that just integrated. Of course, that comes with a lot of racial tensions. On top of that, the town plans to fire him if he loses a single game. So, he gets to be Martin Luther King and Bill Belichick all rolled up into one. But, he handles the pressure remarkably well. He makes students of different races interact and get to know each other. He gives starting positions based on talent, not race. He ignores all of the hate he gets, deciding to instead focus on the game. And, he gives some of the most powerful speeches I’ve seen on film. Not to mention the fact that he’s played perfectly by one of the greatest living actors, Denzel Washington. He truly is a great character and one of the better coaches I’ve seen. 

As The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is a romance, we’ve got two lead characters. There’s Kiara. She’s Simba’s daughter, who he is very protective of. She’s constantly trying to gain independence from her dad. She doesn’t want to just be a princess. She’d like to have the ability to hunt and roam around like the other lions. That rebellious streak leads her to Kovu. He is the youngest member of a pride of lions that remained loyal to Scar, but doesn’t really understand the history between the two prides. (He’s definitely not Scar’s son though. They pound that into your head. Forget that his siblings are all Scar’s kids, he was originally written to be, and he looks just freaking like him. There is absolutely no cousin loving going on here! None. Leave it alone.) Eventually, his mother sends him into Pride Rock in an attempt to assassinate Simba. Instead, he falls in love with Kiara and his family and learns of Scar’s evil past. With Kiara, the two try to show the prides that they should forget their past, reunite, and live as one. I like these two characters. Kovu, especially, has a really interesting arc. I would watch a third Lion King featuring them.

I’ve got to give this win to Remember the Titans. Coach Boone is just such a noble and honest man. It’s hard not to look up to him.

Our Beloved Side Characters: Like I said before, almost everyone featured in Remember the Titans is great. There’s the assistant coach Bill Yoast. He’s extremely loyal. Towards the beginning of the movie, we see him threaten to quit after he is demoted to assistant coach. He backs down though, when he learns that his young players would also step away if he did. Throughout the movie, we see him really embrace his new position as he grows closer to Coach Boone. By the end, we see him willing to sacrifice his career and reputation for his friend and the rest of the team. He’s just another all around good guy. He’s also got a daughter, Sheryl Yoast, who is absolutely obsessed with football. I remember she was my favorite character as a kid. Her interactions with Boone’s more traditionally girly daughter are really funny. My favorite character pairing now though is that of Julius Campbell and Gerry Bertier. They are both the star players on their former teams. When integrated, they, of course, clash heads. However, they eventually call each other out, readjust, and go on to become best friends. This is at the expense of many of Gerry’s family and friends. Their actions towards each other in the third act, after the accident, are especially touching. I really like these characters and their relationship is the heart of this movie. There’s Louie Lastik who is your typical big, lovable goofball. He’s the first one to accept all of his teammates, legitimately not seeming to care what race they are. Then, we’ve got Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass, who might be gay (the movie never definitely says) which would be huge for a Disney movie in 2000. Actually, it’s almost even more progressive than that. When asked, he just says “why does it matter?” That’s huge! That’s a really important step for 1971 (or 2000, or 2020)! Why don’t we talk about this, like, ever? Sunshine was ahead of the curve! And, while it may be unfair because they’re played by two of my favorite actors, I could not keep my eyes off of Petey Jones (Donald Faison) and Alan Bosley (Ryan Gosling). Neither was all that important to the plot, but I could always rely on them for a laugh.

A lot of the heroic side characters from The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride are leftovers from the original. Probably the most disappointing of these comes in the form of Simba himself. He’s, like, really hateful towards Kovu here. And, sure, I kind of get it. That pride still worships the man who killed his father and almost succeeded in killing him too. That’s no good. But, Kovu had nothing to do with that. He was either a baby or not even born at that time. Come on, Simba! Out of everyone, you should understand what it’s like to be banished for something you didn’t do. Did you forget everything that happened in the first movie? Sure, it’s nice to see Simba again and his stuff with Kiara is really cute, but it’s disappointing to see him like this. And it’s weird that Disney took him in that direction. Other than that, everyone else is pretty much the same. Rafiki is still weird and all up in everyone’s business. Timon and Pumbaa aren’t in this movie nearly enough. They take over the role Zazu previously had, as, more or less, glorified babysitters. I’m glad they had their own tv show and eventually a movie to shine in, because (spoilers) Timon is my favorite Disney character and is underutilized here. And, Nala and Zazu are pushed so far to the side that I don’t even remember if they said anything in this one or not.

As much as I think each of the characters from The Lion King are iconic, they aren’t super well represented in The Lion King II. I’ve got to give this one to the terrific team of players in Remember the Titans.

Villainous Villains: The real villain in Remember the Titans is racism. Wait. Never mind. Let’s not get poetic. It’s true though. There aren’t really that many named bad characters here. The only real one is Ray Budds. He used to be best friends with Gerry. Unfortunately, as Gerry grew as a person, Ray was left behind. He never moves on from being bitter and racist. He’s eventually kicked off of the team for not blocking for the black quarterback. Plus, he’s got one of those punchable white supremacist faces. (Sorry to the actor. I’m sure you’re very nice.) The only other named character we see constantly be a piece of shit is Emma Hoyt, Gerry’s girlfriend. However, after the injury, we see her grow and eventually become accepting of Julius. It just takes a little longer than the others, which makes her look bad. Other than that and the nameless townspeople, everyone else grows out of their hateful ways. So, yeah, maybe it’s not poetic. Maybe racism is just the bad guy…

The villains of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride are pretty cool. We’ve got Zira. She’s the leader of the pride that worships Scar. She is driven by hate and a need for revenge against Simba. She’s got a wicked cool voice, a scary design, and even a traditional villain song. The only problem is that she definitely feels like a sequel villain. Like, she has no motivation of her own other than revenge. And, we don’t really emphasize with her in any way because we don’t know how real her connection to Scar is. I think showing her be a little vulnerable and heartbroken would’ve really helped. Speaking of which, there’s Nuka. He might be my favorite of the new characters, honestly. He’s the eldest son of Zira and (according to the writer of the movie) Scar. As such, he is extremely jealous of all the attention Kovu is getting. He just wants his mother’s affection, even though it’s obvious he’s not fit for a leadership role. This leads to the most heartbreaking scene in the movie as he fails at chasing down Simba. It’s one of the more underrated sad moments in Disney. Then, there’s Vitani, who is super loyal to her mother but is also one of the first to be convinced to come to Kovu’s side. She’s not super important but I would feel weird leaving her off because she is a fun, evil character. Overall, I’d definitely say that the villains in The Lion King II are kind of underrated. They’re not the best Disney has got, but they get the job done. 

This one is close, but I’ve got to give the win to The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. While their motivations aren’t as clear, I think their overall vibe is more iconic. I’m going to remember Zira and Nuka for years. I’ll just remember that the villains from Remember the Titans are racists, not their specific faces.

Quotable Quotes: From Remember the Titans: “You’ve taught this city how to trust the soul of a man rather than the look of him.” “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” “Sometimes life is hard for no reason at all.” 

From The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride: “Them? Us? Look at them. They are us. What differences do you see?” “Oh, Mufasa. You’ve been up there too long. Your head is in the clouds.” “Someone once told me we are one. I didn’t understand it then but I do now.”

These are actually super similar when you break it down to just the quotes, huh? I think those from Remember the Titans are a bit deeper though.

Songs to Add to Your Playlist: While Remember the Titans isn’t a musical, music still plays a massive part in it. The score is really, really good. And, it has a 1970s Rock soundtrack that’s right up there with Guardians of the Galaxy. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” especially, gets a moment to really shine here. 

While not as good as the ones from the original, the songs for The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride are still super catchy. There’s “He Lives In You,” which some might recognize from the musical production of the original. I don’t know if we should count that, but it’s still really freaking good and this movie’s “Circle of Life.” Then, there’s “We Are One” which pretty much sums up the whole moral of the movie. “Upendi” is probably my favorite song. It’s like a combination of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Hakuna Matata.” I really like it and it’s been stuck in my head for days now. Plus, Rafiki gets to sing a song which is really cool. There’s also a song called “One of Us” that is such a good shaming song that it made me feel uncomfortable while watching. I’m not sure if that’s because the song made me feel shame or the fact that all of the other non-lion characters sang too though. Definitely effective. And, finally, we’ve got “My Lullaby” which many rank up there as one of the best Disney villain songs. I like it but I wouldn’t go that far. To each their own though. While none of these songs are iconic, they’re still all pretty good. I kept thinking that they’ve got the same style as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog in that half-singing half-talking style. It’s insane that I thought that because, as it turns out, Joss Whedon helped write the music for this movie. Weird right? That should give you an overall feel for the music if you’ve seen Dr. Horrible. But, yeah, overall, The Lion King II has some pretty decent music.

I’ve got to say that Remember the Titans has the better songs, but I’m going to give this one to The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride since they’re originals. I could’ve easily swayed the opposite direction though.

Most Magical Disney Moment: In Remember the Titans, after an especially hard training camp and before their toughest opponent of the season, the Titans come out onto the field with a musical warmup. They sing and dance together, not as different races, but as Titans, a team united despite their differences. Plus, it’s just really catchy and super entertaining. It’s the moment that made me realize just how much I enjoyed this team and this movie.

I think for The Lion King II I’m going to go with the “Upendi” sequence. It’s where we see Kiara and Kovu fall in love. We get to see more of Rafiki. And, it’s one of the rare moments that actually feels like it matches the artistry of the original. We get the same vibrant colors and beautiful African imagery we saw in some of the more iconic original musical numbers. Can you still feel the budget cuts? Sure. But, it’s still a vibrant, beautiful number that proves there was effort put into this movie. Plus, that song is just really good. 

It’s Remember the Titans. That moment is iconic for a reason.

Legacies: The legacy for Remember the Titans is fairly strong. It has a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and a strong 7.8 on IMDB. It did well at the box office, but wasn’t one of the biggest hits of 2000. The score is widely used through many sporting events and political rallies. As a drama, it’s unfair to judge Remember the Titans on its lack of sequels or amusement park attractions like I would with other Disney flicks. However, it is very well known for being one of the better Disney sports movies and, to some, one of the best football movies ever made. 

For a direct-to-video release, the legacy of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is actually pretty good. It has a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes and a comparable 6.5 on IMDB. It broke the record for the best selling direct-to-video release, making $300 million for Disney. It was followed by another Lion King inbetweenquel and a second tv series. The show takes place during Kiara’s childhood and follows Simba’s second child. All of the characters from this movie make appearances. There are many attractions based on The Lion King franchise, but, as far as I know, none reference anything from this. But, overall, the main lasting legacy of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is that it’s actually been accepted by a significant portion of the fanbase. Most of the direct-to-video sequels of that era did not fare so well.

This one is super tough. Do I go with prestige or the movie that’s characters live on in Disney lore? It’s a weird comparison to make. Uh… I guess I’ll go with Remember the Titans. I feel like it’s more fondly remembered.

AND THE WINNER IS…

REMEMBER THE TITANS!

I couldn’t in good faith have this turn out any other way. Remember the Titans is an absolute classic with a really important message and fantastic performances. The Lion King II, while not bad, just doesn’t compare.

Congratulations Coach Boone, Coach Yoast, and the Titans! You move on to fight another day.

Be sure to check in next time for two Disney movies that are new to me. It’s the 1993 version of The Three Musketeers versus the original Shaggy Dog. I’m excited to see both of them. Which one will win? Only time will tell.

See you then!

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