Walt Disney’s Lion King 3, Thom Tuck explains, is a straight-to-video ‘parallelquel’ alternately known as Lion King 1½. That is, it’s a non-cinematic entry into the Lion King movie franchise, the events of which, unlike those of a sequel or a prequel, take place alongside the timeline of the original. Got it? To make matters even more confusing for the film’s presumably pre-teen intended audience, there is a fourth-wall-breaking storyline in which Lion King characters watch The Lion King in a cinema and are eventually joined by Mickey Mouse, Snow White and a parade of other popular characters in a universe-crossing meltdown of all natural laws.
I listen to Thom’s review with slack-jawed incredulity. How can a production from a studio as prestigious as Disney be so staggeringly and weirdly bad? I struggle to believe it and vow to check Wikipedia for verification. But, of course, it is all too real, and so are the other fifty-three cash-in productions covered by Thom in the show. Like a comedy Joseph Smith, it is very much to his credit that he discovered this plethora of non-canonical oddness and saw fit to bring it along for analysis.
These reports from the strange world of the Disney spin-off are tremendously entertaining, especially when performed with such cartoonish charisma, but there’s an unfortunate expectation that we have intimate knowledge of the more iconic Disney films. There’s even a Little Mermaid singalong, to which I think we’re genuinely expected to know the lyrics. To be fair, the show’s marketing has attracted a number of Disney fans to the room but many of us (including a woman lambasted for not knowing what The Return of Jafar might be) are left a little alienated.
The Disney analysis is complemented by seemingly real stories from Thom’s past, each about how a girl “broke his heart”. The two narrative strands dovetail nicely without explicitly crossing over and so form a nicely opaque storytelling device. Unfortunately, his romantic gestures leave us a tad cold: we would gladly have been entertained by his neediness if he’d demonstrated more awareness of it, but it appears we’re supposed to sympathise. Through this miscalculation, these sections end up feeling a bit creepy.
An excellent one-man show, albeit compromised by the unnecessary opening of a romantic Ark of the Covenant. Instead, I could have stood to hear more about the parallelquel world of Tarzan II, which apparently takes place not just alongside the original movie but inside one of its songs: an extraordinarily clever thing to drag into the comedy arena.