Produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Australia and released on October 27, 1998, the film centers on Simba and Nala's daughter Kiara, who falls in love with Kovu, a male rogue lion from a banished pride that was once loyal to Simba's evil uncle, Scar. Separated by Simba's prejudice against the banished pride and a vindictive plot planned by Kovu's mother Zira, Kiara and Kovu struggle to unite their estranged prides and be together.
Most of the original cast returned to their roles from the first film, apart from Rowan Atkinson, who was replaced by Edward Hibbert as the voice of Zazu for this film and its prequel/sequel, The Lion King 1½ and Jeremy Irons, who was briefly replaced by Jim Cummings as the voice of Scar.
In the Pride Lands of Africa, King Simba and Queen Nala's newborn daughter, Kiara, is presented to the assembled animals by Rafiki, a mandrill who serves as shaman and advisor. Simba's father Mufasa proudly watches over the ceremony from the Heavens above. Kiara becomes annoyed with her father's overprotective parenting. Simba assigns Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and warthog, to follow her. Kiara ignores her father's warning and the duo's attention and enters the "Outlands," where she meets Kovu, a cub who was chosen by Simba's Uncle Scar to be his heir and they escape from crocodiles. When Kovu retaliates to Kiara's playing, Simba confronts the young cub just as Kovu's mother Zira confronts him. Zira reminds Simba of how he exiled her and the other Outsiders, and she reveals that Scar selected Kovu to be his successor.
After returning to the Pride Lands, Nala and the rest of the pride head back to Pride Rock while Simba lectures Kiara about the danger posed by the Outsiders. He then tells her that they are a part of each other. In the Outlands, Zira reminds Kovu that Simba killed Scar and exiled the lions who respect him. Kovu explains that he does not think it is so bad to have Kiara as his good friend, but Zira realizes she can use Kovu's friendship with Kiara to seek revenge on Simba.
Several years later, Kiara, now a young adult, begins her first solo hunt. Simba has Timon and Pumbaa follow her in secret, causing her to hunt away from the Pride Lands. As part of Zira's plan, Kovu's siblings Nuka and Vitani trap Kiara in a fire, allowing Kovu to rescue her. Unable to thank the young rogue, Simba is forced to accept Kovu's place since he rescued Kiara. Later that night, Simba has a nightmare about attempting to save Mufasa from falling into the wildebeest stampede but is stopped by Scar who then morphs into Kovu and sends Simba to his death.
The next day, Kovu contemplates attacking Simba as he was instructed to, but he teaches Kiara how to hunt instead and eventually realizes his feelings for her. Later, Kiara and Kovu stargaze where they talk about the Great Kings of the Past and Kovu wonders if there is a darkness in him like there was in Scar. Simba watches the two from afar and Nala convinces him to give Kovu a chance. Kovu attempts to reveal his mission to Kiara, but Rafiki interrupts and leads them to the jungle, where he introduces them to "upendi" (an erroneous form of upendo, which means "love" in Swahili). The two lions fall in love. That night, Simba allows Kovu to sleep inside Pride Rock with the rest of the pride, but Vitani tells Zira about Kovu's failure to kill Simba. Zira sets a trap for her son and Simba.
The next day, Kovu wants to reveal his mission to Kiara, but Simba takes him around the Pride Lands and tells him the real story of Scar. The Outsiders attack Simba and Kovu attempts to intervene, but Vitani injures him. Nuka attempts to kill Simba, but Simba escapes and Nuka is killed. Zira scratches Kovu for his brother's death, causing him to turn on her. Kovu returns to Pride Rock to plead Simba for his forgiveness but is exiled. Kiara makes Simba realize that he is acting irrationally, and flees to find Kovu. The two lions later find each other and profess their love. Realizing that they must reunite the Outsiders and Pridelanders, Kiara and Kovu return to the Pride Lands, where they convince them to stop fighting. Kiara shoves Zira over a cliff to rescue Simba, but despite Kiara's offer to be rescued, Zira falls to her death.
With his enemy gone, Simba accepts the Outsiders back into the Pride Lands and appoints Kovu and Kiara as his successors.Matthew Broderick as Simba, son of Mufasa and Sarabi, King of the Pride Lands and Kiara's father. Cam Clarke provided his singing voice. Ian Harrowell served as the supervising animator for Simba.
Neve Campbell as Kiara, daughter of Simba and Nala. Liz Callaway provided adult Kiara's singing voice. Lianne Hughes served as the supervising animator for Kiara.
Michelle Horn voiced young Kiara, while Charity Sanoy provided her singing voice and Ashley Edner provided her lion growls.
Jason Marsden as Kovu, Zira's son and Nuka and Vitani's younger brother. Gene Miller provided Kovu's singing voice. Andrew Collins served as the supervising animator for Kovu.
Ryan O'Donohue provided the voice of young Kovu.
Suzanne Pleshette as Zira, the leader of the Outsiders, Scar's most loyal follower and the mother of Nuka, Vitani, and Kovu. Kevin Peaty served as the supervising animator for Zira.
Moira Kelly as Nala, Queen of the Pride Lands, Simba's mate and Kiara's mother. Ian Harrowell served as the supervising animator for Nala.
Andy Dick as Nuka, Zira's son, Vitani and Kovu's older brother and the oldest male of Zira's family. Ian Harrowell served as the supervising animator for Nuka.
Nathan Lane as Timon, a wise-cracking and self-absorbed yet somewhat loyal meerkat who is Pumbaa and Simba's best friend. Bob Baxter served as the supervising animator for Timon.
Ernie Sabella as Pumbaa, a naïve warthog who suffers from flatulence and is Timon's and Simba's best friend. Bob Baxter served as the supervising animator for Pumbaa.
Robert Guillaume as Rafiki, the mandrill shaman of The Pride Lands. Bob Baxter served as the supervising animator for Rafiki.
Jennifer Lien as Vitani, Zira's daughter and Nuka and Kovu's sister. Kevin Peaty served as the supervising animator for Vitani.
Lacey Chabert voiced young Vitani while Crysta Macalush provided her singing voice.
Edward Hibbert as Zazu, a hornbill who serves as the king's majordomo. Bob Baxter served as the supervising animator for Zazu.
James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Simba's father and the previous King of the Pride Lands.
Jim Cummings as Scar, Mufasa's younger brother, Simba's uncle and Kiara's great-uncle, who appears in a brief cameo.
Discussion began about the possibility of a sequel to The Lion King before the first film even hit theaters. In January 1995, it was reported that a Lion King sequel was to be released "in the next twelve months". However, it was delayed, and then it was reported in May 1996 that it would be released in "early next year" of 1997. By 1996, producer Jeannine Roussel and director Darrell Rooney signed on board to produce and direct the sequel. In August 1996, Cheech Marin reported that he would reprise his role as Banzai the Hyena from the first film, but the character was ultimately cut from the sequel. In December 1996, Matthew Broderick was confirmed to be returning as Simba while his wife, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Jennifer Aniston were in talks to voice Aisha, Simba's daughter. Andy Dick was also confirmed to have signed on to voice Nunka, the son of Scar, who attempts to romance Aisha. Ultimately, the character was renamed Kiara, and voiced by Neve Campbell. Nunka was renamed Kovu, and voiced by Jason Marsden. Then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner urged for Kovu's relationship to Scar to be changed during production as being Scar's son would make him Kiara's first cousin once-removed. According to Rooney, the final draft gradually became a variation of Romeo and Juliet. "It's the biggest love story we have," he explained. "The difference is that you understand the position of the parents in this film in a way you never did in the Shakespeare play." Because none of the original animators were involved in the production, the majority of the animation was done by Walt Disney Television Animation's studio in Sydney, Australia. However, all storyboarding and pre-production work was done at the Feature Animation studio in Burbank, California. By March 1998, Disney confirmed the sequel would be released on October 27, 1998.
Coincided with its direct-to-video release, Simba's Pride was accompanied with a promotional campaign which included tie-ins with McDonald's, Mattel, and Lever 2000. Unlike the North American release, Simba's Pride was theatrically released in European and Latin American countries in spring 1999.
The film was first released on VHS in the United States on October 27, 1998 and on DVD as a limited issue on November 23, 1999. The DVD release featured the film in a letterboxed 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the trailer for the movie, and a music video of "Love Will Find A Way" performed by Heather Headley and Kenny Lattimore. In 1998, Disney believed that The Lion King II: Simba's Pride would be so popular that it shipped 13 million copies to stores for the October 27 release date. In March 2001, it was reported that in its first three days, 3.5 million VHS copies were sold, and ultimately about thirteen million copies were sold. In September 2001, it was reported that Simba's Pride had sold more than 15 million copies. Overall, consumer spending on The Lion King II: Simba's Pride accumulated about $300 million — roughly the same figure of its predecessor's theatrical release at that time, and continues to be one of the top-selling direct-to-video releases of all time, with $464.5 million worldwide in sales and rentals.
On August 31, 2004, the film was re-released on VHS and a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. The DVD edition featured optional pop-up informational commentary, interactive games (the "Virtual Safari") featuring Timon, Pumbaa and Rafiki, five humorous "Find Out Why" shorts, an animated short based on Lebo M's "One By One", and a "Proud of Simba's Pride" featurette. The Special Edition version featured changes made to the film such as Kovu in the water being inexplicably re-animated as well as other alterations. A DVD boxed set of the three The Lion King films (in two-disc Special Edition formats) was released on December 6, 2004. In January 2005, the film, along with the sequels, went back into moratorium.
On October 4, 2011, Simba's Pride was included in an eight-disc box set trilogy set with the other two films. The Blu-ray edition for the film was released as a separate version on March 6, 2012. The Blu-ray edition has three different versions, a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, a 1-disc edition, and a digital download. The Blu-ray edition has also been attached with a new Timon & Pumbaa short, in which the two friends gaze at the night sky as the star constellations resemble their favorite meal, insects.
Critical response aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 33% based on six reviews with an average score of 5.6/10.
Siskel & Ebert gave the film a "two-thumbs up" and said it was a "satisfactory sequel to one of the most popular films of all time, The Lion King". However, they also said it was best that it went to video, citing that the music was lacking and not remotely equal to the original's soundtrack. TV Guide gave the film 2½ stars out of four, claiming that, despite being of slightly higher quality than Disney's previous direct-to-video animated sequels, "comes nowhere near the level of its big-screen predecessor", either musically or artistically. The review later went on to say that "Though most of the original characters and their voices are back, they all sound bored, apart from the zesty addition of Suzanne Pleshette as the scheming Zira. The overall result is OK for kids, who will enjoy the low humor provided by the comical meerkat Timon and the flatulent warthog Pumbaa, but it could have been so much better."
Writing for Variety, Joe Leydon commented in his review "In marked contrast to most of the studio's small screen sequels to bigscreen animated hits, the new pic isn't merely kids' stuff. Not unlike its predecessor, Lion King II has enough across-the-board appeal to entertain viewers of all ages." Caryn James of The New York Times concluded her review with "It's the rare sequel that matches the creative flair of an original, of course. The Lion King II may be derivative, but it is also winning on its own."
Entertainment Weekly critic Stephen Witty, who graded the sequel a C+, wrote, "Despite its drawbacks, The Lion King II could make a decent rental for undemanding under-7 fans of the original, who won't be overburdened by the psychodrama. For true believers who've already watched and rewound their copies to shreds, it might even make a good buy. And for them, hey, hakuna matata. But for the rest of us, caveat emptor might be a better motto." James Plath of Movie Metropolis gave the film 6/10, saying that, "Simply put, we've seen it all before." Felix Vasquez Jr. of Cinema Crazed derided, "the sequel is as predictable a sequel as can be. It takes from The Fox and the Hound with shades of Romeo and Juliet and side steps the interesting Simba in favor of his bland daughter Kiara, and Timon and Pumba [sic]."
The songwriters were Marty Panzer, Tom Snow, Kevin Quinn, Randy Petersen, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Lebo M, Jack Feldman, Scott Warrender, and Joss Whedon."He Lives in You" – Sung by Lebo M and his African choir. This song represents Kiara's birth and is the equivalent of "Circle of Life". The song is a reference to when Rafiki told Simba in the first film that Mufasa "lives" in him. Also appears in the Broadway version of the first film. The end title is performed by Tina Turner.
"We Are One" – Sung by Cam Clarke and Charity Sanoy. Following Kiara's encounter with Kovu and Zira in which she endangers herself, Simba explains how important she is to the pride and that the pride is one.
"My Lullaby" – Sung by Suzanne Pleshette, Andy Dick, and Crysta Macalush. Zira's lullaby to Kovu, which outlines her plot for him to kill Simba and how proud it would make her.
"Upendi" – Sung by Robert Guillaume, Liz Callaway, Gene Miller, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Rafiki's song to Kiara and Kovu about love, friendship, and happiness. Sung by Rafiki and his animal friends.
"One of Us" – Sung following Kovu being exiled by Simba after he accuses Kovu of betraying him. This was the first time the animals other than lions outside of the main characters (excluding The Lion King 1½) have been seen talking.
"Love Will Find a Way" – Sung by Liz Callaway and Gene Miller. A romantic love song that includes of Kiara and Kovu's first encounter following Kovu's banishment. The pair concludes that their mutual feelings for each other are too strong and true for their differences to keep them apart. The end title version is performed by R&B artists Kenny Lattimore and Heather Headley (which appeared in the Special Edition version and the Blu-ray edition).
An audio CD entitled Return to Pride Rock: Songs Inspired by Disney's The Lion King II: Simba's Pride was released on September 8, 1998. Although not promoted as a soundtrack to the film, it contained all the songs from the film and some additional songs inspired by it by Lebo M.
In January 2016, a television series titled The Lion Guard began airing on Disney Junior, following a television pilot film The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar in November 2015. The series takes place during the years in-between Kiara's first meeting with Kovu as a cub and her first hunt as a young adult. It focuses on Kiara's younger brother Kion who as second-born, becomes leader of The Lion Guard, a group who protect the Pride Lands and defend the Circle of Life.
Kovu, Nuka, Vitani and Zira appeared in the season one episode "Lions of the Outlands".