The Lion Guard
Disney sequels rarely register with adults (Pocahontas II or The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, anyone?), but The Lion Guard animated TV series could change things. When Simba’s son, Kion, ignores the all-lion tradition and appoints a more inclusive group of animals as the new Lion Guard, the Pride Lands’ inhabitants learn a little something about tolerance and diversity. The series challenges gender and racial roles and stereotypes—subtly and head-on—while also tackling environmental issues, but the messages are nicely integrated with believable stories. The original songs in the trendy song-an-episode format are hit-and-miss, occasionally underperforming compared to the stylistic animation and cinematic scenes. However, the theme song is joyously addictive and the “Zuka Zama” catchphrase—the new “Hakuna matata”—is bearable even after the hundredth repetition. Adults will appreciate that the comic relief doesn’t grow annoying, while the stories are exciting and colorful enough for children without being dumbed down. As sequels go, it’s a roaring success.