Now that I've watched about 8 episodes of The Lion Guard, I see that it has more flaws that I thought. The humor hasn't gotten any better, and most of the characters remain underdeveloped. Kiara, in the episode “Can't Wait To Be Queen,” is more bratty and conceited than she was in Simba's Pride. Also, I wanted to like Bunga simply because he's a honey badger, but he gets a little grating after awhile – mostly because of his annoying catch phrases. It seems like the writers were trying to make him into the next-gen Timon – small and overconfident with a “Hakuna Matata” type of motto – but the problem is that Timon is funny and Bunga isn't (although this show's writers don't seem to know how to write Timon humorously either). If I were to reinvent Bunga, I'd make him a deadpan snarker. For example, he would question why they shouldn't let the leopard eat the okapi – after all, it's just part of the Circle of Life.
When it comes to the premise and execution, the biggest misstep is Kion's “Roar.” The Roar is a convenient magical ability that can do anything from scaring animals, tearing the leaves off the trees, knocking down walls, to even changing the direction of a flood! This power is never explained. I was hoping that the pilot episode shed some light on it, but unfortunately I couldn't find it on Youtube (in case you're wondering, I'm not even bothering with Dailymotion because it always freezes on me). So if you're a newcomer jumping into the middle of the season, it comes across like a deus ex machina and just plain lazy writing. And on a side rant, I hate when people excuse poor writing by saying, “It's just a kids' show.” I basically agree with the Nostalgia Critic that this attitude implies that kids don't deserve quality entertainment with actual effort put into it simply because they don't know any better. But My Little Pony proves that it is possible write age-appropriate stories that are often smart and respect their audience.
Another thing that bothers me about the Roar is that it doesn't fit the movies. Yes, they had mysticism, but they were limited to visions and voices. This show treats it like a super power, like it wasn't enough for Kion to have sharp retractable claws and excellent night vision (another thing I noticed is that none of the episodes have any night/twilight scenes even though that's when lions are most active).
For a show that's supposed to teach kids about animals, this show drops the ball sometimes. Beshti and his pod perpetuate the myth that hippopotami are docile, gentle giants. Hippos are actually very territorial and temperamental. They have large lower tusks that are exposed when their mouths are open (which weren't incorporated into Beshti's character design, I noticed). Their only predator is humankind, and hippos kill an average of 2900 humans in Africa each year.
Also, the vultures are allied with the hyenas because . . . I don't know. Vultures are really the good guys. They don't hunt – they're nature's clean up crew. Why are vultures almost always the bad guys in cartoons?
Speaking of hyenas, they are uninspired villains. They behave way too similarly to Shenzi, Bonzai and Ed, except all of them are male. Hyenas are truly one of the very few species of mammals in which the females are bigger and more aggressive than the males, and Shenzi seemed to be the leader of the hyenas in the original movie. So it's a little dissatisfying that the show appears to dodge this. Also, the hyenas just want to hunt, which is part of the Circle of Life. Apparently the idea in this series is that the hyenas want to kill more than their fair share, but they didn't explain this very well in any of the episodes I watched. So it sort of looks like the lions (and cheetah) are hording all the meat sources. Not cool.
The episode(s) with the good hyena character are not on Youtube, which is a shame, because maybe they explain or mitigate some of the issues I brought up.
I haven't talked about the songs yet. This show has a song in every episode, and they're hit-or-miss. I think that Fuli's song in the first episode I saw was probably the catchiest out of all of them. She seems to have the nicest singing voice, too. Fuli is best cat.
I feel like I gave The Lion Guard a fair chance. Not only do I love the original movie, I also feel that TLK2 had a lot of charm in spite of its plot holes, and I even enjoyed TLK 1.5 as an MST3K-style parody of the first movie. Even the short-lived Timon and Pumbaa spin-off from the 90s had a goofy appeal, and at least it didn't pretend to try to fit the continuity of the movies. This newest series falls short of all of the other sequels and spin-offs. It could have been like MLP:FiM by appealing both to little kids and their nostalgic parents. Instead it's strictly for kids in the age range of about 3 to 7. It's a disappointment mostly because of the wasted potential.