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THE LION KING

Production Notes (Continued)
INSPIRATIONS:
PRIDE LANDS
 Masai Mara, Kenya, which is part of Serengeti National Park, inspired the Pride Lands. Filmmakers photographed iconic grasslands and acacia trees, as well as the ever-changing skies. Animals include lions, leopards, cheetah, wildebeest, cape buffalo, zebra and antelope.

 Chyulu Hills, Kenya, is a mountain range located in southeast Kenya that features grassland and montane forest. The rock formations found here inspired Pride Rock in the film.

 Borana, located in north-central Kenya, was referenced for the area around Pride Rock.

 Challenge Beach in Kenya served as reference for the watering hole within the Pride Lands.

ELEPHANT GRAVEYARD
 The tufas in Mono Lake, California, provided extraordinary reference for the Elephant Graveyard in the story.

 The geothermals of Dallol, Ethiopia, were inspirational, but inaccessible due to the toxic gases they release. So, filmmakers visited Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to photograph geothermal areas.

WILDEBEEST STAMPEDE
 Sesriem Canyon in Namibia provided the perfect inspiration for the film's dramatic scene where Simba practices his roar. The narrow canyon is more than a half mile long and up to 100 feet deep.

SIMBA'S ESCAPE  The Sossusvlei, in Namibia's Namib Desert, and its spectacular sand dunes served as reference for the area that Simba finds himself in after leaving the Pride Lands. Kenya's Turkana provided additional inspiration.  Mount Kenya, with its oversized flora, offered filmmakers the cloud-forest look they needed for Simba as he grows up alongside Timon and Pumbaa. Lakes here served as the perfect reference for Simba to see reflections of Mufasa.  The Aberdares' waterfalls, including Karuru Waterfall-the tallest in Kenya- provided reference for Nala's return to Simba's life.

According to visual effects supervisor Rob Legato, the experience transcended the needs for the film. "There's something spiritual about being in Africa," he says. "There's something about the collective of nature, how it balances, how one creature behaves and how the other animal either eats that thing or creates something that allows the ecology of the place to run. We realized there's a grand design somewhere. You cannot walk away from a trip like this without some spiritual feeling about the cradle of all life."

LOOKING GOOD
Filmmakers Build Breathtaking World Inspired by
Real-Life Locations that Pay Homage to Original Film
The goal of the extensive research trip to Kenya, of course, was to capture the majesty and beauty-as well as the rugged and sometimes ruthless reality-of the landscape. The film called for the creation of several varied environments, including the Pride Lands that Mufasa reigns over, the Elephant Graveyards Simba and Nala explore, the imposing canyon where hundreds of wildebeest stampede, the desert and Cloud Forest where Simba escapes to, and, of course, Pride Rock, which director of photography Caleb Deschanel calls "the anchor to the whole story."

According to production designer James Chinlund, it was important to filmmakers to ground the film's settings in reality. "Our goal from the beginning was to create a world map that was cohesive-making sure the Pride Lands were located in relation to the Cloud Forest in relation to the Elephant Graveyard in a consistent way. We wanted the viewer to feel secure and grounded in a stable sense of geography."

Each setting had to support and respect the storytelling, while also introducing the photoreal look that promises to separate Favreau's film from the 1994 classic film.

"Much of the new technology is really procedural, where you use a tool in order to populate the savanna with the assets or to create textures that will repeat and then you can apply them everywhere," says MPC set supervisor Audrey Ferrara. "You still need the human eye to keep it in order because it can become really messy really quickly. Then, sometimes, it just appears in front of your eyes and you think, 'Is this real or animation? I can't really tell the difference right now.'"

Artists and technicians built and populated the environments with authentic-to-Africa vegetation, termite mounds, boulders and dirt-assorted elements that had to be sketched, modeled, duplicated, positioned, lit and rendered for the final film.

PRIDE ROCK
Pride Rock is an iconic site ingrained in audiences' memories and hearts since 1994. As such, filmmakers wanted to create something that did it justice. Says Chinlund, "In the original film, Pride Rock stands as a tower of rock in the middle of a huge verdant green landscape, entirely unmotivated by hills or other rocks. Building that in the animated world, our concern going in was, where did those rocks come from?"

The question served as a starting point for Chinlund and his team. "How much other terrain, rock, landscape could we bring in to make Pride Rock feel familiar," he says, "like the Pride Rock we know and love, but at the same time feel motivated by geology and the terrain around it, so that you accept it visually? If you see a rock formation in the middle of an empty landscape, your eye immediately trips an alarm, saying something doesn't feel quite right. A lot of what we were doing on such spaces generally involved trying to capture the romantic quality from the original film, while making it feel grounded in truth.

"So, finding a way to anchor Pride Rock into the terrain that felt familiar and real was a challenge," continues Chinlund. "That's why our Pride Lands and Pride Rock are direct amalgams of things we saw in Kenya. There are, in fact, rocks on the landscape that come directly from actual scans of rocks we found in Kenya, and the watering hole is based on a location that we found there. The textures and colors and qualities of the rock that is Pride Rock were based directly on rock formations in Kenya."

THE MAGIC TOUCH
Filmmakers Create All-New Medium, Blending Live-Action Techniques with
Virtual Reality Tools and Photoreal Digital Imagery
Director Jon Favreau helmed 2016's box-office hit "The Jungle Book," which won the Oscar for best achievement in visual effects. The eye-popping results of the technology utilized for that film inspired the director to reach higher and farther with "The Lion King." "We had available to us the technology that, in the hands of artists, could actually present these characters as if they were real living animals," says Favreau, who set out to make environments and characters that would look and feel real. "I wanted to do it this way because I was convinced people did not want to see a traditional CG-animated 'The Lion King.' The original animated movie still holds up incredibly well.

"I thought it interesting that, even though people hold the animated film so dear, they were extremely accepting of the acclaimed stage play," continues Favreau. "The story of the stage play did not deviate too much from the animated feature. I think people accepted it because it was an interpretation in an entirely new medium. Part of our responsibility here was to present this in yet another new medium-to tell the story in an entirely different way, and have the experience feel different, even as we adhere to what is really a timeless story."

Pairing great storytelling with technical innovation was a hallmark of Walt Disney-one Favreau has long admired. "It becomes this enigmatic puzzle of how do you deliver on everybody's expectations and surprise them? I felt that I would use the approach that Walt Disney always used, which is engage on an emotional level, because that cuts through so much of the scrutiny. If you can connect, if you can make people feel something, it turns the judgmental part off. And it engages the immersive, empathetic, emotional part that I contend is the key aspect of the film-viewing experience. The other trick that Walt used so effectively is that he would constantly be curious and explore cutting-edge technologies."

The idea was to leave audiences wondering exactly what they've seen. Is it animation? Is it real? Says Favreau, "We set out to create something using these mythic archetypes that also feels naturalistic and beautiful and real. We looked at a lot of nature documentaries to see how beautiful it could all look and how lyrical it is, in nature when photographed and painstakingly edited with good music to create stories out of documentary footage."

Favreau's layered approach to making the film included a mind-blowing blend of traditional live-action filmmaking techniques, state-of-the-art virtual-reality tools and the highest-level CG animation. The end result is a wholly believable, photoreal look that will transport moviegoers to the Pride Lands.

Joining Favreau are three-time Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato, Oscar-winning virtual production supervisor Ben Grossman, two-time Oscar-winning animation supervisor Andrew Jones, production designer James Chinlund and director of photography Caleb Deschanel. MPC Film was an integral part of the process from the beginning. MPC's VFX supervisors Adam Valdez (part of the Oscar-winning visual effects team for "The Jungle Book") and Elliot Newman helped plan approaches on how the movie could be made-their virtual production team worked with the filmmakers to develop "The Lion King's" virtual production technology.

PRODUCTION
Following the team's extensive research trip, Favreau set up production of "The Lion King" inside an unmarked, purpose-built facility in Playa Vista, Calif., an area that has been recently nicknamed Silicon Beach for its gaming and high-tech industry.

The facility was large enough to house everything under one roof, including a virtual-reality volume. With two state-of-the-art screening rooms-dubbed the Simba and Nala theatres-the Los Angeles team was able to interact in real time with the MPC Film team in London to collaborate on animation review and visual effects. Says Favreau, "On 'The Jungle Book,' I was bouncing around to different facilities, and it was difficult. So, we concentrated everything and used the technology as a foundation to allow us the freedom to more efficiently use our time and be in closer contact with people that we collaborated with in other locations. That is also where we had our black-box theater to record our performances in the same room we used as our volume, where we scouted and shot the film. We had different VR systems and a dozen different VR stations around the bullpen. We wanted to make it feel more like a tech company than a movie studio, so we created a campus environment. We had food trucks pull up for the crew out front, or I'd be cooking upstairs."

Producer Karen Gilchrist says that the production itself mirrored live-action filmmaking. "It very much felt like a traditional film," she says. "We had a call sheet. We had an AD. We had a DP who worked wheels. We had a dolly. We had a Steadicam. Even though the art and the production design were driven by a video-game engine, we had an art department and a script supervisor. We had video playback. Other than not having to wake up at 5 in the morning and drive to a new location or worry about the weather, it very much felt like a live-action set."

Virtual Production
Everything that will ultimately be seen on screen was created in the computer, but it is anything but traditional animation. Says Favreau, "Where we departed from animation- beyond the photoreal look-was, at the point when you would normally operate the cameras in layout on a computer, we stopped the process and brought the entire film into VR and let our live-action crew actually set up real camera equipment."

Legato says the unique approach is groundbreaking. "People are studying animal reference and the animators breathing their life into these digital rigs. So, we're taking an antiseptic digital medium and telling one of the most emotional stories that we have in our tradition using these tools. That dichotomy and underlying tension creates a lot of creative opportunities. This is as close to practical filmmaking as you get with an animated film."

Filmmakers kicked off production with a pre-visualization (pre-viz) phase commonly used in animated filmmaking. Animation supervisor Andrew Jones and the team of artists created simplified animated sequences so that it could run in real time in VR. These early versions of environments and characters became part of the Unity gaming system. Says Favreau, "Instead of watching it play on the computer screen, we could go into the environment and stand next to an animated lion."

According to the director, the virtual production employed in "The Lion King" is an extension of what they did on "The Jungle Book." Favreau and his team were able to don VR headsets and walk around within the virtual set, setting up shots, choreographing movements, and adjusting lighting, characters and set pieces in real time before sending the version of each scene to editorial.

Says Favreau, "With 'The Lion King,' we are literally putting filmmakers inside the monitor, using a set of proprietary tools interfaced with the HTC Vive virtual reality [VR] system and Unity game engine."

Ben Grossman works with Magnopus, a company that helped bring technologies, hardware and software together to create a platform for the game-engine-based virtual reality filmmaking multiplayer game. "Since the advent of digital effects, filmmakers have struggled to bring those visuals to the stage to see the complete image in context," says Grossman. "'Avatar' brought a small window to the stage, allowing the filmmakers to peek inside the world they were creating. 'The Lion King' turns that on its head by putting the filmmakers-and the gear they have used for decades-completely inside the world they are building for the film."

A world spanning hundreds of miles was constructed in the game engine. "Physical devices are custom built, and traditional cinema gear was modified to allow filmmakers to 'touch' their equipment-cameras, cranes, dollies-while in VR to let them use the skills they've built up for decades on live-action sets," adds Grossman. "They don't have to point at a computer monitor over an operator's shoulder anymore-the most sophisticated next-gen technology is approachable to any filmmaker who's ever been on a traditional set."

According to Favreau, the idea behind incorporating live-action language into the film was to convince audiences that what they're seeing is authentic. "My generation- people who grew up with video games-is very sensitive to photography and shots that look like they're entirely digital," he says. "You can sense the difference between a visual effect that was added to a real live-action plate and one that was built entirely in a computer. How do you make it look like it was filmed? The way shots are designed when they're digital are much more efficiently done. The camera move is planned ahead of time. The cut points, the edit points, the performance, the camera moves-all that stuff is meticulous and perfect. But that perfection leads to a feeling that it's artificial. Not every generation of filmmaker is sensitive to this. I find my peer group has the same standard where we want it to feel like something that was photographed, so instead of designing a camera move as you would in pre-viz on a computer, we lay dolly track down in the virtual environment.

"And so, even though the sensor is the size of a hockey puck, we built it onto a real dolly and a real dolly track," continues Favreau. "And we have a real dolly grip pushing it that is then interacting with Caleb, our cinematographer, who is working real wheels that encode that data and move the camera in virtual space. There are a lot of little idiosyncrasies that occur that you would never have the wherewithal to include in a digital shot. That goes for the crane work. It also goes for flying shots."

Favreau was the designated virtual helicopter operator on the crew. "We also developed new rigs for something that emulates a Steadicam and something that emulates a handheld by having the proper weighting and balance on this equipment," says Favreau.

Says Legato, "In real photography, the cinematographer can tell which cameraman operates a shot while you're into the nuance of watching dailies. We want to inherit all of those happy accidents, all of those human idiosyncrasies. How do you infuse emotion and humanity? Well, that comes from the humanity of the people operating the equipment."

Although Deschanel had never shot a film created totally within the computer, his live-action experience was exactly what the project required. "My experience in photography is capturing images of real things happening," he says. "In a way, my job is to preserve the reality of what normally goes on in front of the camera-to understand what light does and how the camera behaves.

"When you're filming wild animals, obviously you have no idea what they're going to do," Deschanel continues. "In order to preserve that reality for the animals that we created within the computer, we wanted to create that feeling that the camera operator is surprised at what they're doing. The performance is different than what might have been expected, and that creates a wonderful jolt of excitement and understanding of the character."

According to Deschanel, the trip to Africa both garnered footage that would later help artists create authentic characters, and helped guide camera movement that would mirror the real world, too. "There were times when I was following an animal and it would fool me. I'd make mistakes. Those elements later became part of the structure of how we made the movie."

Says Favreau, "Generally, with the higher tech films, they would use motion capture for the performances and then work the cameras with essentially digital tools because that gives you maximum freedom. But we didn't capture the performances because it's all animals and is key-framed. We captured the camera movement. We're putting all of our work into capturing the camera data and showing that the virtual camera is being driven by humans while allowing the naturalism of the performances to come from the artistry of the animators."

The data obtained during the virtual production was utilized by the animation team. Scenes and recordings were exported to editorial as video files, and to visual effects as data files that gave clear direction to the visual effects crews around the world who crafted the film's photoreal aesthetic. Preserving the invisible hand of the filmmakers throughout maintained the film's live-action style.

Animation
Once the camera shoot was completed and the voice performances recorded, the production shifted to the animation phase. For animation supervisor Andrew Jones, it was all about improving upon the past. "In terms of realism, I think this is a big step forward," he says. "We achieved a certain level that I was quite happy with in 'The Jungle Book'-but we wanted to push it even further in 'The Lion King.' We wanted the animals more believable. We wanted to take a really beautiful story that everybody already loves and tell it in a new, unique way. It feels a bit more documentary style because you're not anticipating everything the characters are going to do or possibly could do."

MPC Film is a worldwide visual effects house charged with spearheading the visual effects for "The Lion King." MPC's VFX supervisor Adam Valdez says he took his children to see the 1994 version and was excited to bring it to a new generation. "The language of the time they're growing up, the sophistication they're getting used to in terms of the look of things-all of this means that old stories can be revived and made accessible for a modern audience. If you think of it from a technology point of view, we are now able to create really sophisticated, lifelike animals.

"Jon's whole magic trick is taking human beings' fascination with the natural world and representing it in a very straightforward way, but crafted for narrative," Valdez continues. "I don't know that it could be done with this degree of realism before now that allows an audience member to just believe as much as they do. It really does make a difference in your perception of the story and how you read and engage with it."

Valdez reiterates that filmmakers didn't change the story, but instead changed the toolset. "The original 'The Lion King' pivots very deftly between drama and comedy and color and mood," says Valdez. "There's something about that visual treatment that allows for that. When you go photorealistic, there's not as much agility to switch gears. So, while we lose some of the original tools, we replace them with others."

A team of 130 animators from 30 different nations helped bring the animals of "The Lion King" to life. Each character-which took about nine months to fully develop-was derived from concept art, real-life references and the archetypal characters from the original film. "Translating an animated character into a photorealistic creature required a full rethink," says production designer James Chinlund. "Digging deep into research and our experiences scouting [in Africa] was always the kickoff. Jon [Favreau] and the team would land on a group of key images that captured the feeling we were pursuing, and that would launch our character illustrators. They would produce both paintings and 3D sculpts of our characters, which went through rounds of reviews with Jon and the team. Then, when we got close to final, we would output a 3D print of the character for last looks using our in-house 3D printer."

Once character designs were approved, artists from MPC built each character within the computer, paying close attention to anatomy, proper proportions, fur or feathers- applying textures and color, shading eyes and ensuring their movement was authentic to their real-life counterparts. New software tools were developed by MPC R&D's team of more than 200 software engineers to better simulate muscles, skin and fur.

While building and animating authentic characters could be grounded in reality, making them speak and sing could not. "We tried to tilt their heads down so we are not staring directly into the mouth," says Jones. "At the same time, we did our best to make sure that we were not adding attributes in terms of how each animal can physically move their mouths. So, every kind of muscle control we have around the mouth makes them move in the ways they can really move their mouths. We found lip-synch through that approach-moving mouths into shapes that, for instance, a cat can really do, and trying to have the right kinds of sounds coming out to match those shapes."

According to Jones, artists also worked to time the characters' breathing with their dialogue. "We had the belly muscles and diaphragm tighten so that you feel like the animal is forcing air out his mouth as he is talking, timed with particular syllables.

"With female lions, whose necks we can actually see because they do not have manes," Jones continues, "we added particular esophagus and neck movements to help sell the fact that they are talking, with tongue and larynx moving."

In all, the London-based MPC Film's VFX artists brought 86 different species to life for "The Lion King"-from the film's iconic characters like Simba, Nala, Rafiki, Mufasa, Pumbaa and Timon, Scar and the hyenas-to the smallest creatures on the savanna.

 "THE LION KING" ROARS
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Includes New Song "Never Too Late"
By Elton John and Tim Rice, Performed by Elton John-
with Score Composed by Hans Zimmer
When director Jon Favreau decided to revisit "The Lion King," he knew the music in the new film would have to live up to its presence and power in the first film. "Just hearing that music strikes you deeply," Favreau said. "Even if you don't know the film or stage show, there is a spiritual strength in it. But if you know the film, and if you grew up with this music-now it can suddenly and immediately evoke the story itself, as well as all the connected memories and emotions that you have from your own past experience with 'The Lion King,' or from the time of your life that you were in, or your childhood, or the life events it's connected to."

Music from the animated film released in 1994 won two Academy Awards (best original song and best original score), four GRAMMY Awards and two Golden Globes. The soundtrack was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart for 10 nonconsecutive weeks and was certified Diamond by the RIAA, for 10 million units sold.

Oscar- and GRAMMY-winning superstar Elton John, who says his experience on "The Lion King" moved his career in another direction, describes the original soundtrack as a fresh approach to music in an animated movie. "The songs were more poppy," he says. "'Can You Feel the Love Tonight,' 'Circle of Life' and 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King' were more traditional pop that we merged with the beautiful African music that Lebo M wrote-that hadn't really happened before. It kind of modernized the whole product."

This summer's "The Lion King"-like the original 1994 version-features unforgettable music by an award-winning team, including John and Oscar- and GRAMMY-winning lyricist Tim Rice, score by Oscar- and GRAMMY-winning composer Hans Zimmer, plus African vocal and choir arrangements by GRAMMY-winning South African producer and composer Lebo M ("Rhythm of the Pride Lands"). Oscar-nominated and GRAMMY-winning singer, songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams ("Hidden Figures"/producer, "Happy"), produced five songs on the soundtrack.

Featuring song favorites like "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata" and "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," the new film will also introduce original songs, including the uplifting "Never Too Late," written by John and Rice and performed by John, which features an African choir. According to John, the song's message is applicable in the movie and beyond. "It's never too late to change," says John. "And that's what Simba goes through in this whole journey. It's never too late to change your mind about things-look at your life and say, 'I've got to change.' It happened to me during my life. I had an epiphany in 1990. This is about having an epiphany in your life and saying, 'I need to take a fresh look at what I'm doing.'"

SCORE
When Disney first approached Zimmer about scoring the 1994 film, he wasn't initially interested. "But my daughter Zoe at the time was 6 years old," he says. "I realized I'd never been able to take her to a premiere, so I thought, 'Oh, I'll do this for my daughter.' But then I realized that the movie had a lot of substance to it. It was incredibly moving, this story about a father dying. My father died when I was 6, so I had to go and deal with the baggage that I had locked away quite carefully. It actually became quite an emotional experience."

In revisiting the score for "The Lion King," Zimmer realized that the original themes and music were the emotional spine of the story. "It surprised me that the themes I'd written all those years ago actually held," says Zimmer. "What I had done 25 years ago-not really knowing how an animated movie works-I'd written these huge, epic themes.

What happened this time by having this photoreal look and Jon's direction, we just opened it up so that the themes could really breathe."

The composer brought back many who worked on the original film, including Lebo M- who recorded choirs in South Africa, orchestrator Bruce Fowler, conductor Nick Glennie-Smith, arranger Mark Mancina, plus several singers from the choir including Carmen Twillie (who performed "Circle of Life" in the 1994 movie).

Zimmer wanted to approach the recording of the score differently for the new film and enlisted the Re-Collective Orchestra (led by founders Matt Jones and Stephanie Matthews), along with the Hollywood Studio Symphony (composed of Los Angeles based session players) and his band. The goal was to rehearse and record the score like a live concert performance. "I put 20 seats out front for the filmmakers-it really did feel like we were doing a concert. We would just do the movie like a show, and it gave this energy."

Walt Disney Records' original motion picture digital soundtrack is set for release at 8 a.m. PDT on July 11, and the physical album is available on July 19, the same day "The Lion King" opens in U.S. theaters. The track list follows.

1. "Circle of Life"/"Nants' Ingonyama" - Performed by Lindiwe Mkhize; African vocals performed by Lebo M; written and composed by Elton John and Tim Rice; "Nants' Ingonyama" written by Lebohang Morake and Hans Zimmer; produced by Hans Zimmer; vocals produced by Stephen Lipson
2. "Life's Not Fair" - Hans Zimmer
3. "Rafiki's Fireflies" - Hans Zimmer
4. "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" - Performed by JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph and John Oliver; written by Elton John and Tim Rice; produced by Pharrell Williams; co-produced by Stephen Lipson
5. "Elephant Graveyard" - Hans Zimmer
6. "Be Prepared" (2019) - Performed by Chiwetel Ejiofor; written by Elton John and Tim Rice; produced by Hans Zimmer and David Fleming
7. "Stampede" - Hans Zimmer
8. "Scar Takes the Throne" - Hans Zimmer
9. "Hakuna Matata" - Performed by Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen, JD McCrary and Donald Glover; written by Elton John and Tim Rice; produced by Pharrell Williams; coproduced by Stephen Lipson
10. "Simba Is Alive!" - Hans Zimmer
11. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" - Performed by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen; written by Luigi Creatore, Hugo Peretti, George David Weiss and Solomon Linda; produced by Pharrell Williams
12. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" - Performed by Beyonce, Donald Glover, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen; written by Elton John and Tim Rice; produced by Pharrell Williams; co-produced by Stephen Lipson
13. "Reflections of Mufasa" - Hans Zimmer
14. "Spirit" - Performed by Beyonce; written by Timothy McKenzie, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Beyonce; produced by Beyonce, ILYA for MXM Productions and Labrinth
15. "Battle for Pride Rock" - Hans Zimmer
16. "Remember" - Hans Zimmer
17. "Never Too Late" - Performed by Elton John; African vocal and choir arrangements created and produced by Lebo M; written by Elton John and Tim Rice; produced by Greg Kurstin; additional production by Elton John and Matt Still
18. "He Lives in You" - Performed by Lebo M; written by Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Lebohang Morake; produced by Lebo M and Mark Mancina
19. "Mbube" - Performed by Lebo M; African vocal and choir arrangements created and produced by Lebo M; written by Solomon Linda; produced by Pharrell Williams

ROCKING "THE LION KING" PROTECT THE PRIDE CAMPAIGN
Disney to Donate up to $3 Million to Help Double the Lion Population by 2050
To celebrate the release of Disney's "The Lion King,"
The Walt Disney Company has launched a global conservation campaign to raise awareness of the crisis facing lions and other wildlife across Africa. "The Lion King" Protect the Pride campaign focuses on protecting and revitalizing lion populations and the habitats they need to thrive. Disney has already donated more than $1.5 million to the Wildlife Conservation Network's (WCN) Lion Recovery Fund (LRF) and its partners and will make additional grants as well as invite fans to help double the donation for a total contribution of up to $3 million. Fans may participate by taking part in celebratory experiences and purchasing special-edition products as part of "The Lion King" Protect the Pride campaign.

It's been 25 years since Disney released the original version of "The Lion King"; sadly, during that time Africa has lost half of its lions, and only about 20,000 remain. Disney is supporting the Lion Recovery Fund and its vision to double the lion population by 2050 through efforts that engage communities to ensure a brighter future for African wildlife and their habitats. Protecting lions supports the entire circle of life in Africa, from hyenas to meerkats. Lions face rising threats; however, research shows their numbers can be strengthened if they and the habitats they share with people and other African wildlife are adequately protected.

"Disney is committed to supporting lion conservation efforts, and we believe 'The Lion King' is the perfect story to remind us of the role we each have in helping ensure a world where these majestic animals are treasured and protected," says Elissa Margolis, senior vice president, enterprise social responsibility for The Walt Disney Company. "Conservation has always been a core value of The Walt Disney Company, and that commitment is apparent in everything from our films to our theme parks and is why we created the Disney Conservation Fund. Through the stories we tell and the experiences we create, we have the power to reach people around the world and inspire them to take action with us."

The Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) has directed $75 million to save wildlife globally since 1995, including $13 million to protect African wildlife spanning more than 30 countries. "The Lion King" Protect the Pride donation will be DCF's largest single contribution in its 24-year history, supporting WCN's Lion Recovery Fund and its work to engage people in conservation solutions. The Lion Recovery Fund supports a variety of partner organizations working in Africa and employs a three-pronged approach to lion recovery: investing in conservation projects on the ground, developing campaigns that build support for the protection and revitalization of Africa's lion populations, and expanding and strengthening collaborations, as no single entity will be able to solve this challenge alone.

"The Lion Recovery Fund has a vision to bring lions back across Africa, and Disney's powerful storytelling is a perfect way to get even more people aware of the lion crisis and inspired to take action," says Charles Knowles, president and co-founder of Wildlife Conservation Network. "The Wildlife Conservation Network is proud to continue its longstanding collaboration with Disney to make a meaningful impact for people and wildlife across Africa."

Help Protect the Pride
It takes many different approaches, which differ by regions, habitats and local communities, to help protect lion populations. Fans can explore The Lion King Protect the Pride website to learn more about "The Lion King" Protect the Pride campaign and find ways they can get involved.

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