While in Los Angeles this week on the Good Dinosaur press event, we had the opportunity to screen the Disney Channel’s upcoming special, The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar. We also interviewed key people who brought this special show to life. What follows are some interesting facts about how they developed the show as well as why I think you need to sit down and watch it with the family this Sunday, November 22.
It’s hard to believe that it has been over 20 years since Disney’s The Lion King came out in theaters. And for those of us still singing Hakuna Matata – it’s a wonderful phrase – there is a new show coming out on Disney Junior that will bridge the gap and make the next generation fall in love with the African safari like we did as kids.
The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
Premiering on the Disney Channel on Sunday, November 22, 2015, The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar features the story of Kion, son of Simba and Nala and his band of friends. Kion has been put in charge of the new Lion Guard and much to Simba’s dismay, it’s made up of Kion’s friends, a band of different animals, and not the strongest of the lions. There’s Kion’s best friend Bunga, a fearless honey badger, Ono, an intellectual egret, Fuli, a confident cheetah and Beshte, a good-spirited hippo.
The Lion Guard’s main purpose is to protect the pride lands and defend the Circle of Life. Heard that phrase before? It’s key not only in the special, but it the 26-episode series that begins airing in January 2016. The Circle of Life keeps the balance in the African Safari and is a recurring theme. We will be introduced to various animals throughout the series and the Lion Guard will do it’s best to keep peace over the pride land.
The star power is BIG in the Lion Guard, with Rob Lowe as Simba and Gabrielle Union as Nala. They will continue on in the series as well. One surprise for Lion King fans is the appearance of Mufasa and the legendary James Earl Jones in the special.
Making of The Lion Guard
Ford Riley, creator & director of The Lion Guard wanted to create a show that featured the characters of the classic Lion King and was inspired by watching his son play superheroes one day. “Let’s take a superhero team and put it in the pride lands, kind of an Avengers meets the Lion King.” Thus, this band of animals became the protectors of the Pride Lands.
It was important to Riley to make The Lion Guard feel relevant & true to the spirit of The Lion King. And much work was done to ensure references to Africa and the animals are correct. Riley reached out to Swahili expert, Sarah Mirza. As the language and cultural expert on the show, Mirza was instrumental in creating several key phrases that are used by the characters. And they are catchy – Bunga’s favorite phrase is Zuka Zama! Pop up, dive in! And your kids will certainly be singing Sisi Ni Sawa (We’re the Same) with as much gusto as we did with Hakuna Matata. As a mom, it was refreshing to hear how it was important that the show is etching our kids another language as they will hear several words in Swahili.
Each episode features a new song composed by singer/songwriter Beau Black, a Disney Channel regular who has been composing songs for several popular Disney shows (Miles from Tomorrowland and Penn Zero: Part Time Hero). His influence came from the original movie though he wanted the music from The Lion Guard to “stand on it’s own.” The songs are terrific and fun with several African influences.
The score of The Lion Guard is composed by Christopher Willis, who has music credits in several feature films, television shows, and cartoons. “I was able to do lots and lots of homework into the African material, listening to loads of Swahili chants and instrumental music from all over that continent.” Willis spoke on the brevity of the project and how it was important it was to create the African feel. It was really cool to hear just how much work had gone into the special and each upcoming episode.
The Animals of The Lion Guard
Another aspect of The Lion Guard that Riley wanted to ensure was done correctly are the animals. “The mannerisms To do this, Riley regularly consulted with Dr. Jill Mellen of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She shared stories of the natural histories of the animals and helped inspire the writers to create new characters on the show. “We want to connect our kids with animals and I think that Lion Guard is a wonderful venue to do that.” says Mellen.
One example of an animal that Dr. Mellen thought was important to highlight was the hyenas. “Nobody knows villains better than Disney.” In the Lion Guard, as in The Lion King, the hyenas are the villains. Mellen introduced the Lion Guard writers to the 2 hyenas at Animal Kingdom, Scooter and Zawati, who are “sweet and curious”. She felt it was important that a “nice hyena” was introduced. The Lion King so influenced people into thinking that hyenas were bad animals and they have consequently lost a great deal of funding for conservation over the years. The Lion Guard was a great opportunity to see a different side of the hyena and we heard hints that there would be one in an upcoming episode.
Show Us Your Roar with #ReturnoftheRoar
In anticipation of the upcoming premiere of The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, film your BEST ROAR! and post to your social media pages with #ReturnoftheRoar. Disney will donate one dollar up to $25,000 through the Disney Conservation Fund for every ROAR! posted during the week of November 14-22. Last year, The Walt Disney Company directed nearly one million dollars through the Disney Conservation Fund to help protect more than 25 species of African wildlife in 16 countries, and with your help we can continue to help even more animals!
Here’s my fun ROAR! that we were able to make while visiting the Disney Channel this week. I’m totally getting my kids in on this tonight!
All for fun, we ROARed today at The Lion Guard screening! ???????????????? In conjunction with @disneyjunior ‘s special The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, create your own ROAR & post it to your social media pages with #ReturnoftheRoar. Disney will donate one dollar up to $25,000 through the Disney Conservation Fund for every ROAR! posted during the week of November 14-22. #LionGuardEvent #GoodDinoEvent #ABCTVEvent #ReturnoftheRoar #DisneyJunior
Also, the Disney Channel has created some adorable printables for the premiere of The Lion Guard. Check out the masks, coloring sheets and mazes you can easily print off here.
I thought The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar was adorable and will be sitting down with my 6-year-old to watch it on Sunday night (November 22, 2015) at 7PM. After hearing how much effort went into making each episode and knowing that my child will be learning more about the animals, it’s an easy show to want to watch. Can’t wait for the episodes to begin in January!
Check out more of the fun we had on the #GoodDinoEvent press trip:
Making of Disney Junior’s The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
LIVE Taping of Dancing with the Stars
Creation of The Good Dinosaur with Director Peter Sohn
The Good Dinosaur Red Carpet Movie Premiere
The Good Dinosaur Toys & Disney Infinity 3.0
4 Things You Will Learn from Disney Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur
Disclaimer: Disney sent me to Los Angeles on an all-expenses paid press trip, in exchange for my coverage of The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar. All opinions are my own.