'The Lion King' Opened My Eyes to a Crisis We Can No Longer Ignore

Courtesy of Disney

Mufasa and Simba in the live-action Lion King
Courtesy of Disney

Movies have been known to excite the senses and entertain, and this reimagined Disney classic is shining light on a growing problem hiding in plain sight. Last week, I traveled to Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, in celebration of the live-action The Lion King coming to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, and DVD on October 22. It was an opportunity of a lifetime that not only opened my eyes to Disney's many conservation efforts, but a significant threat happening across the continent of Africa: Since the animated The Lion King hit theaters 25 years ago, half of Africa's lions have disappeared.

... and that should make everyone stop and take pause.

  • Filmmakers worked with Disney's Animal Kingdom to help bring the animals to life in the live-action 'The Lion King.'

    Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida
    Tanvier Peart

    Production was able to record 75 percent of the wildlife featured in The Lion King remake that served as a reference for the folks on the animation. Director Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan in the Iron Man movies) and his team used virtual reality to create the film, using video and recordings of the animals filmed in Disney's Animal Kingdom to make the characters we've come to love look true to life.

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  • And the result is nothing short of magical.

    Simba and Zazu in The Lion King live-action 2019
    Courtesy of Disney

    With the help of virtual reality technology, animation, and live-action filmmaking wizardry, the reimagined The Lion King exceeded many people's expectations -- including mine. There's a reason why it's considered one of Disney's best live-action remakes!

    I'll admit I had my reservations (I'm a '90s kid through and through), but the opening "Circle of Life" scene gave me chills.
  • But as amazing as the 2019 'The Lion King' is, there's a crisis facing lions across Africa: Half of the population is gone.

    The Lion King 2019 live-action
    Courtesy of Disney

    During my trip, I learned half (yes, half) of the lion population in the Motherland has disappeared -- due destruction of habitat, poaching, and loss of prey -- since the original The Lion King first hit theaters in 1994. An estimated 20,000 lions remain on the continent that could diminish in number if things continue as is.

    ... and that's not OK in the slightest.

  • Disney is partnering with the Wildlife Conservation Network's Lion Recovery Fund to double the lion population across Africa by 2050.

    Disney The Lion King Protect the Pride

    In celebration of the live-action The Lion King, Disney is working to raise awareness and support conservation efforts with The Lion King "Protect the Pride" campaign. Since 1995, a year after the animated The Lion King film's release, Disney has donated up to $75 million of its Disney Conservation Fund to help protect the planet and save wildlife -- giving over $1.5 million to the Wildlife Conservation Network's Lion Recovery Fund.

    Sadly, lions aren't the only wildlife of concern as The Lion King director Jon Favreau mentioned the live-action film paid tribute to northern white rhino, which went extinct while working on the iconic movie.

    So, yeah, things are very (very) real.

  • I sat down with Claire Martin and Jon Ross during my time at Disney to discuss the tragedy and what we can do to stop it.

    Claire is Disney's Senior Manager of Conservation Programs and Partnerships who helps lead the company charge in the realm of conservation and social responsibility, and Jon works with Disney’s Animals in Film & TV to ensure production teams adhere to Disney's animal policies and standard practices.

    Speaking with them reiterated the urgency of the situation and why we must do more with urgency.

  • The time to act is now.

    Lions at Disney's Animal Kingdom
    Tanvier Peart

    As much as I loved the Animal Kingdom safari, learning more about Disney, and soaking up all things The Lion King, hearing about the lion crisis stopped me in my tracks. I can't imagine a world where they don't exist, and don't want to.

    *Disclosure: Disney invited me as a guest on behalf of CafeMom, and all travel, meals, and experiences were provided by them. However, all opinions and thoughts expressed in this article are my own, and were not influenced by Disney or anyone involved with the making of 'The Lion King.'

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