Disclaimer: Disney brought me in to attend these interviews and screenings all expenses paid so that I could share them with you. All opinions are my own.
We had a great time interviewing the cast of the Lion Guard and screening the movie.
Check out my review of the Lion Guard and then watch a clip to see what’s coming on 11/22 at 7 on Disney Channel.
There are a lot of similarities between the Lion Guard and the Lion King. It’s about families and working together. It’s about diversity and getting along. It’s about building a community. The key characters Kion and Bunga are trying to protect the Pridelands and they have to figure out the best way to do it. I felt this would be a great movie for the under 7 set. They would enjoy the multifaceted characters with their larger than life personalities. The great music and the theme through out the show on how to make a community of people work together. Young kids just seem to enjoy the animal animated movies. I think that they’d be entertained and focused while this movie is on. Then you can transfer them to the series that debuts in January on Disney Junior where they can continue to enjoy this show on a weekly basis. I say it’s one to watch for the young ones this coming year. Make sure you check it out when it airs!
Disney’s working to help conservation. So you can make a Roarr and they’ll donate money! Check out my video and then make one of your own. Make sure to use the hashtag #ReturnOfTheRoar and they’ll donate $1 for every video made up to $25000!! What an easy way to help conservation!
Now check out my interview with the key players behind the Lion Guard event!
Make sure you check out my red carpet Good Dinosaur experience too!
Beau Black songwriter
Christopher Willis composer
Sarah Mirza Swahili translator
Ford Riley writer was a writer on the Timon and Pumba series in the 90’s too and now producer of the Lion Guard.
Here’s the people we interviewed in the photo below in order from from left to right.
Photo credit Disney Channel/Rick Rowell
Lion Guard is a 44 minute special airing on 11/22. Then in January it will move to a weekly series on Disney Junior.
How do you do the music in a movie or tv series?
There will be music in every episode. The music needed to stand on it’s own in the series. So it’s different than the Lion King but is influenced by it. It’s more modern music with African influence. The words zuka zama is swahili. Sarah makes sure it’s all authentic and makes sense in the story. Zuka Zama means Get up and Dive in! That’s a great song for Bunga. The underscore is no easy task. The main thing is I had to do lots of homework. I listened to lots of swahili chants and instrumental music to get the songs. We had choirs to work with and they did a great job. It took a lot of time and preparation. There’s an African American choir and studio musicians who did a great job melding it together. It’s got a Kenyan flair and Swahili sounds and inflections. You have to get the pronounciation right and the right instruments and you feel it’s the right sound for this movie. Like we’re in the Serenghetti.
Will the stars return to the series? Yes, Rob Lowe and Gabby Union will return and we have some special guests coming up too. James Earl Jones isn’t able to return to the whole series as his schedule on Broadway didn’t permit it.
The series is like a short movie. We write the song before we see animation. Then we see the picture once the songs are done.
Diversity is an undertone. What other values will we see in the series?
Throughout the Lion Guard the animals are all learning how to work together. They all have different points of view so they’re at odds sometimes and then they have to work together. Their job is to defend the pridelands and the circle of life. They need to not take more than they need. There is a conservation message that is seen but it’s not overtly obvious. We weave it into the story. We wanted it to be more storytelling which is what Disney Junior does best.
Did you travel to Africa to do research?
Would have loved to but not on our budget. We had lots of consultations with Animal Kingdom and Dr. Jill Mellen. Real animals don’t speak so they notified us of that. They let us know when we aren’t being realistic. Honey badgers let off a spray to their enemies and you’ll see some of that used in the film. They kept us true to the animals behavoirs.
How do you make a song that ends up being a global hit in these movies?
Our intention is not to do that but to provide the best song for the moment in the story. Usually Ford writes the lyrics and I’ll roll it around in my head for a few days. If I am still singing it a few days later it’s a good sign. Then collectively we decide if it’s a great one or not. The process varies from song to song. The tonight we strike song I wrote all the lyrics but Beau added the hyena laugh at the end which is brilliant. In the It is Time song we wrote it in two pieces. Mufasa interrupts and we weren’t going to finish it. But then we decided it had to be finished and we finished it. It’s a good moment in the movie. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re writing until your into it.
How many songs do you average and toss before you narrow it down?
I didn’t end up tossing out any. But we ended up throwing in more. This one was the smoothest process ever. Ford: I pitched the idea in 2012. The song was pitched a year ago and we just went with it. This one was smooth sailing even in the series. There’s an established sound and each character gets their own sound with the songs.
How do you construct the episodes?
Ford: That’s a big question. It usually comes from small ideas. The movie came out of my Autistic son playing superheroes with his friends every Thursday at the park. I was like why can’t the pridelands have superheroes protecting their lands. We submit a small idea maybe a paragraph. We bounced that off the network. Then we moved to a larger premise, several pages and paragraphs. Then a script. Once it’s at the script stage then Beau begins doing the songs. After that we record with the voice actors. Then the animators get involved and begin animating it. Then Sarah gave us feedback and help all along the way.
How many episdoes do you have ready?
We’ve got 26 episodes for the first seasons that we’re doing.
Any more bad guys coming up or that we can expect to see?
Well yes. In the first episode we’re going to meet a good hyena. Because with our partnership with Animal Kingdom the research money for hyenas dried up because of Mufasa being killed by the hyenas. They asked us to make a hyena good so that we can get more research and funding going forward. So we were able to do that. The story of Kion meeting a hyena that isn’t bad and is female. Females are the actual leaders in hyena packs. We’ve got a crocodile bad guy, husband and wife jackyl team of bad guys and we’ll be seeing the vultures as well.
How does your son feel about the movie?
He’s so excited. He’s like I gave you the idea dad. When Disney gave me the go ahead and I started making it. His first question was when are you going to make toys dad? It takes awhile but they’re in the works.
Who are your favorite characters?
Beau’s favorite is Bunga. Chris’s favorite is Beshte. The actor came in to read for Bunga and we were like oh no he’s Beshte. We weren’t prepared for Beshte to read. But as soon as the network heard they agreed that he was Beshte. Sarah’s favorite is Fuli. You can’t catch me and you can’t touch me either is how Fuli works. Kion and Bunga are Ford’s favorite because they were based on his son and best friend.
Did you take into account the killing of Cecil the Lion with the release date of this movie?
The stories had been written and the emotion that people have for lions was already there. We respect the circle of life and the animals. The message was already in the movie before this happened. It resonates with everyone. The love for animals and the desire for these animals to continue on. The release date was set and was months after so it didn’t really come into play.
Are we going to see more background anf amiies for the Lion Guard?
Yes there’s an episode coming up and we’ll learn how Bunga made Uncle Timon and Pumba. We’ll see why Fuli is alone.
Are you as excited as me to see a new relase of a Lion King continuation?