Roar­ing Back

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TDis­ney re­turns to the world of

he cir­cle of life is a very real el­e­ment in the ca­reer of Ford Ri­ley, whose first pro­fes­sional sale was a script for the late 1990s Ti­mon & Pum­baa se­ries that spun off the hit Dis­ney fea­ture The Lion King. And now he’s back in The Lion King world as cre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of The Lion Guard: Re­turn of the Roar, a spe­cial air­ing in Novem­ber that sets up a full an­i­mated se­ries due early next year on Dis­ney Ju­nior.

“It was thrilling back then to work with those clas­sic char­ac­ters from that won­der­ful movie,” says Ri­ley, who says he was ap­proached by Dis­ney to come up with a se­ries idea set in The Lion King world but “not some­thing we’ve seen be­fore.”

Cir­cling back to the end of the orig­i­nal movie, Simba has be­come king and Nala has given birth to their first cub, Kiara, who even­tu­ally would be­come queen of the Pride Lands. Ri­ley de­cided to go a bit fur­ther and make the new se­ries about their sec­ond-born cub, Kion, who in­her­its a big re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“He has as spe­cial duty and that’s to lead the Lion Guard,” says Ri­ley. “The guard is a team that pro­tects the Pride Lands and pro­tects the cir­cle of life.”

Tra­di­tion says the team is made up of

with se­ries-launch­ing spe­cial

the fiercest, bravest, fastest, strong­est and keen­est an­i­mals in the Pride Lands, so Kion re­cruits a team whose mem­bers re­flect those val­ues. With Kion be­ing the leader and the fiercest mem­ber, the team in­cludes a honey badger named Bunga, who is Kion’s best friend and the bravest mem­ber; Fuli, a fast and con­fi­dent chee­tah; a friendly hip­popota­mus named Beshte, who is the strong­est of the group; and Ono, an egret whose keen sight makes him the guard’s eye in the sky. The spe­cial will es­tab­lish the guard and pit them against a new group of hye­nas lead by Janja. “They have no re­spect for the cir­cle of life,” says Ri­ley. “They live on the out­lands and they make ex­cur­sions try­ing to cause chaos as much as they can.”

There also will be some in­ter­nal drama di­rectly con­nected to the orig­i­nal fea­ture. If the sec­ond-born leads The Lion Guard, why did Simba’s fa­ther, Mu­fasa, fill that role in­stead of his younger brother, the vil­lain­ous Scar?

Pro­duced by Dis­ney TV An­i­ma­tion, the show is us­ing ad­vances in 2D tech­nol­ogy to look as much like the ground­break­ing fea­ture an­i­ma­tion of the orig­i­nal fea­ture. Howy Parkins is di­rect­ing the se­ries, which is pro­duced us­ing Toon Boom Har­mony.

“It was such a land­mark film,” says Ri­ley. “One of the things I was aware of and our di­rec­tor was acutely aware of is how much the orig­i­nal film means to so many peo­ple. This show is meant as The Lion King for that next gen­er­a­tion of kids.” [

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