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.” [