Each time I head to LA with Disney for a movie screening or red carpet event, they throw a little extra special something in the itinerary. I tell you, Disney really knows how to make a blogger feel special! While in LA this week, I visited the Disney Channel’s offices and saw a screening of The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar and then sat down for a Q&A session with Executive Producer Ford Riley as well as a songwriter for the show, a Swahili expert and then participated in a web conference with a specialist at Animal Kingdom, who helps lend perspective on the animals.
The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar airs on Disney Junior on November 22, 2015, and it’s a 44 minute special. It’s kind of like a movie – but it’s actually the first in the brand new series! The Lion Guard series begins on Disney Junior on January 3, 2016 and will have 26 episodes in the first season.
“Set in the African Savanna, The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar follows Kion as he assembles the members of the Lion Guard,” a news release for the show reads. “Throughout the movie and the series, the diverse team of young animals will learn how to utilize each of their unique abilities to solve problems and accomplish tasks to maintain balance within the Circle of Life, while also introducing young viewers to the vast array of animals that populate the prodigious African landscape.”
In The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, we see familiar faces such as Simba and Nala, as well as Timon and Pumba, but the show is set around Simba’s son, Kion. He’s a rowdy, aimless second-born who hasn’t found his calling yet…well, that is, until his fried Bunga gets into trouble and he discovers that he actually has a special gift – he has the gift of the ROAR! As it turns out, The Lion Guard existed in the Pride Lands for some time, before Scar destroyed it in his ploy to overtake Mufasa. Now that Kion has discovered that he also has the gift, it’s time for The Lion Guard to gather together and protect the Pride Lands and the Circle of Life. While The Lion Guard is supposed to consist of lions, Kion choses different species as the fiercest, bravest, fastest, strongest, and keenest of sight: Bunga (a honey badger), Fuli (a cheetah), Beshte (a hippo), and Ono (an egret).
Executive Producer Ford Riley sat with us during the Q&A and explained the process of coming up with the idea for the show. He wanted to draw on the original story of The Lion King, but create a separate story that would exist on its own – and that he did! He thought this would be a good way to bring The Lion King to a younger audience, and I think that this show will really resonate with young children. During his writing process, he explained the story to his son (who was 8 at the time), and his son immediately took to the idea. Did you know that it takes YEARS for a new series to air once the concept is thought up? Riley said that he originally pitched Disney Junior with his storyline in 2012!
There are some really great things about The Lion Guard that parents will love:
The Swahili language is spoken in each episode. Each animal has their own catch phrase in Swahili – the names of the animals are even in Swahili. How fun is that?!
The Lion Guard promotes diversity. While the original Lion Guard consisted of ONLY lions, Kion choses an animal from different species for each member – talk about shaking things up!
The Lion Guard teaches about sustainability. You’ll notice throughout the special, The Lion Guard: The Return of the Roar, that they mention not using more than you need to survive quite a few times. This is a great way to subconsciously teach children not to be wasteful and to protect the earth without being boring and educational!
I think that kids are going to love The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar just as much as Angeline loved Timon and Pumba back in the day (yes, I just dated myself). Tune in on November 22 and watch the special as a family – I promise that you’ll all love it!