To celebrate the release of Disney’s The Lion King, The Walt Disney Studios has launched a global conservation campaign to raise awareness of the crisis facing lions and other wildlife across Africa. The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign focuses on protecting and revitalizing lion populations and the habitats they need to thrive. Disney has already donated more than $1.5 million to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s (WCN) Lion Recovery Fund (LRF) and its partners and will make additional grants as well as invite fans to help double the donation for a total contribution of up to $3 million. Fans may participate by taking part in celebratory experiences and purchasing special-edition products, as part of The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign.
It’s been 25 years since Disney released the original version of The Lion King; sadly, during that time Africa has lost half of its lions, and only about 20,000 remain. Disney is supporting the Lion Recovery Fund and their vision to double the lion population by 2050 through efforts that engage communities to ensure a brighter future for African wildlife and their habitats. Protecting lions supports the entire circle of life in Africa, from hyenas to meerkats. Lions face rising threats; however, research shows their numbers can be strengthened if they and the habitats they share with people and other African wildlife are adequately protected.
“Disney is committed to supporting lion conservation efforts and we believe The Lion King is the perfect story to remind us of the role we each have in helping ensure a world where these majestic animals are treasured and protected,” said Elissa Margolis, senior vice president, Enterprise Social Responsibility for The Walt Disney Company. “Conservation has always been a core value of The Walt Disney Company and that commitment is apparent in everything from our films to our theme parks and is why we created the Disney Conservation Fund. Through the stories we tell and the experiences we create, we have the power to reach people around the world and inspire them to take action with us.”
The Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) has directed $75 million to save wildlife globally since 1995, including $13 million to protect African wildlife spanning more than 30 countries. The Lion King Protect the Pride donation will be DCF’s largest single contribution in its 24-year history, supporting WCN’s Lion Recovery Fund and their work to engage people in conservation solutions. The Lion Recovery Fund supports a variety of partner organizations working in Africa and employs a three-pronged approach to lion recovery: investing in conservation projects on the ground, developing campaigns that build support for the protection and revitalization of Africa’s lion populations, and expanding and strengthening collaborations, as no single entity will be able to solve this challenge alone.
As a kickoff to The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign, Disney and WCN convened more than 80 leading lion conservation experts this past May at the Lion Footprint Forum at Walt Disney World Resort, the first meeting of its kind in 20 years, aimed at expanding collaboration to grow conservation impact. Participants from 18 countries and representing more than 50 organizations and foundations discussed challenges impacting lion populations across lion range countries and strategies to address them. Resulting ideas and project proposals will be considered for support through the LRF.
“The Lion Recovery Fund has a vision to bring lions back across Africa, and Disney’s powerful storytelling is a perfect way to get even more people aware of the lion crisis and inspired to take action,” said Charles Knowles, President and Co-Founder of Wildlife Conservation Network. “The Wildlife Conservation Network is proud to continue its longstanding collaboration with Disney to make a meaningful impact for people and wildlife across Africa.”
Opening in theaters on July 19, director Jon Favreau’s all-new The Lion King journeys to the African savanna where a future king must overcome betrayal and tragedy to assume his rightful place on Pride Rock.
The cast also includes Donald Glover (Atlanta, Solo: A Star Wars Story) as future king Simba and James Earl Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Field of Dreams) as Simba’s wise and loving father, Mufasa, reprising his iconic performance from Disney’s 1994 animated classic.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Twelve Years a Slave, Doctor Strange) was called on to portray Simba’s villainous uncle Scar, and Alfre Woodard (Juanita, Marvel’s Luke Cage) portrays Simba’s no-nonsense mother, Sarabi. JD McCrary (Tyler Perry’s The Paynes, Vital Signs) fills the shoes of Young Simba, a confident cub who can’t wait to be king, and Shahadi Wright Joseph (Hairspray Live, Broadway’s “The Lion King”) brings tough cub Young Nala to life.
Every kingdom comes with a trustworthy advisor or two. John Kani (Coriolanus, Captain America: Civil War) plays the wise baboon Rafiki, and John Oliver (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) plays hornbill Zazu, Mufasa’s loyal confidant. When Simba goes into exile, he relies on two newfound friends—Seth Rogen (Sausage Party, Neighbors) lends his comedic chops to naïve warthog Pumbaa, and Billy Eichner (Billy on the Street, American Horror Story) is the know-it-all meerkat Timon.
While most of the animals in the kingdom respect the king, the hyenas have other plans. Florence Kasumba (Emerald City, Black Panther) portrays Shenzi, Eric André (The Eric André Show, Man Seeking Woman) is Azizi, and Keegan-Michael Key (Predator, Friends from College) plays Kamari.