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While opinions were mixed among critics regarding the recent remake of The Lion King as far as the story the movie, one place where there is near universal agreement about the film is that it was stunning to look at. The film is a technological marvel. It uses CGI to create photo-realistic versions of animals, making something that we've simply never seen before on screen.
Prior to the release of the The Lion King on Blu-ray, I had an opportunity to sit down with Jon Ross, with Disney’s Animals in Film & TV and Claire Martin, Senior Manager, Strategic Philanthropy, Disney Corporate Social Responsibility at Disney's Animal Kingdom park in Orlando. Martin is part of a new initiative on behalf of the Disney Conservation Fund called Protect the Pride, an attempt to preserve Africa's dwindling lion population.
Considering how real The Lion King truly feels, and the way that reality might help inspire people to aid in conservation, I asked the pair about ways beyond theatrical movies they thought this technology could potentially be used. I saw the possibility for creating public service announcements or maybe making films that were a blend of theatrical storytelling and documentary. Claire Martin send me in an entirely new direction when she suggested the possibility of using Lion King style technology within Disney's theme parks as a way to give people a look at the animal world they might not otherwise get. Martin tole me...
I don't know if you've had a chance to do Flight of Passage over in Pandora. Very immersive, and I had an emotional reaction the first time I rode that ride. But I would love to be able to take people flying over a savanna or over a forest and to really experience how special our own planet is.
Avatar Flight of Passage is a motion simulator ride that gives you the experience of flying a banshee from the Avatar films. With the aid of 3D glasses you truly feel like you're flying over the planet Pandora with the wind in your face and the smells of the planet around you.
The attraction does a remarkable job of making you feel like you're on an alien world, so certainly the same concepts could be used to help somebody experience their home planet? Using the same photo realistic CGI you could create an African landscape that looks exactly like the real thing. This potentially opens the door to a type of connection to that place that your average Walt Disney World guest simply doesn't have. That connection could help people understand the need for wildlife conservation efforts in a way they might not otherwise be able to.
It would also be one hell of a theme park ride.
Check out Claire Martin and Jon Ross' complete comments in the video below.
Walt Disney himself was a serious conservationist. The film studio has been making wildlife documentaries almost as long as its been making animated feature films. While people always debate how Walt Disney would feel about any given thing the company that bears his name might do, it doesn't feel like a stretch to believe he would approve of something like this.
The Lion King is available on Blu-ray, 4K, DVD, and Digital HD now.