Animation Veteran Ford Riley Gives Eco-Spin to Disney Channel’s ‘Lion Guard’

Ford Riley knew his concept for “The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar” was on target when he saw his son reenacting the story with toy animals.

The animation vet — who got his start with Disney Channel series “Timon & Pumbaa,” the 1995 TV spinoff from the 1994 feature “The Lion King” — jumped at the chance to create and produce a stand-alone TV movie and series based on the now-iconic tales of Simba and his pride.

In Riley’s story, Simba’s youngest son, Kion, leads his animal friends as they save their ecosystem. The concept arose, he says, when Riley saw his own son “playing imaginary superheroes with his friends; it gave me the idea to put together a team that must protect the pride’s lands.”

Riley worked with director Howy Parkins (“Jake and the Never Land Pirates”) to define the look. They decided to preserve “The Lion King’s” hand-drawn appearance, and worked with artists at Mercury Filmworks to refine 2D computer graphics and simulate a flat quality.

As the series progresses, viewers will see diverse hues reflecting the shifting seasons of the African savanna.

The Lion Guard” will debut as an hour-long TV movie Nov. 22, and continue as a series in January on Disney Junior and Disney Channel.

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