A really big miaow


African Cats is the first film to be launched under The Walt Disney Company’s new brand, Disneynature, which aims to develop films that have real-life nature and wildlife at their core, as well as captivating storytelling for the big screen.

“AFRICAN CATS’   Photos by Owen Newman   ©Disney Enterprises, Inc.    All Rights Reserved

A true story about the continent’s big cats, African Cats is set against the backdrop of the Masai Mara and is narrated by Samuel L Jackson. The film was directed by acclaimed British filmmakers Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill and was three years in the making.

Born and raised in East Africa, Scholey is a qualified zoologist and well known for his documentary career. He was a producer on the BBC Natural World and Wild Life on One strands, creating series such as Big Cat Diary. He was also editor-in-chief of Blue Planet and Wild Africa.

“Shooting African Cats was one of the highlights of my life,’ says Scholey. “I love Africa and each time I come back here I have a strong sense of connection. In terms of shooting the film we set up base camp in the Masai Mara. We filmed on a Sony F3, with a Phantom for the slow mo footage. The whole film was shot on either 30/ 60/400 fps. This created a filmmic look.’

The other critical aspect was to create an interesting narrative story. “We worked with the great story consultant John Truby,’ continues Scholey. “The objective was to develop a character driven story that would grip the audience. Our music composer Nicholas Hooper (BAFTA winner and Grammy Award nominee) did a fantastic job to heighten the emotion.

“We wanted to make a hybrid between documentary and narrative filmmaking. As a director I believe we need to push the boundaries. I worked with a group of really talented people on African Cats and the whole process was brilliant.’

Christine Service, country manager South African and non-French speaking Africa, The Walt Disney Company, points out that Disney holds nature at the heart of many of the films that it has produced across its history, from Bambi through to The Lion King. Disney’s True-Life Adventure Motion Pictures, released between 1948 and 1960 won eight Academy Awards. 

“We feel that the time is right to build on this strong heritage with a new genre of films that combine world class nature filmmaking with great Disney storytelling in a way which we hope will contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of the beauty and fragility of our natural world.

“African Cats releases in South Africa on 5 August and we look forward to the reaction of South African audiences to the film. Our aim is always to create something that resonates and engages with every member of the family,’ states Service.

The film will be released on DVD and BluRay on 28 November.

A new Disneynature film, Chimpanzee, is currently in production in the Ivory Coast and Uganda.


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