5 real-life Lion King locations

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 8 August 2019

In the spirit of nostalgia and excitement about the new live-action remake of the 1994 Disney classic, we look at some of the real-life locations on the continent that inspired some of our favourite Lion King scenes.

James Chinlund, the production designer of the new Lion King remake, was inspired by real African landscapes when planning the sets of the latest film reboot.

It’s no secret that Kenya is one of the biggest destinations in Africa for safaris, and much of the new film’s scenery is inspired by the county’s golden plains.

1. Mount Kenya National Park

The lofty Mount Kenya and the surrounding national park and reserve inspired much of the forested settings for Simba’s interactions with the quirky duo, Timone and Pumba. You may see in Mount Kenya the setting for the fictional ‘Cloud Forest’.


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2. Masai Mara

The wild and expansive savannah plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara are a boon to many safari-goers who come in search of the Great Wildebeest Migration. You can’t be inspired by Kenya and skip some part of this landscape altogether, and in the Lion King it formed part of the Pride Lands.


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3. Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserve

Where would an African tale be without a cool, inviting watering hole at its centre? The Buffalo Springs and Shaba nature reserves helped the film’s production team envisage this classic image of the African safari experience.


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4. Ndoto Mountains and Chyulu Hills

Perhaps one of the most powerful Lion King settings is the monumental ones set at the fictional Pride Rock, a sheer orange and golden rock face with a smooth, rocky outcrop jutting out at the bottom. No doubt one of the most sought-after spots for its ‘views’, Simba would have the perfect, uninterrupted view of the golden savannah domains. The granite formations of the Ndoto Mountains as well as the Chyulu Hills near the Tsavo national parks were a big inspiration for the film.


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5. Sesriem Canyon, Namibia

The dry and striking desert wastelands of the Namib are first choice for envisioning where a young Simba learns to roar, and other momentous occasions. The Sossusvlei sand dunes were also a big influence for design in the film.


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Other desert-like landscapes were inspired by Lake Turkana in Kenya’s Rift Valley, parts of Tanzania like the adjoining park area between Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro as well as Dallol in Ethiopia – the spooky, ominous wasteland and lair where Simba’s malevolent uncle Scar hangs out.

Featured image: Disney press release, April 2019


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