Christian the Lion headed for the big screen

On April 6, 2009, in Entertainment, Pets, by Jody Ewing

Okay, I confess — I’m one of those millions who just can’t get enough of this almost 40-year-old true story about Christian the Lion and the YouTube video that helped bring about its resurrection.

My obsession, however, was further fed last night when the Animal Planet channel aired its hour-long television special A Lion Called Christian featuring clips and narrative (and oh-so-much-more) from the original Christian the Lion documentary film, Christian the Lion (The Lion Who Thought He Was People) made by Bill Travers.

But, the Animal Planet channel didn’t stop there.

Recognizing one hungry audience, they served up the best hors d’oeuvres fit for a king’s pride: Christian the Lion Videos from the documentary; Christian the Lion Pictures, Christian the Lion Puzzles, the first chapter from the Christian the Lion book, and, in what I expect will draw even more interest, a Christian the Lion Movie Site where fans can cast votes on the upcoming feature film’s preferred theme song, who’s going to play Ace Bourke and John Rendall, who will direct, and even marketing campaigns for the film’s trailer. (Sony Pictures has begun the process of acquiring rights to the book, and though negotiations are in the early stages, we all know they know a good thing when they see it.)

Sure, I’ll admit I’d hoped for a feature film and had even given thought to who might portray Bourke and Rendall, but in this day of numerous Facebook quizzes where users cite top television series and films and recording artists, I still found the Animal Planet survey worthy of each and every click. After all, I’m already vested in this story; Christian has laid claim to a big part of my heart.

Of the five categories where visitors may vote (Theme Song, Casting John Rendall, Casting Ace Bourke, Director, and Marketing Campaign), I differed in the majority choice in all but one — the marketing campaign for the film’s trailer — but then, that one is/was pretty much a given. Its most popular answer lies in those numbers on the YouTube videos…millions of universal hearts gathered there, indeed.

If you missed the not-to-miss Animal Planet documentary on Christian and Ace and John, take heed: it will air again on Thursday, April 9, at 6 pm CST and on April 10 at 1 a.m. CST. Be sure to check your own local listings — this you don’t want to miss.

The Christian the Lion Phenomena

On March 20, 2009, in Videos, by Jody Ewing

I’d just turned off my computer last night and sat down to watch a movie when my sister Lori called. “I just sent you a link to a YouTube video you absolutely have to watch,” she said. I told her I’d just shut down my computer, but there was such urgency and excitement in her voice I agreed to boot up again.

“I didn’t even get halfway through and just burst into tears,” she said as my Mac whirred back to life. Her voice quivered a little, and I feared she’d burst again before the video even loaded. I doubted any YouTube clip could get me that choked up; it took all of 35 seconds to prove me wrong.

The video — one of several with varying lengths of footage and background music — depicts the 1972 reunion between “Christian the Lion” and two Australians, John Rendall and Anthony “Ace” Bourke, who’d purchased the young 35-pound cub in 1969 and raised him until 1971, at which time George Adamson helped them rehabilitate the then 185-pound lion into the wild African plains of Kenya. Christian had been in Africa for a year when Rendall and Bourke, who’d been informed of Christian’s successful transition, decided to pay him a visit.

By then, Christian had become the head of the pride, and Adamson warned Rendall and Bourke that Christian may not remember them. The video — an excerpt from the documentary Christian: The Lion at World’s End — tells what happened.

In July 2008, the Today show caught up with Bourke and Rendall, who spoke with host Meredith Vieira about their days with Christian and their ongoing commitment to preserving wildlife. It’s a heartwarming article with links to slideshow photos of Christian’s early life and a link to Meredith’s interview with Bourke and Rendall.

The video Lori sent me — shown below — has been viewed more than 10 million times and has a solid five-star rating. No wonder; almost four decades after the documentary was shot, it’s still a five-star story.

Another worth seeing: watch the last 6 minutes of the documentary with original soundtrack and commentary by Virginia McKenna.

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