2011 Certificate: u


Unfolding like a real-life version of The Lion King, this Disney documentary tells two overlapping tales of survival from the untamed heart of Kenya. While an ageing lioness struggles to secure her daughter's future in a pride threatened by marauders from the North, a mother cheetah must use all her guile to raise five cubs entirely on her own. Narrator Patrick Stewart follows their fortunes in a majestic but unforgiving land where the jaws of danger are always open.


  • Keith Scholey

  • Alastair Fothergill


  • Documentary


Made under the Disneynature banner by two former heads of the BBC's Natural History Unit, this cinematic beast comes with an impressive pedigree.

But as anyone who can recall trips to the cinema and bank holiday teatimes being brightened by those Wonderful World Of Disney docu-rettes, it was not Uncle Walt's way to simply show a procession of pretty pictures and pass them off as a nature film. A story must be told.

And so, carefully framed and edited to create a dramatic narrative, Disney hereby presents the real Lion King.

Or, given its cast of fiercely protective mothers, imperilled cubs, fearsome marauders and sneaky opportunists: 'Mane of Thrones'.

Filmed entirely in Kenya's Masai Mara nature reserve, it follows the travails of a veteran lioness ("Layla") and a lone cheetah ("Sita") as they fight a constant and concurrent battle to keep themselves and their young offspring alive.

They even face some of the same foes as an all-conquering male lion from the north crosses Sita's path during his bid to extend his reign over Layla's River Pride.

With television setting new standards of wildlife filmmaking every day, African Cats delivers the visual goods while attempting to raise its game for the big screen via a grand orchestral score and the stentorian tones of Patrick Stewart (US narrator Samuel L Jackson was presumably too cool a cat for UK audiences to handle).

You might think you've seen it all before. But directors Alastair Fothergill (who made Disneynature's first film Earth) and Keith 'Big Cat Diary' Scholey conjure up some touchingly unique scenes to illustrate the mother-infant bond and spring enough surprises to keep you on your toes.

Ever wondered who to back in the top-of-the-food-chain clash between lions and crocodiles? Place your bets here.

Providing a feast of kills, confrontations and capering cubs while keeping on-screen gore to a minimum, nature lovers of all ages will get their fill.