King of Harambe
King of Harambe
by Ellen Rice
This painting was inspired by a moment experienced not in Africa, but in the Village of Harambe in Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. Disney is heavily involved in animal conservation, including breeding programs to protect species of animals from going extinct.
Lions are considered an endangered species. What was once a worldwide population of more than 200,000 is now under 20,000. You can read more about Disney's program here. Here are some other organizations dedicated to helping lions.
I cannot imagine a world without lions and don't want to. It was in the spirit of contributing to Disney's Wildlife Conservation Fund that I painted King of Harambe.
I had taken one of Walt Disney World's backstage tours that delved into the care and breeding programs Disney is participating in and had been given a clue when I would most likely see one of the male lions in other than a sleeping pose.
I was thrilled to find the instructions good and excited beyond all bounds when the male lion stood up, walked to the edge of a rocky precipice and roared. I snapped the shutter on my camera several times as the vehicle I was riding in bounced around on the rough road. One of the pics turned out - except for a vehicle pole going through the middle of it, but that's not really a problem to an artist. You just don't paint it.
Later I talked with the head of the educational program there and showed him the picture. He said I should paint it and contact Disney's Wildlife Conservation team and gave me the info I needed. He was pretty excited. I didn't need much convincing. I love painting animals and the thought of contributing to saving a breed through involvement with Disney was motivating.
When the painting was finished, I flew to Florida and met with the head of theme park merchandizing with my then marketing representative, but they had already come to an agreement with a local artist to portray the park's animals. The manager of the Boardwalk Wyland gallery was also very interested in carrying my wildlife art, but when he spoke to the owner of Wyland of Florida he found out that they had agreements with Disney not to compete with what Disney was doing. I still have an open invitation to submit other works to Wyland of Florida's owner, and I plan to.
I am allowed to sell the prints on my own and donate, so my efforts weren't futile. I thoroughly enjoyed painting this magnificent lion and a portion of the proceeds of each print sold is being donated to conservation efforts in different parts of the globe.
I hope you enjoy my painting, King of Harambe. And for those Mickey lovers among you, there is a hidden Mickey in this painting. I was told by Disney Conservation that I was only the 10th person in the world to find it. See if you can, too. Email me if you'd like to find out if you've spotted it. :)