Sri Lanka in Disney’s spotlight with ‘Monkey Kingdom’

9 April 2015 02:34 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Apart from the aggressive marketing that Sri Lanka Tourism has engaged in the focused markets of China and Germany, the country is set to receive a massive boost from in its seventh key market - the USA - with a top billed Disney movie ‘Monkey Kingdom’, a feature-length wildlife documentary billed to debut in the US cinemas on April 17 and rolled down to 12,000 cinemas across the country. 

Filmed almost entirely around Polonnaruwa, the film documents the life of a troop of wild toque-macaque monkeys (rilaw), including breathtaking action sequences set in the precincts of the sacred city.

The film is directed by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill, who were responsible for other Disney blockbusters such as ‘Earth’, which grossed more than US $ 100 million at the box office. Their last 2012 movie ‘Chimpanzee’, filmed in West Africa, grossed almost US $ 35 million, a record for a wildlife documentary, which had the potential for Sri Lanka to be a top of the mind brand among families that have kids, said Sports and Tourism Minister Navin Dissanayake.

Disney has billed the cast of ‘Monkey Kingdom’ as Maya, Kip, Raja and Kumar, all of whom are wild macaques. The deftly-crafted plot centres on Maya and her attempts to give her cute baby son Kip the best start in life. There is gripping tension as Maya’s territory is overrun by a neighbouring troop and she and her family have to find refuge elsewhere. Portrayed as a wise matriarch, Maya organises her troop so as to reclaim their lost territory, leading to the happy ending that is Disney’s hallmark.

The script is narrated by famed Hollywood actress Tina Fey, perhaps best known for her role in the comedy ‘Date Night’. In addition to an alluring musical score by the British composer Harry Gregson-Williams (whose scores for ‘Shrek’ and ‘Wolverine’ were widely acclaimed), ‘Monkey Kingdom’s’ has adopted the chart-topping hit song ‘Team’ by the New Zealand-born pop singer Lorde.

Disney predicts that ‘Monkey Kingdom’ will be a hit with families everywhere and has released a 74-page educators’ guide with school projects, games and quizzes for children. The guide mentions Sri Lanka, a country to which only the most adventurous Americans venture, no less than 39 times. 

According to Tourism Minister Navin Dissanayake, who also oversees the subject of wildlife, his ministry plans to extract the maximum benefit for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry from this propaganda windfall.   “The movie portrays Sri Lanka as a genuinely exotic destination and shows not just the monkeys but also their association with the historic city of Polonnaruwa and its people,” he said. “No one pays much attention to these monkeys in Sri Lanka and most people think of them as pests. But this film shows how fascinating these animals are and I hope it will inspire people to pay more attention to their conservation.”

Disney has paired with Conservation International, a global wildlife NGO, to make sure that a part of the proceeds goes towards the conservation of primates, including those in Sri Lanka. “We need to do everything we can,” said Minister Dissanayake, “To make sure our tourism authorities get the maximum benefit from this fantastic opportunity to introduce Sri Lanka as a nature tourism destination to the world.”
 
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