This year, there are a number of Disney releases that have kickstarted our wanderlust. As the fictional characters set off on their own adventures, we’re following in their footsteps and making a list of new places to explore… from red desert landscapes to African savannahs.
The Lion King
Following on from the beloved 1994 animated film, Disney is set to release a live-action/CGI hybrid remake of The Lion King in July, featuring the voices of Beyoncé as Nala, Daniel Glover as Simba and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. While you won’t be able to travel to Pride Rock, the fictional lands that Simba calls home, you can get a taste of the savannah by travelling to Kenya. Research trips by the film’s artists and animators were carried out in the country’s Hell’s Gate National Park.
Located in the Southern Rift Valley and not too far from Nairobi, Hell’s Gate is a popular spot for biking, hiking, camping and picnics. The name derives from the intense geothermic action that bubbles beneath the ground and the area has some great hot springs for bathing. Wildlife is plentiful and there’s a chance you’ll spot zebra, hyenas, baboons or bison roaming the grounds as well as over 103 different species of birds. Most visitors stay at nearby Lake Naivasha’s many lodges and camps and visit Hell’s Gate on a day trip, although there are a good few camping spots located throughout the park.
The Guy Ritchie-directed live action remake of Aladdin is set to be released in May, starring Will Smith as Genie, Mena Massoud as the titular prince and Naomi Smith as Princess Jasmine. In the animated version, the narrator tells us that the city of Agrabah, where the story is set, is located near the River Jordan. Unfortunately for fans, Agrabah isn’t a real place but the live action version was filmed in Jordan’s Unesco World Heritage site Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum is the sweeping red desert landscape that T.E. Lawrence described as “vast, echoing and Godlike” in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Visitors to the protected land usually embark on 4WD excursions and take part in activities like quad biking, rock climbing, hiking and horse or camel trekking. The spectacular landscape is home to the nomadic Bedouin whose traditional customs help them survive the harsh desert life. Accommodation in the area consists of campsites from the basic, sleeping-under-the-stars variety to the high-end, eco-lodge options.
The “practically perfect” nanny was brought back to the big screen at the end of last year in Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. While much of the movie was shot in Shepperton and Pinewood Studios, some of the most iconic scenes were set in real London locations from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Bank of England, Threadneedle Street. Constitution Hill near Buckingham Palace also makes an appearance.
London was the inspiration to both the original and new Mary Poppins movies, as author P.L. Travers was influenced by her own life in the city when working on the eight-book series. While you can’t travel to 17 Cherry Tree Lane, you can visit Travers’ former home at 50 Smith Street in Chelsea, which in May 2018 was commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque.
You can pretend you’re in the movie by simply flying a kite in Hyde Park but there are a number of activities throughout London to celebrate the movie’s release, including a Mary Poppins-themed afternoon tea at Aqua Shard on the 31st floor of The Shard building. In the autumn, the stage version of Mary Poppins will return to the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End.