Duchess of Sussex's new role: narrating a Disney film about elephants

Meghan was asked to narrate the film months after Prince Harry was seen telling Disney chief about his wife's voiceover talents

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Lion king premiere
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the premiere of Disney's live-action version of The Lion King in July 2019. The Duke was seen in conversation with Disney chief Bob Iger while the Duchess greeted the film's star, Beyoncé Knowles Credit: Getty Images

The Duchess of Sussex is to narrate a Disney film about a plucky elephant and his mother on an "epic journey" across the Kalahari Desert.

The Duchess agreed to do the voiceover after a direct request from filmmakers, and recorded it in the UK in the autumn after seeing footage of the documentary.

The Duchess, who was seen in conversation with Disney chairman Bob Iger at the premiere of its live-action version of The Lion King premiere in July 2019, narrated the film in her first announced project since she and the Duke of Sussex left the Royal Family to pursue "financial independence".

Disney will be making a donation to Elephants Without Borders, which the film is supporting. 

The film, called Elephant, has been announced as part of a new slate for Disney+ and will premiere on the digital streaming channel on April 3.

It has been co-directed by Alastair Fothergill and Vanessa Berlowitz, who have won Baftas and Emmys for their work with the BBC Natural History Unit, and have been behind some of Sir David Attenborough's most popular wildlife series, including Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet.

Disney said the film tells the story of "African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo as their herd makes an epic journey hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert".

It said: "Led by their great matriarch, Gaia, the family faces brutal heat, dwindling resources and persistent predators, as they follow in their ancestor’s footsteps on a quest to reach a lush, green paradise."

The company will celebrate the film's release on the streaming service by "supporting” Elephants Without Borders, an organisation in Botswana that aims to protect habitats and prevent conflict between animals and humans.

The Duke of Sussex at a tree-planting ceremony in Chobe National Park, part of an engagement with staff from Elephants Without Borders, during his African tour with the Duchess of Sussex in September 2019 Credit: PA

 

The Duke of Sussex has worked with Elephants Without Borders before, and was photographed with its founder, Dr Mike Chase, during the couple's official tour to Africa in September 2019. 

The Duke and Duchess have previously released a picture of themselves helping to tag an elephant during conservation work in Botswana in 2017, when they were dating.

The Disney+ release will launch with the documentary Dolphin Reef, narrated by Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman.

Intended to mark Earth Month, the films are part of Disneynature, which aims to "engage, inspire and educate" audiences with wildlife documentary films.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Botswana in 2017, where they helped Elephants Without Borders with conservation work Credit: Sussex Royal

It is the first major project for the Duchess of Sussex after she announced she would be leaving the Royal Family, along with the Duke, in January.

The couple are officially working royals until March 31, with Elephant being released days later.

In a statement posted to their website in January, the couple said: "As they step back as senior members of the Royal Family and no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, they will become members of the Royal Family with financial independence which is something they look forward to."

In an explanation of how they envisioned their funding would now work, they added: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex take great pride in their work and are committed to continuing their charitable endeavours as well as establishing new ones.

"In addition, they value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing."

The couple's Sussex Royal Foundation, originally founded in the UK with British trustees, is due to wrap up shortly, with the couple instead focusing on a "non-profit" organisation.  

The news of the Duchess's Disney project came after Prince Harry was seen telling Mr Iger about his wife's talent for such work, when he was caught on video saying: "You do know she does voiceovers? You seem surprised. She's really interested."

Mr Iger was seen to reply: "We'd love to try. That's a great idea."