Perhaps the most recognizable Hollywood animal–outside of Lassie–is “Leo the Lion,” MGM Studios’ famous mascot. For decades his image introduced hundreds of motion pictures, and Zamba the lion acted in dozens more. But he wasn’t always a Hollywood star, and he certainly proved to be much more.
This real-life story of Zamba, told by world-renowned animal behaviorist Ralph Helfer and Caldecott Honor recipient Ted Lewin, follows the famous lion from an orphaned cub in Africa to iconic Hollywood actor. But Zamba’s greatest role wasn’t scripted and it certainly wasn’t captured on film. In 1969, the canyon that housed Ralph Helfer’s animal ranch was ravaged by floods. As death claimed many of the animals, dozens were led to safety by one heroic lion.