Legendary Sri Lankan broadcaster Vernon Corea was a great admirer of Walt Disney – the man who created the most famous mouse in the world – Mickey Mouse. Back in the 1960s when Vernon Corea lived at 5 Maha Nuge Gardens in Colombo he bought his three children Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck toothbrush holders. He bought them Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comic books and hired cartoon films for the children’s birthday parties at Maha Nuge Gardens.
Walt Disney never visited Sri Lanka although the Walt Disney Company have a strong presence in India. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Walt Disney’s magical creations of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Pluto, Scrooge were all very popular in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.
Walt Disney who died in 1966 may not have visited Sri Lanka but after his death his company actually did an animal adventure film – basing it in Ceylon. Chandar, the Black Leopard of Ceylon, wass a 1972 Walt Disney Productions animal adventure film. Directed by long-time Disney favorite Winston Hibler, who wore many hats in the Disney organization, including producer, director, writer, narrator, even actor.
Here is the plot of the Disney Film:
Chandar is a black leopard who lives near the beach of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) together with his mother and his sister. When fishers arrive they have to leave and move to a temple in the jungle. When Chandra explores the new territory he falls into a river but the old Buddhist monk Sumana rescues him from the water. Three years later Chandar gets separated from his family during a forest fire and has to learn to live on his own. He meets Sumana again when the monk starts on a pilgrimage together with the young boy Dasa. They visit the old temples and statues of Ceylon and Sumana teaches him Buddhist philosophy and wisdom. Chandar follows them out of curiosity. During an elephant hunt Chandar saves the boy from the wild elephants but gets himself captured by the hunters and is sold to a circus. Some weeks later the boy frees the leopard from his cage in the circus. Meanwhile the police is searching for another leopard who killed a villager. When they see Chandar, they try to shoot him but he can escape by jumping down a cliff. Then Chandar meets a female leopard and they hunt together. The man-eating leopard attacks Chandar but he can defeat him. When Sumana and Dasa reach the end of their pilgrimage the man-eater attacks Dasa but Chandar kills him. When the police arrives the pilgrims convince them that Chandar is not the man-eater. The boy returns to his father and Sumana spends the rest of his life as a hermit in the jungle. The cast in ‘Chandar, the Black Leopard of Ceylon,’ included:
Ben Wright as Narrator
Joe Abeywickrama as Father
Esram Jayasinghe as Dasa
Frederick Steyne as Sumana
Many Disney Films have been shown in cinemas in Sri Lanka throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Whenever a Disney film came to Colombo Vernon Corea never failed to take his children to see it – two popular ones were Mary Poppins and Flubber:
Vernon was not able to visit Disneyland in Florida, California or even Disneyland in Paris. But his children and his grand children have enjoyed the magical Disney experience. Vernon’s daughter Ouida Corea Wickramaratne and her husband Praveen and family have spent a wonderful holiday in Disneyland in Paris, France. Ouida’s elder daughter Rebecca Caley-Perry and her husband Steve have enjoyed visiting Disneyland in Florida. Vernon’s son Ivan Corea and his family including Vernon Corea’s grandson Charin Corea have visited Disneyland in Florida and awarded Walt Disney World an Autism Award in 2012 for being so inclusive – employing people with autism in Disney Resorts and Parks and also for reaching out to families with autism who visit Disneyland in Florida and in fact all over the world. Charin enjoys seeing the Walt Disney exhibition ‘One Man’s Dream.’ It is one of his favourites. He is fascinated by the Walt Disney Story.