Upon getting the idea for the film, co-writer/director Gilles de Maistre asked specialist Kevin Richardson about the possibility of filming a child with a lion. He was told that it would be impossible, as the only way for the lion not to harm the child would be that they grow up together, a three year process for a lion and much too long for a film shoot. Undeterred, de Maistre found Daniah De Villiers a young, South African girl already familiar with lions to grow up with the titular white lion cub, and shot the film over two and half years, from May 2015 to December 2017, with the other actors regularly flying in to shoot their scenes.
Mia and the White Lion recount the friendship between a child and a wild animal, a relationship that was provoked by the production that cast more than 300 children in South Africa before finding Daniah De Villiers who embodies Mia. Daniah De Villiers spent three days with Thor, the lion, for three years, while the filming took place in four blocks during this period. After all this time in the bush, the girl had to leave the lion and resume a normal life, which was a real tear. She returns however to see Thor regularly. For Kevin Richardson, the most complicated thing was finding parents crazy enough to let their child participate in such an adventure. The director specifies however that his film is not a documentary but indeed a fiction.
Gilles de Maistre called on South African zoologist Kevin Richardson, who has been interacting with lions for over twenty years. The first devoted the second documentary entitled The Man who whispered in the ears of lions(L'Homme qui murmure à l'oreille des lions.). Sometimes Richardson took the place of the director to be able to film the lion as closely as possible in potentially dangerous scenes.
Daniah De Villiers and Ryan McLennan had, for three years, three impregnation sessions a week, two or three hours each time, with Kevin Richardson. He taught them to get used to the presence of the lion. Very involved at the beginning to lay down the basic rules, he was then able to pass the baton to a team for part of the sessions. Once the lion became an adult, he returned full time to take care of the children.
If the bet to spin with a lion seems crazy, the team was obviously extremely prepared. Ryan McLennan, who plays the brother of Mia, has actually served as a lining in case the actress Daniah De Villiers is afraid.
Gilles de Maistre considered a sequel but abandoned the idea because it required to rebuild the relationship between Daniah De Villiers and the lion. However, the cessation of filming resulted in the end of their interactions and a three-year apprenticeship.
The idea of Mia and the White Lion came to Gilles de Maistre while he was making a television documentary on the unique friendship between children and wild animals around the world. In South Africa, he meets a boy whose parents had a lion farm. Under the guise of preserving them, they actually resold them for hunting in pens.