'African Cats' - Keith Scholey

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PHOENIX -- Disneynature's much-anticipated "African Cats" opened nationwide Friday.

More than two years in the making, it's the story of a family of lions and another of cheetahs living on the African savanna. Called a "true-life adventure," the film is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

By mid-April, more than $1.7 million in tickets had been pre-sold.

Director Keith Scholey was in town Friday, and sat down with Tara Hitchcock to talk about the documentary.

"We actually needed two years [to film] because we wanted to see those little cubs grow up and become adult cheetahs," Scholey said.

When it comes down to it, the movie is really about mothers and their babies.

"If you're a wild cat in Africa, it's all left to the mums to actually sort stuff out," Scholey explained. "The boys, they kind of come and go and cause of a bit of trouble. This film is very, very much about the struggle of those two mothers -- a lion mother and a cheetah mum -- to being those cubs up."

While he and his crew were allowed to film on the Maasai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya, they were not permitted to get involved or interfere in any way -- even if it's to protect  the animals from potential danger.

"These animals allow us to come in and watch their lives, but it's not our place to interfere," Scholey said. "That is absolutely heart-wrenching at times. When you stay with these animals day in, day out, you love them like your family.  When bad things, it is heart-rending, but it isn't our business to get involved. It's the wild and it should be left that way."

While the movie does carry a G rating, there are some things that will probably warrant a discussion with young children.

"We wanted to make the film truthful to the animals," Scholey said. "It is a true story, and tough stuff happens in the wild. But I've sat through this film with lots and lots of young kids already and they love it. We've been careful to make sure there isn't anything in there that they shouldn't be seeing."