From ‘The Lion King’ to the King of Kings

By   •   July 18, 2019

At only 19, Davy Liu started as an animator for Disney, sketching scenes for “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “Mulan.” In time, though, fame and fortune didn’t measure up to God’s call. Liu stepped away from Hollywood to create feature-length animated films that teach Biblical values.

God has a special plan for you.

The former Disney animator still remembers hearing that promise at a Billy Graham Crusade he attended in Orlando, Florida, as a teenager struggling with self-esteem.

Raised in Taiwan, Davy Liu never measured up in the highly competitive culture. The words of affirmation—that God made him unique and loved him—touched his soul, and that night he surrendered his heart to Christ.

Fast-forward five years. Liu thought he discovered his destiny when he landed his dream job animating Disney films. We’re talking blockbusters, like “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “Mulan.”

>> The Bible tells an amazing lion story, too. Listen to this 1-minute clip from Billy Graham.

For a while, Liu was over-the-top happy. He found fame and a six-figure salary. Not long after, Warner Brothers and George Lucas also called, and Liu helped illustrate “Star Wars: Episode I.” Like many in the entertainment business, he set his sights on winning an Oscar.

Davy Liu’s father became a devout Christian and raised his family to serve Christ. They often watched Billy Graham Crusades on TV in Taiwan. “My father was a big evangelist because of Billy Graham,” Liu explained, adding that his father owned a bakery. As a young boy, Liu wasn’t sure if his dad was selling Jesus or selling bread. “People would come buy bread and he would lead them to Christ.”

But then God started working on his heart.

Creating sketches for scene after scene, Liu wrestled with what the films didn’t contain—a message of hope about God’s love.

Over the next seven years, he was convicted by the values these films were teaching impressionable children around the world, including “The Lion King.” In his soul, Liu knew they should be gravitating toward the King of kings instead.

At the time, “there were no wholesome and high quality films that represented the story of Christ,” he explained. Liu pondered what he could do to make the Gospel relevant for kids. And what about children who don’t attend church? How would they learn about God’s love for them?

Inspired by the verse his father encouraged him with—“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), Liu let his Hollywood dream go and set out to make animated films that translated Biblical values.

>>Hear Davy tell his story in this podcast—GPS: God. People. Stories.

A New Ministry Birthed

Liu’s exodus from Disney meant a major lifestyle change and cost Liu his marriage. Depressed and behind on bills, the next four years were rough. The animator couldn’t understand why God had led him away from a lucrative career without giving him direction for a ministry.

In the quiet, Liu would read his Bible. “It was the darkest time when God gave me this amazing inspiration,” he confided. He imagined stories about animals discovering Noah’s ark, and a fish’s perspective on the parting of the Red Sea. Using these ideas, Liu turned five stories into his first book series called The Invisible Tails.

The Invisible Tails, inspired by Bible stories, is Davy Liu’s first book series. Kendu, the stuffed fox pictured here, is a character in Liu’s book, The Giant Leaf. He also named his film ministry, Kendu Films, after Philippians 4:13, which states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“God showed me how I can translate the Bible so the King of kings can go beyond ‘The Lion King,’” he said. “Once I found my identity in Christ, I was so fulfilled.” His self-esteem soared in this new realization.

“I realized I’m so unique.” Liu shared. “God gave me a passion to draw and use my skills to share His message with children.”

In the meantime, he met and married his new wife, Joan, and in 2004 they formed Kendu Films, a name derived from Philippians 4:13. Besides creating The Invisible Tails, Liu has spent many hours speaking at church services, conferences and corporate events around the world.

Now the illustrator is ready to engage children with the Gospel wherever they’re at—in their parents’ mini-vans, at the movies or at home. The ministry’s first feature-length animated film, “The Giant Leaf,” is next up on the agenda.

“I want the story of the Bible to be told in the mainstream and not to sit in church bookstores,” he said. “I want to use innovative storytelling through movies so kids can engage the Good News of Jesus Christ anytime through their phones.”

God has a plan for you, too. Start here.

Davy Liu sketched scenes for “The Lion King” as a 19 year old.