‘It started as a joke’: Sumter man speaks about viral video of donkey singing along to ‘The Lion King’

‘It started as a joke’: Sumter man speaks about viral video of donkey singing along to ‘The Lion King’
Travis Kinley pets his donkey, Nathan. The two achieved internet fame after being seen singing together on a viral video. (Source: WIS)

SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - A Sumter man who is achieving internet fame for a viral video of his donkey singing along to The Lion King’s “Circle of Life,” said the entire video started as a joke with his friends.

The 25-second video has garnered more than 3.1 million views on Facebook, in addition to being shared across other social media platforms and websites.

S.C. man recreates iconic ‘The Lion King’ intro with donkey

“I’m part of the Young Preachers of America Facebook group and someone made a joke about Lion King sermons,” said Travis Kinley. “Someone else started talking about ‘Circle of Life’ being a pre-sermon hymnal and I always say the proof is in the pudding!”

Kinley said he went into his backyard where he keeps his donkey, Nathan, as well as his riding horse and miniature horse.

“I pulled my phone out and started recording and he started braying next to me,” said Kinley. “I moved the camera on him, I’m looking at the camera and I’m thinking, ‘I cannot believe this is happening right now!’”

Kinley said he’s owned Nathan for about a year, getting him from a farm near the North Carolina and South Carolina border. In that time, he’s heard his fair share of braying, but never for longer than a few seconds.

“I think he just saw me being loud and he knows he’s a loud animal and he thought we’re two peas in a pod so let me be loud, too,” said Kinley.

Since posting the video late last week, Kinley said he’s received hundreds of messages from people around the world thanking him for a good laugh.

“Most people are thankful for the laugh and having something positive floating around,” he said. “Some of the most rewarding ones have talked about them needing to feel some joy after going through a tough time and it’s so great to be able to deliver that smile and laugh to them.”

Most days when he goes to feed the animals, Kinley said he isn’t singing. But the challenge posed by his friends online made that morning different. He admits to singing on the lawnmower every once in a while, but said Nathan can’t usually hear him.

“He was just wanting to hang out and tell a joke with me last week,” he said.

Kinley said he’s contemplated setting up a projector in his backyard, allowing his now internet famous donkey to watch The Lion King.

“At least the beginning, when ‘Circle of Life’ is played,” he laughed. “Maybe he’ll even pick up some new songs!”

Additional performances could be in the near future for Nathan, as his owner looks to see if he’ll pick up another one of his favorites.

“I want try to learn Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and see what he does,” Kinley said. “How fun would that be!”

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