Actually, it's not a false cognate although the meanings have diverged. They are all etymologically related.
English "guard", Italian "guardare" (look at) and French "regarder" (look at) all ultimately come from the Frankish (an extinct Germanic language) word "*wardōn", from whence also "ward".
"Animali" is plural. "Il" is singular, so that's definitely not an option. Normally for masculine plural you would use "i", but for words that start with a vowel this is kind of awkward to pronounce (try saying "guardiamo-i-animali") so an extra sound is inserted to make it sound better (it sounds a bit like "guardiamo-ljanimali").