I believe that Disney latest live-action film “The Lion King” is hands down the best live-action film they have created thus far. For you those of you that loved the original film you will be happy to know that the storyline is the same at the original, in fact, you will instantly notice your favorite scenes from the film. That landscape feature in the film is breathtaking and captivating which is amazing since the majority of the film is computer-generated. What’s more, the voice acting and singing sounded much like the original character, yet each actor brought their own unique personality. I truly believe this is a film that every mom should take their kids to see.
This month, I attended “The Lion King” press junket in Beverly Hills, California where the cast shared a few fun facts about making this film that found really interesting.
Here are 3 Interesting Fun Facts On The Making of Disney’s The Lion King
1) Playing Around
Jon Favreau created a VR game to help the crew and actors have a visual of the entire environment:
That was one of the big differences between this and Jungle Book. In Jungle Book, we were essentially using the same motion capture technology for performers and cameras as had been developed ten years prior for Avatar. But towards the end of that, there was a whole slew of VR, consumer-facing VR products that were hitting the scene. And we started experimenting with it at the end of Jungle Book and realized that we could build this really cool system of filmmaking using game engine technology and this new VR technology…. And that way I could bring in people who don’t have any background in visual effects. We would design the entire environments. We took all the recordings that we had from the actors and we animate within the game engine. In this case, it was Unity. And the crew would be able to put on the headsets, go in, scout, and actually set cameras within VR. And whenever anybody visited, I would pop them into the equipment… and we were able to build around the way filmmakers and film crews work. once we set this up, it’s fun for them to see what it’s like. But then we would actually have cameras driven in VR space by a film crew that was in a room about the size of this room with dollies and cranes and assistant directors, script supervisors, set dressers. So we kept the same film culture and planted it using this technology into the VR realm. And so although the film was completely animated as far as performances went, it allowed a live-action film crew to go in and use the tools they were used to. And so part of what’s so beautiful about the lighting, the camera work, the shots of the film, was that we were able to inherit a whole career of experience and artistry from our fantastic team. – Jon Favreau
Actor JD Mccrary shared his experience playing the VR Game:
It was so cool like watching your favorite movie, but you’re in it. That’s exactly what it was. So it was me and Shahadi and Mr. Favreau. We put on the headsets, we had these little controller things in our hands, and we could fly. It was like we were birds and we saw everything. We saw the Pridelands. We saw Pride Rock. We saw the watering hole. We saw the elephant graveyard. We saw it all, man. And it was so cool –JD Mccrary
Is Disney “The Lion King” VR Game hitting Shelves anytime in the near future?
It’s a very specific VR game that only works for making one movie. But we built all the assets from it. And so we’ve been talking. I’m not sure where we’re at about different VR type experiences. Because gaming and filmmaking, it’s all overlapping so much with so much change and disruption. And I think the effort here was to keep the tradition, not just the tradition of the film and stage production that came before us, but the filmmaking tradition. – Jon Favreau
2) It’s an Illusion
In order to capture the facial expression of the voice actors and translation the human expression on to the animal’s face Jon Favreau and his team when through a very specific process.
We just built off of our cast. So it started with us just in a room, like a black box theater. It was like a theater rehearsal. It really was like what you would do when you grab the book for the first time and everybody walks around on the stage. And you start to rough-in, you start to figure your character out. And I had them all performing together, we would get them in groups, we would have everybody miced so that the sound was usable for the film. And we would have them interacting with one another and improvising all the things that they’ve mentioned. At that point, we would take like a radio play that we would cut from that and we would shoot video on long lenses just to have a reference of what they were doing with their faces. And we would give that to the animators and the animators would take the choices that they made and interpolate it into what a lion would do or a hyena would do. Because if we just motion captured their face and put a human expression on the animal’s face, I was concerned that that would blow the illusion of it being a naturalistic documentary. We looked at a lot of the work that Hans has done. Like Planet Earth 2. All of those Attenborough BBC documentaries and how much emotion can be expressed without human performance just through music and editorial and the stories you’re telling and looking at movies like Babe that was the inspiration for how we did Jungle Book, with how much expression and emotion could come out of those characters without having human performance. And so it really fell on the animator’s hands to try to figure out how to express their preferences through the language of an animal’s emotive language. – Jon Favreau
I believe one jewel in the revamps version of this film is Performer, African music & choir arranger, writer, producer Lebo M returned to arranged and performed music for the Live-Action Version. He shared with us what it meant to him 25 years later:
Coming back to the Lion King? It’s very hard to say I came back. I’ve never left. And the greatest gift is to be able to re-enter a journey that’s been in your life for 25 years and be able to be part of something that I initially thought was a setup that Hans. – Lebo M
Disney “The Lion King” In Theaters This Friday