Should 'The Lion King' Remake Be Called An Animated Movie? Jon Favreau Says No

Unlike some recent live-action Disney remakes, technology is a big part of the raison d'être for Jon Favreau's The Lion King. While the director incorporated some live-action elements into 2016's The Jungle Book, this version of The Lion King does not feature any human characters. That means the entire film is being created using computer graphics, resulting in some breathtakingly realistic depictions of not only the African savannah, but the animals that inhabit it.

So how should we all refer to this movie? It's not live-action, so should we be calling it an animated film? During our visit to the set, someone posed that question to Favreau, and his response was more complicated than I anticipated.

The Lion King is utilizing cutting-edge technology (including virtual reality) to bring this story to life in a new way, and when Favreau showed me and a group of other journalists some footage of Rafiki, the baboon voiced by actor John Kani in this film, I was truly shocked with what I saw. The footage, which was still just a test to make sure the filmmakers were on the right path, looked completely indistinguishable from a legitimate nature documentary – and it was created entirely in a computer.

So should we call The Lion King remake animated or live-action? Favreau doesn't know:

"Well, it's difficult because it's neither, really. It depends what standard you're using. Because there's no real animals and there's no real cameras and there's not even any performance that's being captured that's underlying data that's real. Everything is coming through the hands of artists. But to say it's animated I think is misleading as far as what the expectations might be. And it also changes the way you sit and watch it. Because hopefully, you could just watch it without it being introduced. If we put up that Rafiki footage and didn't say what it was, some people might know, some people might not know how it was done, but it causes you to be present and mindful and pay attention because you're trying to figure out what you're looking at. And that's a great disposition to be in as an audience member.

I remember when I saw Gravity, I didn't know what I was gonna expect, I just heard it was cool. I didn't know how they did half the tricks. And I was completely drawn in by it and it was the experience I remember going to the movies for when I was little. It just washes over you. I think calling it live-action is also not appropriate either, because it sounds like we're trying to present something that isn't accurate. And I don't know what we're gonna call it. I don't know. But remember, things have to sort of fit into one clickable headline, so it”s hard to have the nuance."

You can read tons more from Favreau in our full interview, and we'll also have much more from the set soon, including a full breakdown of the envelope-pushing methods used to make this movie.

The Lion King hits theaters on July 19, 2019.