The Lion King Animators

The Lion King remake has already made over $1 billion worldwide, and it hasn’t even been in theaters for two weeks. That means Disney will likely be remaking their classic animated movies for years to come, for better or worse. And if you ask the animators behind the original 2D versions of those movies, it’s undoubtedly worse.

Following the success of The Lion King, several animators who worked on the movie were asked to give their opinion on the remake, which still hasn’t definitively been classified as live-action or animation. It should come as no surprise that several of these artists are not pleased with the final results of The Lion King remake, not to mention the lack of any recognition for their work, which is especially frustrating considering how many shots are lifted and recreated straight from the original movie. Read More »

The Lion King Revisited

(Revisiting the Renaissance is a bi-weekly series in which Josh Spiegel looks back at the history and making of the 13 films of the Disney Renaissance, released between 1986 and 1999. In today’s column, he discusses the 1994 film The Lion King.)

The date is November 12, 1993. People headed to their local multiplex on that Friday night to see Disney’s latest live-action adventure, an adaptation of The Three Musketeers, but they likely walked out not thinking about a new cinematic take on Alexandre Dumas’ yarn. They might instead have been more thrilled by one of the trailers in front of the film, for the studio’s latest animated venture. This extended trailer wasn’t even a standard-issue ad; it was a full four-minute scene, with no dialogue and a soaring song called “Circle of Life” blaring on the soundtrack as animals from the African plains bowed down before a lion cub who would one day be their king. 

The first trailer for The Lion King was goosebump-inducing and immediately unforgettable. It suggested that Walt Disney Animation Studios was about to top itself once more with a lushly detailed, colorful depiction of life in the African jungles. This single-scene trailer promised an epic adventure to be released just seven months later. Upon release in the summer of 1994, this animated epic would go onto become one of the biggest box-office successes of all time.

But in November of 1993, The Lion King was, as its own producer would later describe, “in a shambles”. They were lucky to get it finished at all.

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disney remakes box office

Rage all you want against Disney‘s endless slew of live-action remakes of its animated classics, but you can’t deny the sheer box office power of those “re-imaginings.” Ever since Beauty and the Beast shattered box office records in 2017, the Disney remake box office numbers have almost always crossed the $1 billion threshold. With The Lion King set to join that billion-dollar club soon, that brings the Disney remakes total box office to over $7 billion — a jaw-dropping number that the House of Mouse reached in less than a decade.

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weekend box office once upon a time in hollywood

Disney’s The Lion King continues to rule the box office, but it had some adult competition over the weekend. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the latest from Quentin Tarantino, ended up raking in a hefty sum as well, earning Tarantino his best box office opening weekend ever. Even if you’re not a fan of Hollywood, you have to admit seeing an adult-driven, non-Disney movie finally go over well with audiences this summer is a breath of a fresh air.

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the lion king set visit

It’s December 7, 2017, and I’m standing in the African savannah. Pride Rock looms in the distance. A single tree stretches toward the sky, which has an almost otherworldly orange hue. A massive rhinoceros suddenly rumbles by, just a few feet to my right. I look around for a while, taking it all in: I’m on the set of Disney’s The Lion King.

But then it’s time to move on, so I remove my virtual reality headset and step back into the real world. I’m standing alongside a few other movie journalists in an unmarked complex in Playa Vista, California, also known as “Silicon Beach.” The offices of tech companies like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Electronic Arts are close by, and while this particular building looks bland and uninteresting from the outside, one of 2019’s biggest blockbusters is coming together inside. There’s enough space in this single building for an art department, editors, designers, animators, screening rooms, and a virtual reality stage where director Jon Favreau can step into the world of his movie during production. It was Favreau’s idea to renovate this facility in order to have as much of his team as possible under the same roof, upending the traditional filmmaking workflow and opening things up for an unprecedented degree of communication and collaboration.

During our Lion King set visit, we learned about how Favreau utilized virtual reality to make his movie, how his version of the film is different from the animated classic, and tons more. Read on to discover how The Lion King was made. Read More »

The Lion King technology

Back in 2017, I caught a glimpse of the future.

During a visit to the set of Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, we got a look at the technology the director and his team used to create the film’s locations in virtual reality. Using a video game engine called Unity, all of the movie’s sets were built as explorable environments that can be visited and scouted by simply donning a virtual reality headset. You can be standing in a sound stage in Playa Vista, California at 9am, and then, five seconds later, be looking around the African plains as the sun sets in the distance.

During our set visit interviews, some of The Lion King’s primary crew members shared their observations and insights about what other kinds of movies could be made with this technology and how it might change the way we think about entertainment moving forward. Remaking classic films is just the beginning – this could be a stepping stone to an entirely new form of experiential entertainment. Read More »

live-action Lion King shot

While many people tend to refer to the new The Lion King remake from Disney as “live-action”, it’s anything but. Instead, it’s a computer-animated film with photo-realistic characters. But there actually is one live-action shot in the movie – and director Jon Favreau just revealed it online. See the live-action Lion King shot below.

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Mulan Trailer

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Mulan looks like the better approach for future Disney live-action remakes.)

I spend a lot of time going to bat for reboots, remakes, and relaunches. When done well, they bring a whole new wave of excited viewers to a property. They’re also pretty critical for keeping franchises alive. Yeah, we all have that purist friend who looks down their nose at anything that’s even close to a spin on something they loved growing up, but they’re super gatekeepy and we all avoid talking to them for a reason. Folks like that also get to enjoy all of the things that a new wave of fans help provide, like new merch, conversations, and renewed interest from old fans. 

But what happens when the idea of a remake gets a little too literal? In the first trailer, Disney elected to do almost shot-for-shot remake of a key scene The Lion King. Now, it’s easy to see what they were going for. The original film is universally beloved and considered pretty close to perfect by a lot of fans. Don’t mess with perfection, right? Thing is, you probably just shouldn’t bother remaking the movie if that’s going to be the case. Heck, just re-release the original as a cinematic event and save yourself a few boatloads of cash! 

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Working Fifth Element Gun

The Morning Watch is a recurring feature that highlights a handful of noteworthy videos from around the web. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows.

In this edition, watch as Adam Savage reveals his build of a fully functional version of Zorg’s gun from The Fifth Element. Plus, pay attention as Jon Favreau breaks down what went into a scene in Disney’s remake of The Lion King, and The Today Show has an extensive chat with Quentin Tarantino and the cast of his new movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Read More »

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The Lion King Box Office

Disney had no problem topping the charts again this summer with their release of the remake of The Lion King. Audiences may not be sure whether to call this movie animation or live-action, but they clearly had to see it for themselves to the tune of a $185 million opening weekend at the domestic box office. That’s enough to give the movie the #9 spot on the chart of the best opening weekends of all-time.  Read More »