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How The Lion King Blends Live-Action & 3D Animation

Lion King 2019 Simba Nala Zazu

When visiting the set of The Lion King, we got the opportunity to witness a shoot that took place in a 3D environment. Watching the crew incorporate references of Disney’s Animal Kingdom creatures into shots as if were live action while leaving the real animals alone embodied a curious new breed of film.

The process starts off much like animation, but director Jon Favreau established a workflow that follows in the footsteps of live action film sets. The photorealistic animals in the upcoming The Lion King appear courtesy of state-of-the-art virtual-reality tools, but the human touch is what captures photographic anomalies among key-frame animations.

In this way, Disney plans to honor the animated version while introducing live action elements. Considering Jon Favreau’s experience directing the visually similar The Jungle Book, he’s the perfect man for the job. He even took cues from that earlier movie when it came to not placing markers on animals.

Related: Lion King 2019 Cast & Character Guide

As crucial as the rendering tools were in creating The Lion King’s unique look, Favreau credited the individual artists for “knowing not to push it too human.” Painstaking study of animals in the real world combined with animations and realistic lighting situations led to the birth of majestic environments, like the ones seen in the recent trailer.

The Lion King 2019 Rafiki

Together, the team of animators and visual effects specialists found and eliminated the “weakest link” in any frame. Though the snippet at the time showed primarily Rafiki, the blend of classic Disney with forward-looking visual effects was already on full display, as was the attention to detail. “We’re doing this with all our characters,” the director added.

Though the musical and animated nature of his latest film didn’t allow for as much improvisation as previous works like Iron Man have, Favreau still used the tools he learned there to emphasize the naturalism of scenes, making the interplays between character and environment feel lived-in. “It is nice to be able to be in this part of the garden where we can say, ‘Hey, let’s really look at what a leaf looks like or the way water moves or the way wind blows grass, and create really beautiful arresting images.’”

Even the quiet and still moments of nature can be breathtaking simply because they are neither real nor fake. As the director himself said, “There’s something inherently interesting and captivating about seeing that level of simulation.”

That level of simulation also means fans can expect new layers to the storytelling, as the trailers already proved. Watching Mufasa suffer and Simba struggle takes on a new meaning when they look like animals we could meet in the wild. Let us know which part has impressed with you most, and stay tuned to Screen Rant for more from the Lion King set.

More: All The Live-Action Disney Remakes In Development

Key Release Dates
  • The Lion King (2019) release date: Jul 19, 2019
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