Disney's new Lion King trailer reveals that the CGI has changed as the July release date approaches. One of the most eagerly-anticipated Disney films of 2019, The Lion King sees director Jon Favreau prove whether or not lightning can strike twice when it comes to "hyperrealistic" CGI. Favreau's remake of The Jungle Book was a huge success, but The Lion King is far more challenging; for one thing, it features no human beings at all.
The first Lion King trailer dropped in November last year, stressing a remarkable sense of continuity between the animated classic and this new adaptation. A new TV spot has now released during the Oscars, and while it didn't include much new footage, it did reveal that Disney's been working on the CGI over the last few months. Placing stills from the trailer and TV spot side-by-side, it's pretty easy to spot that there's been a dramatic improvement in quality.
The most notable CGI differences in The Lion King TV spot are all to do with the patterns of sunlight, and the way it plays upon the animals' fur. On a couple of occasions, there are visible adjustments in contrast to make the scenes more vibrant, although that's far from all the new content in this trailer.
The real question remains just how well The Lion King's CGI will handle the talking animals; unconvincing mouth movements were one of very few problems with The Jungle Book, and viewers are eager to see if the House of Mouse has fixed it. This new TV spot doesn't give any indication of how this will be handled in The Lion King, although there is one cute new scene that suggests they may be on the right track.
Daybreak Over The Savanna
Both The Lion King trailer and the TV spot open with a classic scene, with the sun rising over the African savanna. It appears to be central to Disney's marketing, a smart way of stressing that this remake will be absolutely faithful to the original 1994 classic. Curiously, though, the opening scene has changed ever so slightly; the pattern of clouds has been adjusted to make the scene a little more impactful. This is actually quite significant because it explains why there have been other changes in lighting over the course of the TV spot. If the clouds have changed, then it naturally has an effect upon the way light falls on objects and animals.
Simba's Paw In Mufasa's Print
Another iconic scene in The Lion King is the one in which Simba places his paw inside Mufasa's pawprint; it's a powerful and evocative moment, reminding viewers just how much Simba needs to grow up before he's ready to be king. Given the significance of this scene, it's no surprise that Jon Favreau is carefully tweaking it to ensure it's as impactful as possible. Notice that he's adjusted the contrast in order to subtly accentuate the way the light plays across Simba's fur.
The Animals Gather Near Pride Rock
The new TV spot for The Lion King gives a fresh glimpse of animals gathering at Pride Rock, and this one's a more substantial difference. The new shot is totally different to what we saw the trailer, with fuller grass and fewer clouds in the sky. The parting of the clouds is an important part of the opening "The Circle of Life" sequence, so it's possible that the new short is from the end of the movie, with the animals arriving to honor the birth of Simba and Nala's own cub.
Simba In His Mother's Arms
One of the cutest moments in both The Lion King trailer and TV spot is the one in which viewers see the newborn Simba in his mother's arms. Here there appears to be a more substantial change. As well as adjusted lighting and shade falling on Simba, his model appears to have been altered; the cub's fur is overall lighter, the black patches on the top of his head are a little more pronounced, and it looks as though the angles of his face have been adjusted a little.
Anointing Simba As Future King
The to Simba's fur are more obvious in the moment when Rafiki anoints Simba's brow. In the original Lion King, Rafiki anoints Simba with a liquid from some kind of fruit; in the remake, he snaps apart a root to use its dust; it's unclear why this change has been made. Regardless, in the TV spot, the shadows are a little bit deeper, and Simba's eyes appear to move ever so slightly differently. Even his fur appears to be a little fuzzier.
Simba Gives A Cute Sneeze
The young Simba doesn't like the root-dust and gives a little sneeze. This is the highlight of the entire TV spot, the most notable new moment for viewers to see. It also reveals just how on-point Disney's CGI is when it comes to the young Simba; a sneeze involves the whole body, and as a result, it's possible to see just how Simba's muscles flex beneath his fur. What's more, while Disney is yet to give a sense of how The Lion King's CGI will handle the talking animals, the way Simba's mouth moves - so very cat-like - is a positive sign; notice that, just like a real cat, for a fraction of a second after the sneeze Simba's tongue darts out.
Rafiki Holds Simba Aloft
Rafiki then holds Simba aloft, presenting him to the animals who have gathered to celebrate his birth. The Lion King TV spot shows Simba from the same angle, held in the same way, but definitely different. The most notable change, though, is in the background. In the initial trailer, Simba was held against the sky; in the TV spot, there's clearly Pride Rock in the background. This was probably only a minor adjustment, reflecting that the foreground of the scene had been prioritized for the trailer before Disney moved on to the backdrop.
The Panoramic Zoom Shot Of Pride Rock
Finally, there's one more example of the subtle contrast changes. As Rafiki holds Simba aloft, the camera pans out to show the animals as they rejoice at the birth of their future king. It's easy to miss, but look closely and you'll note subtle changes in light and color once again.
- The Lion King (2019) release date: Jul 19, 2019