Some online commentators are taking issue with Disney’s Jon Favreau-directed re-imagining of 1994 animated classic The Lion King being informally referred to as “live-action.”
Like The Jungle Book before it, also directed by Favreau, The Lion King is dubbed a “virtual production”: a mostly-animated film shot on a blue screen stage that allows its filmmaker to direct as if helming traditional live action, utilizing such digital tools as computer animation and motion capture.
Rob Legato, who served as visual effects supervisor on both The Jungle Book and The Lion King, previously told THR he didn’t consider Jungle Book to be an “animated movie.”
“I consider this just a movie, and this happened to be the best way to make it,” he said of Jungle Book. “We [made] it comfortable for Jon Favreau to come in and be able to direct as if it was a live-action film.”
The high-tech method of filmmaking, blending live-action production techniques with state of the art technology to create a finished film that is largely animated, has been employed by James Cameron on Avatar and Robert Zemeckis on The Walk.
A blue screen is both more practical and not as expensive — and the future of movies, argues Legato, who won visual effects Oscars for Titanic and Hugo.
“The ability to re-create anything and re-create it faithfully is the future of cinema. You shouldn’t be aware that we were using a computer to make the movie,” Legato said at the National Association of Broadcasters Show (via THR), adding the virtual production process on Lion Kingdwarfs the “so outdated” process used to create the Oscar-winning Jungle Book.
Elaborating on the extensive visual effects process utilized in The Lion King, Legato told THR the film would be created using “a lot of virtual reality tools so it feels akin to what you are looking at [if you were on a real set].”
“You can walk around the set like a cameraman. [Wearing VR headsets] the actors can now walk into a scene and see the other actors and trees … and because you are in 3D, you get a realistic sense [of the environment],” he said. “That’s what we are incorporating in the next version of this.”
Also like The Jungle Book, the “live-action” twist on The Lion King was shot in Los Angeles — far from the jungles of India or Africa, each recreated in photorealistic detail in their respective movies.
Some, like Aquaman director James Wan, refer to The Lion King as “live-action” without hesitation; others, such as Derek Mattson on Twitter, wrote using such a term “makes as much sense as the animators from 1994 calling their Lion King live action.”
The teaser trailer, premiered during an NFL primetime game on Thanksgiving, has since become the second most-viewed trailer in its first 24 hours with 224.6 million views, behind only Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War at 230 million views.
Starring Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, John Oliver, John Kani, Eric Andre, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfre Woodard, and James Earl Jones, The Lion King opens July 19.