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National Association of Broadcasters Show (via THR), adding the virtual production process on Lion King dwarfs the "so outdated" process used to create the Oscar-winning Jungle Book.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.
don’t call the new lion king live action, it is 100% animated. it is a disservice to the people working on it to forget that.— caro ramsey (@caroramsey) November 22, 2018
You: "Can't wait to see the live action Lion King!"— Jeff May the Non-Spooky, Non-Dracula Man (@heytherejeffro) November 24, 2018
Animators that spent 22 months working on it: pic.twitter.com/qC4rpGn0EP
Live action Lion King? That makes as much sense as the animators from 1994 calling their Lion King live action.— Derek Mattson (@Derek_Mattson) November 23, 2018
IT’S. NOT. A. LIVE. ACTION. LION. KING. IT’S. STILL. A. CARTOON.— Daniel Spenser (@DanSpenser) November 23, 2018
wow I just watched that new lion king trailer and I completely misunderstood what live action meant because I kept waiting for beyonce to appear in a lion costume— anaïs e-m (@anaees) November 24, 2018
So next year, The Lion King is totally going to cause a world of controversy over whether or not it competes as an animated film right? At least The Jungle Book had a live action character. This looks like the first time a film could ever win both VFX and Animated Feature— Will Mavity (@mavericksmovies) November 24, 2018
Gaaaaahhh, just saw the live action trailer to my fav Disney animated movie! Favreau is legend.— James Wan (@creepypuppet) November 22, 2018
"We copied the hard work and talent from creative original minds and slapped hyper realistic fur on Seth Rogan and called it a work of art to resell you your own childhood and you're buying it hahaha" https://t.co/6CyBLlWZHg— Fripp Daddy ♿™ (@RealYungCripp) November 23, 2018
“We can remake The Lion King with CGI.”
“But we’ll have to repay all the writers, artists, animators and sound designers whose hard work made the original so good, won’t we?”
“No. We can take their work and use it for free.”
“Boot up that workstation. I want a new yacht.” https://t.co/GLyXH4kuvu— ᴅᴀᴠᴇ ᴘɪᴛᴛ (@DavethePitt) November 24, 2018
Stoooooop it with the whole “ACTUALLY the new Lion King is ANIMATED not Live Action”. Like, we get it. It’s just short hand. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯— Ellie Main (@Elliemainey) November 24, 2018
I always think remakes are just big-wigs rubbing their hands together with dollar-bill eyes.
But the atmosphere for this film, as I've experienced it, is different. For many people it's about the technical achievement, the acclaim and the chance for a Visual Effects Oscar.— Conor Middleton (@ConorMiddleton) November 23, 2018
We praise the films that go for Best Picture, why not the ones that are designed to go for Best VFX? Even if they are funded by a company out to make a bunch of money from a remake, there are thousands of artists working on these films that, I think, deserve the recognition.— Conor Middleton (@ConorMiddleton) November 23, 2018
People really out here tripping that the Lion King isn’t actually “live action” but just animated, as if training thousands of wild animals and filming them having conversations is just some normal, doable shit.— Anthony (@BigJigglyPanda) November 23, 2018