How ‘The Lion King’ Remake Was Animated | Movies Insider

How ‘The Lion King’ Remake Was Animated | Movies Insider

This is the iconic opening
scene in “The Lion King.” Compared to the original, it’s an almost shot-for-shot remake, but take a closer look at Rafiki. In the 1994 film he stands
while lifting the cub, and in the new version he sits. That’s because Rafiki is a mandrill, an animal that couldn’t actually stand while lifting a lion cub. Striking that balance between staying true to the original film and creating a
hyper-realistically animated “Lion King” for a new audience was a particularly tough challenge, and it required literally
millions of hours of animating. The visual-effects masters at MPC Film helped animate this
ambitious live-action remake. Their fingerprints are all over films that combine live action
and CGI animation, from “Dumbo” to “Detective Pikachu.” But it was their work on
another Disney remake, “The Jungle Book,” that
really paved the way for what they were able to
achieve with “The Lion King.” This is Elliot Newman, one of the VFX Supervisors
on “The Lion King.” If you want a sense of
just how much work Newman and the MPC Film team
put into this project, take a look at a few stats. MPC Film estimates that there
were about 77 million hours of rendering animation throughout
all of their departments. If they used a single computer, it would’ve taken 8,790
years to finish the movie. Before they could begin fully animating, they had to actually shoot the movie, and the actors needed
to record their voices. Instead of just recording
their voices in a sound booth, the actors were actually
able to move around, as some scenes were recorded in what is called a black box theater. This bare-bones setup gave the actors room to interact with the
cast and even improvise. Some parts though were
recorded in a recording booth. Donald Glover: Mercy? After what you did? Narrator: While not motion captured, the actors’ performances were recorded and used by animators
as a point of reference. The first steps in animation happen in what’s called pre-visualization. The animation team worked with animation supervisor Andy Jones to create simplified animated sequences that could be used for virtual reality. This VR approach on set, which they called virtual
production, was unique. Director Jon Favreau and
several crew members would put on VR headsets which allowed
them to actually step foot in the virtual set they created. This way, they could set up shots, adjust lighting, and
choreograph movements. They treated this digital environment like a place that really existed. The animals and environments
were created at the same time, and rough versions of the
animations could be viewed on monitors while shooting took place. They would eventually add
more fully realized details and other crucial aspects, like
lighting, after production. We’ll get more into that later. And, yes, there were real cameras
tracking Timon And Pumbaa. Creating the camera
movements in real life, rather than just in the
computer, allowed the filmmakers to create a nature-documentary-like feel. When it came to animals,
they had to toe the fine line between creating realistic animals and staying true to the original movie. Newman: Even though we were making very realistic-looking lions, we still needed to make sure
that when you look at Simba you kind of resonate that that’s Simba, and you understand that that’s the character you’re looking at, or, you know, if you’re looking at Mufasa, then he’s got the right
visual style for you to kind of remember that that’s, you know, he is the alpha lion and, you
know, he’s larger than life and he has this presence
about him, you know. Narrator: The animals were a combination of storyboards, sketches,
and exhaustive research. Favreau and the team took a trip to Africa, where they observed real animals
in their natural habitats, which helped them build the world, plus they could get up close and personal with a lot of the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
in Orlando, Florida. They also read anatomy
books and science papers and watched hours of documentaries and other reference footage. Many of the animals the crew saw in Kenya inspired the characters. For example, an excited lion cub they saw running around as the
rest of the pride slept was a big influence on
how they animated Simba. For some animals, making
them both realistic as well as faithful to
the original wasn’t easy. Perhaps the best example
of that is Rafiki. Newman: If you put him
against a real mandrill, you’d see some differences. Narrator: Rafiki’s most
famous moment comes when he stands and lifts
Simba over his head for all the Pride Lands to see. As we mentioned, mandrills
can’t really stand up like that. However, the movie is shot
and edited in such a way that you’ll barely notice a difference. Because Rafiki is in the primate family, he’s the character most
similar to a human. Therefore, they were able to add some more humanlike qualities
and emotions to him. The animators, however,
took some liberties and occasionally strayed
from realism in a few places. Take Scar, for example. His design was the furthest from reality compared to the other lions, but they made it work. He has a lot of physical qualities that are different from an actual lion, like his size and the shape of his skull. Newman: He feels more like a character than the rest of them, but actually once he was in the shots and once we’d lit things and
we’d put the environment in and his performance was
there, it was all animated, he worked in every shot. It was, you know, one of
the best characters we had. Narrator: The animators
also had the challenge of making the animals not only realistic but able to sing and talk. One change: They repositioned
some animals’ heads so the audience wouldn’t
always have to stare right into their mouths. They still had to make
sure their mouths moved how they did in real life, so they timed the character’s
breathing to their dialogue. Jones said they would
let the belly muscles and diaphragm tighten. That way, it felt like a given animal was forcing air out of
its mouth as they spoke. Each layer of these animals
went through simulations, an additional phase of animation where skin details,
such as muscle ripples, skin wrinkles, and fur
interaction, are all added. All of these details are
too complex to hand-animate, so they need simulations to generate them. The average first simulation, for instance, took
eight hours to complete. One of the biggest improvements MPC Film wanted to make
since “The Jungle Book” was how they portrayed
the layers of each animal, especially their muscles. Newman: Something that’s
quite common in CG is that you kind of get
this water-balloon effect when you simulate muscles. Narrator: This effect occurs when the muscles bounce around too much. On the other hand,
animators also run the risk of making the characters look too stiff. Newman: The problem with that is because there’s a lot of collisions happening under the skin, that’s quite difficult to simulate, but on “The Lion King” we
added hard surface joints, bones, basically, that
those muscles would collide and slide against, and it reduced that sort
of water-balloon movement. Narrator: And even if we don’t notice it, there are several visual factors to making the skin look just right, like how light bounces off
of it and how it moves. Separate teams worked on each layer, perhaps none being more
important than hair, given that nearly every character in the movie is covered in it. Part of the reason they really had to nail
things like muscles, bones, and skin is because a
lion’s hair is so short that there’s less to hide how the skin and bones move beneath. Female lions have even less hair than their male counterparts, and because they have no manes, you can fully see their necks. For characters like Nala, they had to add certain movements
to the neck and esophagus for moments when she’s speaking. The male lions have manes, which presented their
own set of challenges. Newman: Typically, the longer the hair is, the harder it is to simulate. You get 1% of the whole
density of the groom, you can then use that to kind of approximate
the surrounding hairs that move and collide with each other. Narrator: Adult Simba’s
mane alone consisted of about 700,000 strands of hair. And the hairs can’t just sit still. The animation team created new
systems for “The Lion King,” specifically for gusts of wind
passing through long hair. The hairs on a lion’s
mane blowing in the wind can be tricky to control, so they made sure the strands
behind the leading hairs in these shots wouldn’t move as much, helping to create a sense that these animals were
covered in layers of hair. While extremely subtle, Newman says it’s the kind
of specific detail that, if not done correctly,
the viewer will notice. Newman: But it’s that
kind of level of detail that we have to get to, to
kind of reach that kind of, the audience is believing
what they’re looking at. Narrator: But sometimes they
actually needed less detail. Take, for example, the infamous wildebeest stampede sequence. The animators started by
building up a big library of animated clips of wildebeests
doing different actions, whether that be walking,
jumping, or changing direction. This allowed them to more easily create a massive crowd in motion. The wildebeests in the distance were able to have more simplified features and could be done by simulation, while they had to animate the wildebeests that were closer to the camera, and thus more visible to the eye. Of course, the world
surrounding the animals was equally important. They built landscapes based
on many real-life locations in places like Kenya,
Namibia, and California. Another piece of technology they worked on since “The Jungle Book” was what Newman referred
to as a scatter tool. It allowed animators to sprinkle elements across the surface, like
twigs, leaves, and stones, instead of just placing
them there one by one. It’s a big part of the reason “The Lion King” feels so realistic, down to every tiny detail. One sequence really shows
off MPC’s work creating both the environments
and the animals in them: “Circle of Life.” Newman: I was on the movie for
about two and a half years, and we were working on that
sequence up until the end. It was really challenging. You know, just the scale of it and the complexity shot by shot. Every shot was slightly different in a slightly different part of the world. The light is different in every shot. Narrator: In an interview
with Vanity Fair, Favreau cited an example of a giraffe bowing
during “Circle of Life.” They would start with pencil drawings of what they wanted the action to be against reference footage of an animal doing a similar action, and then hand-animate it. And there were a lot of bowing animals in that sequence to coordinate, and that’s after getting
Rafiki to move correctly. The most surprising thing
about this sequence is that it actually contains the
movie’s only non-CGI shot. Favreau snuck in one real visual, which was captured in Africa. Everything from the stones on the ground, to the hairs on Simba, to the way Rafiki moved, to the way the cameras captured it all, allowed for an experience in
which the audience felt like they were stepping into the
real-life African savanna, while still spending time with
the same animated characters we first fell in love with back in 1994.

100 Replies to “How ‘The Lion King’ Remake Was Animated | Movies Insider

  1. If only they had spent 2.5 hours to watch the chronicles of Narnia to see how to get a realistic lion to show emotion and still be realistic. Those hours would have made the lion king remake actually interesting to watch. But alas.

  2. Even though some of the remakes, (like this one), are no where near as good as the original, some of the visuals are absolutely stunning. :3

  3. Don't respect Disney's blatant remake cash grabs of this decade, but I do respect the CGI, the cinematography, and technical effort that went into this movie. I didn't watch it cause I know it's gonna be good, I watched it to be amazed at how far technology has come. I could give less than 2 shits about the movie or the movies coming after this such as Mulan or the Lady and the Tramp remakes.

  4. It's amazing what they're able to do now but I feel like lion king wasn't really suited for a live action remake. Does away with the emotions.

    With that being said, can we have a cgi planet earth?

  5. I never seen the original one but i seen the new one and i cried the whole movie and everybody in the theater was staring at me and laughing

  6. it's too realistic and they lost all the emotions, and expressions and the uniqueness of each character that they achieved in previous version!

  7. this film was good in my opinion, sure it will never be as good as the original Lion King and sure, the emotion isn't there but I enjoyed it, a nice family film, if you have your own opinion, that's cool with me, I'm just giving my humble opinion

  8. Many disliked how it seemed like a documentary but I actually loved that, it's a different take on the story telling that i respect a lot. In my opinion it works amazingly well, and still has a ton of emotion without the cartoony expressions.

  9. how tragic that all this amazing effort and talent was put into such a disappointing film. There is a beauty and essence in animation that aren’t always necessarily meant to be brought to real life just for the sake of making more money lol

  10. Please use right terminology when you talk about Cg production.the word "Animator" is just one single aspect of the whole production.
    we have concept artists,modelers,texture painters,hair groomers,Lighting TD's,effect TD's,Riggers,Animators,compositors and etc.

  11. I feel like this video was definitely made with some bias because the new lion king cannot compare to the first. Let’s do it over again! They definitely chose realism over exaggeration in the remake. Which sucks. Also lions in the real world have black manes so I just don’t understand why they didn’t do that for scar!

  12. Today, there are only about 20,000; lions are extinct in 26 African countries and have vanished from over 95 percent of their historic range. Maybe match the price of your movie ticket with an equal amount donated to the World Wildlife Federation to help protect these animals in real life.

  13. 3:52 You did your digging to find out they went to disney but not the country or even region in Africa?!! We all know you can do better than this

  14. The skin slides around, thats how its easier to explain… it continuosly amazes me how these guys are talented , they continue to inspire me

  15. In my opinion its a good movie even if its a remake, yes I love the old one but the work put in this movie was exellent, I RESPECT THEIR EFFORTS in making it. Despite the constant critism that they recieved from critics and viewers alike…

  16. I wonder why they didnt make scar a more darker colour instead of the colour he is in the film

    Like i think lions can be a slightly more oranger colour in rl

    But i did get use to his model

  17. The 77million hours doesn’t make sense. If it was 77 million hours of animation,then how come it took only approximately 2 years or less to make and only 8760 hours in some year.

  18. While I’m not the biggest fan of the movie, I have a MASSIVE amount of respect towards the animators of the film.

  19. So they strayed from reality with scar, why didn't they go further and make his colours darker? Why couldn't they do that for all the characters, including making rafiki stand up in that iconic pose? It's not like anyone was going to be triggered by how it's not "correct". Regardless, I do respect the amount of skill this took and I admit it looks beautiful, even if i literally can't tell the difference between mufasa and simba.

  20. Scar in 1994: sinister, sleazy, sassy, elegant, malicious, expressive, hateful, unhinged, cruel, sadistic

    Scar in 2019: bored yelling

  21. I feel like the animals from the Jungle Book had better emotions, I think they went overboard on the "realism" for the Lion King… Just my opinion.

  22. 0:32 wtf it'll take 11.41 years of non stopable 24/7 work for a team of 10 animators just to get 1 million hours so cut the crap

  23. How about putting all that effort into making a great original movie and story instead of ruining an already great movie and making it worse.

  24. Hah! Sneaky thing. Guess it is technically a live action remake, then. Also – you're right – they did change the lions anatomy a bit. Where my big boy lion balls, bro?

  25. If John Favearu and the studio that made all the CGI and practical effects from the Walking with Dinosaurs series from 1999, joined forces and made a dinosaur series this year, I'd gotta be sold.

  26. You can see how much hard work they've put into it, and realism is cool, but they really shouldn't have done away with facial expressions.

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