With the CG-animated remake of The Lion King hitting theaters last month, I wanted to look at how the animation has changed over time from the hand-drawn 1994 classic to the CG-animated remake.
Knowing the formulation of the original Lion King is significant when discussing the importance of its animation. Since its development coincided with that of Pocahontas, several Disney animators decided to work on The Lion King as they believed it would be more prestigious and successful. Most of the lead animators either were doing their first major work supervising a character or were very interested in animating an animal. Thirteen of these supervising animators, both in California and Florida, were responsible for establishing the personalities and setting the tone for the film’s main characters. Nearly twenty minutes of the movie, which include the “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” musical number, were animated at the Disney-MGM Studios, which is now Disney’s Hollywood Studios. More than 600 artists, animators, and technicians contributed to The Lion King. The characters were not anthropomorphized so all of these animators had to learn how to draw four-legged animals.
Since The Lion King does not feature any human characters, it was filmed in an unconventional manner. The Moving Picture Company, which provided the visual effects for Jon Favreau’s 2016 Jungle Book remake, provide the visual effects for his Lion King remake. According to visual effects supervisor Robert Legato, the movie utilizes “virtual-reality tools” such as motion capture and VR/AR technologies. Virtual Production Supervisor Girish Balakrishnan said on his professional website that the team combined VR technology with cameras to film the remake in a VR-simulated environment.
Having seen both the original and the remake, I say that I prefer the animation of the original. Even though the remake’s photorealistic animation looks so lifelike, there is something so beautiful about the simplicity of the original’s hand-drawn animation that will appeal to more audiences because of how rewatchable it is. Not to mention that the characters in the original show more facial expressions than the characters in the remake. I do hope that Disney uses this technology for an original property.