The Lion King: production details that write history


The Lion King, a live-action remake of the classic Disney story of 1994, involved a new computer-created world, utilizing all the benefits of revolutionary technology, with hundreds of people, hundreds of thousands of hours of work and using tons of equipment, including more 15,000 computers for rendering, but also hundreds of thousands of plants and animals and millions of sandstones created by animators. Among others, 130 animators from 30 countries created 86 characters.

The young Simba was created by production designer James Chinlund and animation supervisor Andy Jones, modeled on a lion cub seen in Kenya. The two found it amusing that the lion cubs have a totally unbelievable attitude and tried to portray that in all the details that make Simba unique: the look, the posture.

The adult Simba becomes a formidable lion, after going through a brief adolescent stage when the hair enters his eyes, a detail introduced precisely to make the transition to maturity. The production team has set a series of rich shades of orange and brown for Simba, Mufasa and Sarabi, a kind of royal color that can be found on their fur. Designers have been very careful to keep the same facial expressions but to change Simba’s stance to convey the exact message that he is truly ready to become a king.

The young girl took a huge job to restore her dexterity and choreographic movements. And the adult Nala turns into an athletic lioness, voiced by BeyoncĂ© Knowles-Carter, who also sings a special track in the movie, “Spirit,” which can be heard exactly in a key scene with Nala.

Mufasa was created based on thousands of lei, some photographed on an African safari, others seen in documentaries or on the Internet. The producers also took into account the original version of Mufasa from the first Disney movie of 1994. The Mufasa is distinguished by its largemouth and white chin, but also the specific movements of the neck created by the animators, and its smile, like a strong lion, is heard. from over 8 kilometers away.

Sarabi was created with a square jaw to restore its strength and power. Her body is stronger than other lion females, she is the largest of them, and her eyes are large and a piercing yellow.

Rafiki lives in a baobab tree that entertainers have filled with bright cockroaches and assorted birds.

Scar has different colors than his brother Mufasa and is weaker, with visible traces of old wounds, among which the scar on the forehead, above the left eye, is most distinctive. Most often, he is played in the shade to convey the sinister note of his personality.

Documentation for this live-action remake took 13 key members of the production team on a two-week trip to a safari in Kenya, where they were able to observe how the lions live. Nearly a ton of equipment was used here to capture over 12 TB of photos (2 million photos can reach 1 terabyte). Six photographers and four cameramen were involved, who took over 240,000 photos and over 7,000 videos, traveling for almost 18,000 kilometers.

Organizing the production involved a new world created on the computer. This universe covers 150 square kilometers, and in the key moments, 102 artists and coordinators were on the filming boards. The production involved 66 shooting locations, the creation of 25 unique tree species, 49 unique plants, 18 kinds of grass. To this end, during the filming, 130 animators from 30 countries were involved, working in London, Los Angeles, and Bangalore, creating 86 unique characters for the film.

The production involved the use, as time, of 478 years of processing units. Basically, if there was only one unit, the film would have been ready in 2495. To render the African landscape as authentic as possible, over 100 million strands of sand were simulated and 1085 cockroaches were used in 628 frames, from the more than 670,000 cockroaches created on the computer.

It took almost 8 hours for an animator to simulate a lion’s fur, and some characters needed more than 70,000 simulated rounds to render their mane movements.

And to complete this mega-production, it needed a real rendering plant, with over 15,000 units. It took almost 60 hours, on average, to render a single frame to final quality. It would take 20,929,080 hours to render the entire film to the final quality, which would take a single computer 2,389 years.


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