Technicolor’s MPC Film teamed up once again with director Jon Favreau to bring the beloved characters from another Disney classic back to the screen, in a whole new way. And audiences love it: The Lion King had the biggest debut yet for a Disney retelling of its classic stories.
MPC Film was involved with the project from its inception, when MPC VFX Supervisor Adam Valdez began discussing evolving methodology with Favreau and Disney while they were wrapping up The Jungle Book in 2016, several months before Valdez would win an Oscar® for Best Visual Effects on that groundbreaking film.
The vision began to take shape, with Favreau wanting to create a new connection to the beloved story through a documentary-style, true representation of Africa. With that directive in mind, the MPC team traveled to Kenya with the filmmakers on location scouting photoshoots and data capture missions.
“The main goal was to capture the look of the natural environment so that the audience believes they are in Africa,” says MPC’s Audrey Ferrara, DFX Supervisor. “Traveling to Kenya…created a shared experience and a common memory of spaces that really unified the team” – which also included Jungle Book veterans VFX Supervisor Rob Legato and Animation Supervisor Andy Jones, as well as DP Caleb Deschanel and Production Designer James Chinlund.
“The entire project – from world-building to character-building – was informed by our initial trips to Africa,” adds Valdez. “After we went to Kenya, we did the virtual production together, and we did the final Animation and VFX together. We were collaborative partners from beginning to end, and the technology and methodology enabled us to capture the creative choices we made on the virtual set – and carry them through to the end.”
“MPC helped build the tools for virtual production,” elaborates Favreau, “using a game engine platform to emulate live-action film production in a VR space – even though the film is completely digitally rendered, every environment is made digitally by the artists at MPC, and every character is keyframe animated. The tools were being refined constantly; and now MPC has a suite of tools that are available to any filmmaker based on the innovations that we made on The Lion King.”
Charged with producing all VFX and Animation for The Lion King, the MPC team delivered a staggering 1,490 shots – as well as all 2-D and 3-D renders; 1250 MPC artists, representing more than 30 different nationalities, worked across studios in Los Angeles, London, and Bangalore.
“The animals that MPC created are a pretty magnificent translation of what those animals really look like,” says Legato. “What MPC has done is a quantum leap even over what we did on The Jungle Book. To make up something that looks like it could be real, that has the patina of real life – they are gifted at doing that.”
“Making animals act and talk in a way that doesn’t break the reality is the most challenging aspect for animators,” adds Jones. On top of that, “MPC did an amazing job pushing through an insane amount of animation work in a short amount of time. My hat is off to the entire animation department at MPC; their love and passion for this film is up on the screen for all the world to see.”
Read the full story of the making of The Lion King, where you can also watch videos of the filmmakers and MPC talent talking about their amazing collaboration.