Lion cub Simba stole millions of hearts when he first appeared on cinema screens 25 years ago. “The Lion King” became one of Disney’s most successful animations of all time. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Oscar-winning film made a whopping £775,9million at the box office worldwide, so it’s no wonder Disney is having another crack at it with its latest live-action movie.
No expense was spared, with its huge £200 million budget dwarfing the £37million of the 1994 version.
This time filmmakers went on safari out in Kenya to capture the right scenery, down to the last rock and plant, and also drew inspiration from Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth documentary.
And with an A-list cast, many returning from the original, here are just a few secrets of how filmmakers brought the classic animation to life.
Recreating iconic moments
The scene where Simba grows into an adult, strutting along to Hakuna Matata with Timon and Pumbaa in the moonlight, is one of the most memorable from the 1994 animation.
But how do the filmmakers do it justice this time round?
Production designer James Chinlund said: “That’s sacred terrain. You cannot do that.”
They spent time in the Mohave Desert at night, working out how they could silhouette a lion, warthog and meerkat against a full moon, to re-create it in a warehouse in LA. Director Favreau said: “You’d be amazed by how much the boring things matter.”
Inspired by Africa and Attenborough
Producer Jeffrey Silver revealed how director Jon Favreau sent his team on a mission to Africa for inspiration.
“He wanted everything to be rooted in reality,” he said. “Our mission was to keep everything as natural as possible — the right species, the right colours of rocks, the light of a sunrise, the plants.”
The team had a two-week safari in Kenya, visiting the Karuru Waterfall, which helped with a scene when Simba runs away to join Timon and Pumbaa. And at Sesriem Canyon, Namibia, they got a feel of where the stampede would take place.
They also filmed animals in Masai Mara to get their movements right.
And Favreau revealed he also wwatched Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth documentaries, finding the shooting style and use of music helped him develop his vision for The Lion King.
“There’s a common acceptance that this is how nature looks. So we’re trying to import that sense of realism by borrowing their techniques,” he said.
Bringing animals to life
All of the animals are computer generated, though they look real.
“I could never have conceived that something could look the way this movie looks,” Seth Rogen said when he saw the finished product.
Filmmakers partnered with the animal science department at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida to record on camera about 75 percent of the animals that would be featured in the film.
Sound experts also travelled to Germany’s Madgeburg Zoo to record the audio of lion cubs.
Producer Karen Gilchrist said: “We have a reference video of a lion cub and we liked the way he walked, noting everything from his strut, how full his belly was, the thickness of his legs and even the number of flies on him.”
Celeb royalty Beyonce plays Nala, while Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner bring the laughs as favourites Timon and Pumbaa.
James Earl Jones returns as Mufasa, though notably absent is Jeremy Irons, who wasn’t invited back as Scar.
Taking over the role is British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was well aware he had big boots to fill, saying: “I didn’t really think about differentiating, I love what Jeremy Irons did with Scar. It’s so iconic, so mazing and I’m so thrilled to be playing the same part.”
Donald Glover, who plays Simba, revealed recording “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” with Beyonce was so intimidating he did not want to be in the same room as her.
He said: “I requested not to be. I did not want to be looking into her eyes while doing this.”
Luckily, he was away doing another film — so they recorded separately.
The stage show
The 1994 animation inspired a musical, now in it’s 20th year in London.
It is the sixth longest-running show on the West End, opening at London’s Lyceum Theatre in 1999 after the success of the show on Broadway, which opened in 1997.
In 2014 it was named the most successful production of all time. It has been seen by 50 million people globally and is normally sold out every day. — dailymirror