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Keeping it real: visual effects behind the scenes with the 'The Lion King'

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on January 14, 2020 - Duration: 02:15s

Keeping it real: visual effects behind the scenes with the 'The Lion King'

The Lion King's visual effects supervisor talks about the challenges for the more than 1,000 people who helped breathe life into the film's digital characters.

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Keeping it real: visual effects behind the scenes with the 'The Lion King'

Last year's second biggest grossing film, with global cinema takings of $1.6 billion according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo, "The Lion King" received a widely-expected visual effects Oscar nomination on Monday for its "photo real" digital imagery that makes it look like a wildlife documentary.

A mammoth team worked on the Jon Favreau-directed movie, produced with computer animation, virtual reality, gaming technology and live-action methods.

Visual effects company MPC, owned by technology and entertainment company Technicolor and with studios around the globe, was tasked with making the tale of lion cub Simba look like it had actually been filmed with real animals in Africa.

One of the biggest things you're responsible for is breathing life into these characters ... They have to behave real and they have to look real," Adam Valdez, MPC visual effects supervisor who spent two and a half years working on "The Lion King", told Reuters in London.

"And if the two things are ever out of whack with each other, it breaks the movie." Valdez, who won an Oscar for Favreau's Disney remake of "The Jungle Book", traveled to Kenya for research.

"We do a lot of painstaking research into how real animals move, how their muscles and skin behave ... and then in the computer, we recreate all these things," he said, adding the MPC team first created designs of the characters and landscape.

"An artist, like an animator, has to sit down and actually hand animate that eye, hand animate that face so that every little subtle nuance is represented." Work on the movie took place in London, Bangalore and Los Angeles, where a headset-wearing Favreau and his team worked on a virtual reality set, using gaming technology to direct the scenes.

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