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The Magic Behind Bringing The Lion King to Life

We attended the Lion King event as a guest of Disney

The Lion King is one of the most beloved Disney animated movie. I fell in love with the movie all over again when first getting an opportunity to see the all-new live-action film at the world premiere. The one thing that I loved about the movie was how they respected the original storyline and added some incredible new music.

Circle of Life at the Lion King press junket

After seeing the film, I couldn’t wait to learn more about the making of the film while talking with the cast the next morning. I arrived in LA early excited to find out what went into making the movie so special.

Just when we thought the cast was going to come out on stage, we were in for a big surprise. Lebo M (African Music Consultant / Performer) along with Miss Clydene Jackson (one of the four soloists in the original 1995 production) performed the song “The Circle of Life” for all of us. Chills went down my spine as I listened to them sing the song for us along with a choir. It was one of the most beautiful musical appearances that I have ever witnessed.

Cast of The Lion King

Then it was time for the moderator Jacqueline Coley from Rotten Tomatoes to introduce the cast, welcoming them onto the stage. Everyone cheered and clapped with excitement as the cast and creators entered the room.

Lion King Director Jon Favreau

The first question went to Director Jon Favreau about why he wanted to create the film. He shared that he has been working on both the Jungle Book and the Lion King for about six years. He finally learned how to use the technology by the end of Jungle Book. “These are handmade films. Animators are working on every shot and every environment. There is one shot in the film that is a real photographic shot, but everything else is built from scratch by artists,” said Favreau.

Favreau continued to share that he felt like it was a massive leap of faith by making the film. “Lebo M and Han Zimmer, who was so involved with the first one to trust that it would turn out well. It was a big leap of faith for everybody. And in many cases, they kept coming back and recording again and trying new things, especially with the comedy bits,” said Favreau.

Creating the music in The Lion King

“It’s been a huge raft of artists, people who were involved with developing the musical landscape of it, doing early recordings, and coming in and contributing through improvisation, redoing scenes, rewriting scenes. So this team here isn’t just a bunch of people that recorded one time at a music stand and come here for the press conference. These were all people who were collaborators and filmmakers along with me.” Jon Favreau

Alfre Woodard (voice of “Sarabi”)

One thing that I have always loved about the story is how the women have a strong part in the film. Alfre Woodard (voice of “Sarabi”) said, “It is called the Lion King, but everyone knows that the lionesses are actually the rulers. The protectors, the nurturers, the hunters of the pride.” She continued to share her first experience with wildlife about 40 years ago in a conserve. “We came upon the lionesses. And you could hear the king in the distance. He was coming. But they were sitting, and we were a little close to them. And I’ve never felt more afraid and more attracted at the same time that I realize I think that is the mother thing in most women and in some men is that at the same time, you suckle, but you also, you will eliminate anything that comes close to endangering those cubs,” said Woodard. She used that experience to give an incredible performance of Sarabi.

Seth Rogen (voice of “Pumbaa”) in the Lion King

Finally, there is humor. So much more humor than there was in the original Lion King. A lot of that credit goes to the incredible talent of Seth Rogen (voice of “Pumbaa”) and Billy Eichner (voice of “Timon”). Rogan started by saying, “It was a lot of improvisation with Billy. And we were actually together every time that we recorded, which is a very rare gift to have as someone who is trying to be funny in an animated film. I think you can really tell that we’re playing off of each other. It’s an incredibly naturalistic feeling, and they really captured Billy. This character is more Billy than that character somehow. It’s like endlessly, and it’s remarkable to me how his character specifically makes me laugh so hard.” Eichner then responded by saying, “Yeah. I wish I was as cute in real life as I am in the movie. The Timon they designed is so adorable.” Then everyone in the room burst out with laughter.

Billy Eichner (voice of “Timon”) in Lion King

“Being able to riff off each other and really discover our chemistry together at the same moment. You can feel it when you’re watching the movie. I had not seen the finished movie until last night, and I was shocked by how much of the riffing actually ended up in the movie. And I think it works. And I think it feels very unique to other movies in this genre, which can often feel a bit canned.” Billy Eichner

One of the best laughs that I got was when they added a gag that references another Disney movie, that everyone is going to love! Don’t miss seeing the fantastic live-action film The Lion King in theaters this Friday!

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