Disney delivered a marketing knockout punch when it unleashed the first trailer for their upcoming The Lion King reboot. Dropped while millennial’s were visiting their families in the familiar trappings of their hometown, the trailer brought back fond memories of the animated classic. It is a big deal to remake one of the best animated films of all-time. Everyone was quick to label this new version with some kind of defining term. Thus millions were now referring to this new Lion King picture as Disney’s attempt at a live-action Lion King. Is this a new genesis of story and CGI a live-action movie? Or is it an incredible achievement of technology that blurs what we deem real and fake?
The first instance of photorealistic CGI becoming accepted was with the release of Stuart Little 2. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it was one of the first of its kind approved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a possible entry in the Animated Film category. Stuart Little 2 would not earn a nomination, but it was the beginning of a change. Live-Action film and animation blurred like never before. We’ve seen great creations before from The Lord of The Rings Gollum and Planet of the Apes Caesar, but each year another evolution in technology takes place and these characters are becoming more emotional and believable than ever before.
Merriam-Webster defines live-action as: of, relating to, or featuring cinematography that is not produced by animation. CGI creation is animation. The Lion King will be made from countless individuals who have mastered the craft and are using tools and skills to create a photorealistic world for our favorite characters to inhabit.
The Jungle Book was a template for what Disney was hoping to accomplish with this technology. That Disney film would never be as popular as The Lion King will be, but it was a good chance to see what was possible in our modern era. One reason The Jungle Book could get away with being called a live-action film was that it featured actor Neel Sethi in the lead role of Mowgli. Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato worked on Jungle Book and continued his work on The Lion King. Along with returning director Jon Favreau, the mission was to create something so realistic that it would be impossible to see where the line was blurred. During a conversation at NAB Show in Las Vegas, Legato said “You shouldn’t be aware that we were using a computer to make the movie. You have to treat it like a camera, and do no more … or it distracts you from the story. I don’t want to make a visual effects extravaganza, I want to make a movie.”
Disney wants the association of The Lion King as a live-action film. Not only does it place the film in a familiar collection of films, but it is also a testament to the work they are doing. Another reason Disney would want this kind of reaction to their new picture is that familiarity breeds contentment. According to Psychology Today, familiar things make us more comfortable. They are also a sign of something being safer than things that are not. If it is easier for our minds to make the association to a live-action feature, it makes crying over a bunch of computer-animated animals all the more acceptable. There is a lot of emotional weight that these creations will carry, they need to be believable, otherwise, we won’t be able to take that journey.
The new Lion King is not a live-action film, but that won’t stop people from taking part in the debate.
Found the "live action" Lion King everyone's talking about pic.twitter.com/pad4kRkPvQ
— thal (hiatus) (@thalestral) November 23, 2018
I do not understand how the new Lion King is considered live action if every single person in it is a CGI animal but also I don’t want anyone to explain it to me.
— Andrew Nadeau (@TheAndrewNadeau) November 23, 2018