“The Lion King” is one of Walt Disney Animation Studios' first hand-drawn 2D animated classic to be revamped with the latest 3D technology. Filmmakers decided to bring the classic back to the big screen and into fans’ homes in a whole new way, immersing audiences into the world of the Pride Lands.
“The 3D aspect of a film can help to better tell a story,” says 3D stereographer Robert Neuman. “We used it in the way a composer uses music to score a film, having it echo the emotional content of the story. Getting the chance to add 3D to ‘The Lion King’ and to work with the original filmmakers to ensure the use of depth reflected their vision and enhanced their story was an incredible opportunity.”
Producer Don Hahn, along with the original directors, Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers, viewed every single image of the film during the 3D conversion process, providing direction on depth queues as well as final approval on the shots during dailies. Additionally, a handful of artists who worked on the 3D conversion process also worked on the original release of “The Lion King.”
The conversion required a team of more than 60 3D artists from multiple disciplines, including lighting, layout, effects and software engineering. Together, they defined a new dimension for “The Lion King,” returning to the original CAPS files (the compositing software program) and painstakingly working to establish the perception of depth necessary to establish the third dimensionality to the imagery. Overseeing each step, Neuman created the 3D Script for the film, which involved mapping out the depth levels of each layer given to establish the 3D effects. With some scenes holding more than 100 composited layers of elements and artwork, there was a rich source of material to work from, which allowed the artists to bring out even greater 3D detail and volume to the film.
One of the more challenging characters to convert to 3D was Zazu—Mufasa’s chief of protocol—with his wings and beak requiring several layers of 3D depth. The most difficult sequence to convert within the film was Scar’s villainous song “Be Prepared,” because it contained several effects shots and a multitude of characters, including hoards of his hyena henchmen.
From start to finish, the entire conversion project took four months—a remarkably quick turnaround, given the complexity of imagery and the wide variety of animal characters within the film. “What was exciting for me was the prospect of using our technology to create a fusion of the beauty and charm of traditional animation with the immersive quality of 3D cinema and see an entirely new art form emerge,” says Neuman. “In this way, no matter how many times they had enjoyed ‘The Lion King’ in the past, we could give audiences the thrill of seeing it once again…for the first time!”
“With this new 3D release, audiences will experience ‘The Lion King’ as they have never before,” says Sara Duran Singer, senior vice president of post production for The Walt Disney Studios. “They will be immersed in the savanna and surrounded by the exciting images and incredible new 7.1/3D Disney mix by Academy Award® nominee Terry Porter (“Beauty and the Beast”). It’s not to be missed!”
Opening across the Philippines in Dec. 14, “The Lion King 3D” is distributed locally by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.