Its producers took safari tours of real-life locations from Kenya’s huge Masai Mara reserve to the desert sand dunes of Namibia for inspiration, before artists and technicians sketched and modelled details for the final film.
The movie also featured the musical talents of celebrated German composer Hans Zimmer, who provided the soundtrack for the Attenborough series “Planet Earth II” produced by the BBC.
Attenborough, a veteran British environmentalist, has narrated dozens of wildlife documentaries over six decades, opening the eyes of millions of television viewers around the globe to the wonders of the natural world.
It was important the film have “the illusion of it being a naturalistic documentary,” director Jon Favreau told journalists in Beverly Hills this week.
“We looked at a lot of the work that Hans had done like Planet Earth II, all of those Attenborough BBC documentaries, and how much emotion can be expressed without human performance, just through music and editorial and storytelling,” said Favreau.
Unlike the original cartoon version, the animals’ faces in the new “Lion King” are largely realistic and not human-looking.
This meant the animators had to rely on using actual facial expressions and movements observed in the real-life species, and find creative ways to match these to the dialogue recorded by voice actors.
“We would shoot video on long lenses (of the voice actors) just to have reference of what they were doing on their faces and we would give that to the animators,” explained Favreau.