Lion King production team went on African safari to 'keep it real'
The Lion King journeys to the African savannah.
But before the script was final, before the cast was assembled and the digital sets could be designed, film-makers did their homework to ensure the authenticity of the creatures and habitats that would be recreated.
The research took several forms, beginning with intensive studies of imagery and film.
The team was invited to Disney's Animal Kingdom to study the lions, hyenas and warthogs, among other animals up close.
A two-week trip to Africa proved invaluable in dialling into the details.
Director Jon Favreau went on safari in Africa six months before meeting Disney about the movie. It was during that trip that he realised the impact the story and characters had and felt the need to send the production team on a "mission".
Said producer Jeffrey Silver: "He said, 'Keep it real.' He wanted everything in the movie to be rooted in reality. He felt if we started improving upon reality, we'd be headed down a slippery slope toward an unbelievable, unrelatable and unemotional film."
So in 2017, 13 key members of Favreau's team embarked on a two-week safari throughout Kenya to observe the natural environment and animals of the Pride Lands, the primary location of The Lion King. The team stayed in five lodgings, used three different helicopters and six Safari Land Cruisers.
"(Animation supervisor) Andy (Jones) was able to observe how lions actually behave in their natural environment," said producer Karen Gilchrist.
"We have reference video that he shot of a baby lion. We liked the way the cub walked, noting everything from his strut, how full his belly was, the thickness of his legs and even the number of flies on him."
Added Silver: "(Andy) went out in search of every animal, waking up at dawn, shooting until dusk, recording rhinos and lion and zebra, studying the gait of the animals, their grazing patterns, their movement patterns.
"It was an incredible experience for Andy to have a first-hand experience of these animals that really influenced the animation later on."