Movies

Disney's 3D Lion King sends animation roaring forward

LOS ANGELES : Disney's blockbuster 3D remakes of animated classics have rampaged through box offices in recent years, but the studio is banking on The Lion King to climb right to the top of the food chain.

With a star-studded voice cast and estimated US$250 million (S$340 million) budget, Disney has spared no expense bringing some of its most beloved source material roaring to high-tech, photo-realistic life.

But while the film is being billed as Disney's latest "live-action" movie, it is in fact a different beast altogether.

Almost every shot - from the pixel-perfect hairs of Mufasa's mane to the eerily realistic hyena eyes - was conjured from computer-generated imagery.

And yet The Lion King is not strictly a 3D animation either, in any conventional sense.

SHOT IN VIRTUAL REALITY

It is instead something totally new, said director Jon Favreau - a film shot by a traditional camera crew, but entirely inside a virtual reality 3D world.

Film-makers and actors were able to don digital headsets and "step into" a video game-style African savannah to film - or simply watch - rough computer-generated versions of Simba and his pals cavorting through the Pride Lands.

This groundbreaking method had immense practical benefits that shaped the way the film appears, according to Favreau.

Crew who had no experience in high-tech visual effects could bring their experience and traditional techniques as well as actual camera dollies and cranes, right into the VR studio.

Dressers, script supervisors and cinematographers could watch the film unfold and make real-time adjustments.

All this took place before the footage was sent to London-based visual effects company MPC, which polished it to the lifelike lustre of the final movie.

Voice actors - who typically speak their parts alone in sound booths - were recorded on theatre stages, giving them free rein to improvise.Seth Rogen, who voices warthog Pumbaa, said it was "amazing" to be asked to ad-lib in "probably the most technologically incredible movie ever made". - AFP

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