“The Making of The Lion King” by Eva Janus

Lion King info from http://www.lionking.org/text/FilmNotes.html



     People all over the world have been touched by “The Lion King.” The storyline  is so very meaningful and the artwork helps to make it even better. Not many people realize how much work really went into making this one film. It is more than just the animation process; it is the storyline, the music, the meanings, the characters. The artwork would not be as appreciated were it not for those other factors, and vice versa. The first step to making “The Lion King” was to create a storyline. Directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff worked with others to come up with the story. Once that had been done, artists and animators needed to be able to bring the story to life. There were more than six hundred artists, animators and technicians working on this movie. Six members went to Africa to get ideas. They came across many animals and took good pictures along with some videos. Lots of the animators went to zoos to take more pictures and videos. Also, they made some sketches. Some animals were brought into their studio. Pancho, a lion, was one of the animals brought in. The artists and animators were able to make sketches and exchange ideas on how they wanted these characters to look. They learned about the habits of lions so they could get a feel for how one of the characters might act in a situation. It would not be good to show a healthy male lion submitting to a lioness when the males are dominant. In the end, there were over one million drawings made for the film.

     In the animation process, backgrounds are mainly hand-painted and then the moving objects are placed over these paintings. For “The Lion King”, there were 1,197 hand-painted backgrounds and 119,058 individually colored frames of film. When it came time to animate the moving characters, a point was brought up: it is harder to animate a four-legged creature than a two-legged creature. Some animal experts and biologists came in to help the animators see how a lion’s body would look moving in certain ways. While animating these characters, the animators tried to add characteristics of the actors into the characters. The characters in “The Lion King” do somewhat resemble the actors who did their voices. Once the animation is done, color must be added to the moving objects to make them fit with their backgrounds. Color is very important and helps a great deal. The color of each character and each landscape tells you a bit about what is happening. The coloring in the “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” scene is a great example. The bright colors show a sense of joy and energy. It is like entering into Simba’s own little world, showing everyone how he views things. Another example is during Scar’s reign. The land is now gloomy and barren, colored with greys and blues. The point that is trying to be conveyed is that of sadness, evil and hopelessness. When Simba returns and claims his kingdom, the land quickly turns back to bright colors. That is to show that hope is renewed and that joy has returned.

     Once color has been added, the animators use their computers to place the animated objects over the painted backgrounds. It may seem that the film is complete, yet there are two major factors missing. Sound and music must be added. The actors will have their voices recorded to the characters speaking. Sound technicians will add extra sounds such as lion roars, hoof thuds, rocks crumbling, and so on. Hans Zimmer created the instrumental music for the movie. He had to compose a variety of musical themes for every part of the movie. Lebo M. and some of his friends helped out greatly with African chants in all the music. Elton John and Tim Rice were responsible for the songs with words. With sound and music added to the animation, the movie is complete. Some final checks are made before releasing the film to theatres.

     “The Lion King” made a great breakthrough during its release in 1994 as the best all-animal cast since Bambi. Even today in 2005, many people are touched by the artwork, the music and the storyline of this movie. Were it not for the animators, this story could not have been so believable. They went through a long process of getting ideas to present the story. Years down the road, people will still be impressed with the beauty of “The Lion King.”