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6 Things to Know about 'The Lion King'

17 Jul, 2019   








Original Network

As the latest Disney live-action redo, director Jon Favreau beautifully recreates The Lion King to let audiences remember the magic of the original and enjoy the fresh new look!

At the recent press conference, Favreau and many of the cast members talk about making the movie and bringing Simba and the gang to life! Here are six key things to know:

On cracking the code with Jungle Book and now The Lion King:

JON FAVREAU: I’ve been working on both these movies back to back for about six years. All the new technology that was available, I had finally learned how to use it by the end of Jungle Book. At that point, with the team that we had assembled for it, all the artists, because a lot of attention is paid to the technology. But really, these are handmade films. There are animators working on every shot, every environment that you see in the film other than actually, there’s one shot that’s a real photographic shot but everything else is built from scratch by artists. We had a great team assembled. Then the idea of using what we learned on that and the new technologies that were available to make a story like Lion King with its great music, great characters, and great story, it seemed like a wonderful, logical conclusion. So that was something we set out to do.

On playing Simba:

DONALD GLOVER (Simba”):  I guess Jon was really good about the Circle of Life having a major hand in it. I really feel that it’s good to make movies that are global and metropolitan in the sense of the citizens of the world. Like making sure that we talk about like how connected we are right now. Because it’s the first time we’ve really been able to talk to everybody at the same time. So I felt yeah, it was just like a necessary thing. I felt like he was good about talking about that very, very upfront in the beginning of it. He kind of did it in the Jungle Book, too. The idea of like yeah, humans, their tricks are their power, and they can help everybody. Switching that and making the story the same, I think the same thing happens in this in such a great way.

My son saw it last night and was like freaking out… I didn’t tell him [he was playing Simba]. I really didn’t. I was like “I’ll just wait until he gets there.” But somehow he found out about it, but still didn’t know I was in it. He was just like “Oh, the one with Beyonce.” And then during the movie, he’s like “Oh, dad’s in it, too. This is great.” Bonus.

On empathizing with Scar:

CHIWITEL EJIOFOR (“Scar”):  I felt that it was just really interesting to go into that psychology, to really sort of try and uncover that and to look at it. I’m a huge fan of what was done before obviously like everybody else. Jeremy Irons and just sort of really going back in and exploring that character again from a slightly different perspective and seeing what was there. It’s such an incredible part to play. So complex and all of that - and having empathy, not sympathy, but empathizing with the character and trying to understand them and trying to get underneath that. Such a rich, villainous character to play.

And about those hyenas:

KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY (“Kamari”): We’re in a very toxic relationship that we try to hide from our leader. It’s like she’s the boss and also our therapist. I’m not going to tell her the truth in this session, though.

ERIC ANDRE (“Azizi”):  We were pretty drunk the entire time. It was pretty. We didn’t want to, but…

KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: Right. And then all the real pure animosity came out.

ERIC ANDRE:  He’s incredibly talented and really, really easy to work off of. And he is a selfless altruistic talent, which is rare. So I was in good hands. I was in great hands with Jon. So I don’t know. It was just a very nurturing environment and made it very easy, because I’m very, very sensitive. So the slightest wind of any kind will make me tear up.

KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: Yeah. I think Jon is a great student, has an encyclopedic knowledge of all different types of comedy. And one of those pieces of knowledge is about comedic duos and the dynamic that exists between them. And I know that when we had a very similar experience to Billy and Seth where we were allowed to walk around the room. It was as if we were being directed in a scene in the play. And as you said, we were all miced. And so everything was captured. And then it was the subsequent rounds that I thought was interesting, right, Jon, that would get a little more technical, when I would be actually by myself. So I think I had two with you and then two by myself. And the refinement is also very fun. Because we would sit there and I would have the headphones on. I would say to Jon, we’re looking for Fibber McGee and Molly here or Abbott and Costello. What are you looking for? He goes I’m actually looking for a little bit of Laurel and Hardy with an explosion at the end, but then back it up into little Apatowian for me.

ERIC ANDRE:  With a sprinkle of Beavis and Butthead. Just a soupçon.

FLORENCE KASUMBA (“Shenzi”):  Well, I was lucky that I got to play the part already in Germany for more than a year. We played like eight shows a week, so when you tell me, who is Shenzi, it’s like muscle memory, because I got to play her every day. But this Shenzi is so different. I remember in the musical, we had sometimes shows where I was embarrassed because the hyenas are so dumb and funny. And they are entertaining. But this is so different, this experience. Because when I listen to the dialogue, when I read them, I realized that this is way more dangerous and more serious. I was lucky that my first day that I was in a black box and I was working with Andre, Eric Andre, and with JD. And we were very physical, because the guys were so strong, it was easy for me to just be big. Because everybody is very confident, we could just really try out things. We could walk around each other. We could scare each other. We could scream, be loud, be big, be small. It’s like working in the theater, which I love. So having that freedom just made me, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted to.

On riffing as Pumbaa and Timon:

SETH ROGEN (“Pumbaa”): It was a lot of improvisation with Billy. We were actually together every time that we recorded, which is a very rare gift to have as someone who is trying to be funny in an animated film, of which I’ve done a lot, and you’re often just alone in there. I think you can really tell that we’re playing off of each other. It’s an incredibly naturalistic feeling. And they really captured Billy. That is what is amazing. I would say, he essentially played himself on a TV show for years, and this character is more Billy than that character somehow. It’s like endlessly, it’s remarkable to me how his character specifically makes me laugh so hard.

BILLY EICHNER (“Timon”):  Yeah. I wish I was as cute in real life as I am in the movie. The Timon they designed is so adorable. I think the juxtaposition of my personality in that little Timon body really works. I agree with everything that Seth was saying. I can’t imagine now looking back not being in the room together. Being able to riff off each other and really discover our chemistry together in the same moment. You can feel it when you’re watching the movie. I had not seen the finished movie until last night and I was shocked by how much of the riffing actually ended up in the movie. I think it feels very unique to other movies in this genre, which can often feel a bit canned.

SETH ROGEN:  The fact that it has like a looseness applied to probably the most technologically incredible movie ever made is like what is an amazing contrast. It feels like people in a room just talking. And then it’s refined to a degree that is like inconceivable in a lot of ways. That mixture is what I think is so incredible and that’s what Jon really captured in an amazing way.

On the iconic score and more:

HANS ZIMMER (Composer): Jon saw what Lebo M [African Music Consultant / Performer] and I did. There came a point in my life where somebody said to me, “You can’t hide behind a screen for the rest of your life. You’ve got to go out and look people in the eye.” We ended up dragging an orchestra and a choir out to Coachella and doing Lion King live. There was an energy about doing it as a performance and doing it live in that way that moved Jon, and actually to be really honest, it moved me, too.

It was great seeing all these amazing musicians really playing it as a piece, so I said to Jon, “Why don’t we do it like this? Why don’t we get all the greatest players, get my band, get the greatest players in the world, make a new orchestra here in Los Angeles, rehearse them for two days, and then really make it as if it was a concept.” We invited all the filmmakers that never get to come to the scoring sessions, the DP and the editors and everybody. Got them into the room, sat them in front of the orchestra, so the orchestra knew there was a bit of, they had to live up to something here. We just went for it.

The way the movie sounds, the openness is partly, it’s everybody, here is the difference between a normal movie score and this. Everybody who played in the orchestra, and it was a very special orchestra, knew the movie. Every note was played with intention. Every note was played with commitment. I think that ultimately helps everybody. It’s not just people reading things off a piece of paper. They knew the material. Jon is a really good director, to be able to pull amazing things out of technology, but the emotional Jon brings so much to the score. Really honestly, I thank him for letting me loose, letting us loose.

From the very, very beginning, I wanted to make a Disney movie that started off with a voice from Africa. I would invite you on a journey. Just come along. Come along and feel this other continent - and don’t ever forget this continent.

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