Tuesday, May 21, 2019

DISNEY'S NEW LION KING - Live-action or animation?

Disney’s new digital version of LION KING, often shot-for-shot the same as the beloved original, is generating quite a bit of discussion, always a good thing to promote a new movie: 

Is it real or is it CGI? 
If it’s live-action how did the director make the lions talk?
Did the lions have trailers or did they just hang out on Disney’s back lot?
What about the trees, rocks and savanna, are they real?
Why did Disney CEO Bob Iger himself refer to it in a 2018 shareholders meeting as “our upcoming live-action Lion King”?

The lions do look realistic, if a little moth-eaten and arthritic, as do the other animals and the savanna looks quite authentic. But, real live animals lip-synching dialogue, showing emotions and singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”?
Come on folks, not even Disney can do that.

Of course, there’s no debate as to whether LION KING is live-action or animated.
It's VFX animated.
In photorealistic CGI.
Not one atom of the landscape or fauna is real.
Everything is computer generated. 
Every last whisker and blade of grass is made of zeroes and ones, 
not one drop of flesh or blood or sap.
This article on London’s MPC studios, one of the VFX companies which worked on creating the new LION KING will prove it.

Photorealistic CGI has been used in quite a few films including Disney’s “THE JUNGLE BOOK. The process uses Maya, Motion-capture and Performance-capture (did they put sensors on animals?), roto-capture, roto-animation, volumetric capture, plate-based image tracking, laser-pulsing lidars, photogrammertry, matchmove software, a silver ball that reflects the entire set in its shiny surface to record the position of the lights and a chrome ball to record the intensity of the lights, new real-time rendering and much, much more.

Obviously, a big question in this artificial debate is: are these realistic lions going to break into “Hakuna Matata,” “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” or “Circle of Life”?

And, for heaven’s sake, why keep recycling old animated movies for the built-in nostalgic audience factor? Disney is huge and rich enough to take a chance on something new. Something innovative. Something even as mildly innovative as 

Frankly, judging from the trailers, this technique has a certain “Uncanny Valley” look to it and is quite scary in its implications. How long till someone uses it to bring a dead actor back to “life”? Is all this “live-action” talk just promo or is Disney preparing us for a brand new “live-action” version of SNOW WHITE starring Carrie Fisher and James Dean?

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