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Disney has found incredible success in remaking many of the studio's classic animated films. However, there's always a risk that is run when a popular movie is remade. The Lion King is one of Disney's most popular animated films ever and trying to remake a movie that many view as perfect may largely come across as insane. But, following his success on The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau tried to do exactly that, and the director now confirms there's a direct connection between the earlier remake and the new one.
In The Jungle Book there was only one human character, which meant that the animals and sets created by CGI had to largely succeed on their own. Favreau tells Variety that making Jungle Book got him comfortable with directing animation, and so once he knew that the computer tools were available, and that he was capable as a director, it led him to the next obvious question, could this be done without any human actors at all? According to Favreau...
I knew that with the tools that we had and what the technology had to offer and the team that had done such a great job on Jungle Book that there was an opportunity here to show the naturalism of that world. I knew – I kind of understood how to make animals act and talk through animation. I understood how to direct animation too because there were some sequences in Jungle Book that didn’t have Mowgli in them. Those scenes were completely CG. I was comfortable directing the animators and then I said, ‘Well what if you just pulled the one human out of Jungle Book, how would you do that?’
It seemed fairly clear that when Jon Favreau went from directing The Jungle Book to The Lion King that the one job naturally led to the other. It almost felt like Jungle Book was meant only as a proof of concept, a test with a lesser property to make sure that The Lion King was going to work before Disney decided to invest in it. Favreau says there was only one shot at this. If you remake a classic and it bombs, it's not like you can just do it again. Not for a couple decades anyway. Needless to say, it worked, The Jungle Book was actually a great movie in its own right.
That's not to say that making The Lion King was easy. While the fact that the movie was made entirely inside a computer made a lot of things easier, it also removed the biggest safety net that Jungle Book had, a human face to connect with the audience...
We no longer required sets and you no longer required lights, but we also had nothing to cut to. Having Mowgli’s face to cut to really grounded that film. If you pull that out, you have nothing to hide behind, you have no reference to compare things to. It was a bit of a leap of faith. But because Lion King has such emotional resonance, is such a timeless myth, has such amazing music and so many great roles… it’s a great opportunity. But it’s also a great responsibility.