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One of the big points of discussion leading up Disney’s 2019 remake The Lion King was whether it should be called live-action or animated. Technically the film is entirely animated (other than one shot) using a computer, but that animation was so advanced and photo-realistic that it was treated as a live-action movie. That approach didn’t work for everybody, so someone edited The Lion King to look more like the cartoon upon which it’s based. Take a look:
Wow, at first I thought this was going to be some sort of abomination stranded in the uncanny valley, but after you adjust to the initial weirdness it actually works fairly well. It is pretty fascinating how this video takes fan art from Instagram and using deep fake technology, turns Jon Favreau’s The Lion King into something of a hybrid between the animated and “live-action” versions.
The characters each retain the three-dimensionality and texture of the character models from the visually stunning remake, but by incorporating the faces of their counterparts from the 1994 film, they gain a level of emotion that was lacking in the 2019 version. The cartoony eyes and more expressive faces make a huge difference in understanding what the characters are feeling in each moment.
This is particularly evident with the Nala and Simba scene with Nala’s desperate look and Simba’s furrowed brow. You can even see Pumbaa’s smile more clearly.
Surprisingly, this approach doesn’t make the characters look too out of place in the hyper-realistic environments of the live-action iteration surrounding them. Although this video is a small sample and that could change over the course of a two-hour movie.
Opinions will vary on this video as they do on the Disney remake, but it should be clear that the studio obviously could have taken this approach if it wanted to. The idea was to make a movie that was so technologically advanced that it could pass for a nature documentary while telling the classic Lion King story.
With the cartoony eyes, this approach wouldn’t have really passed for a “live-action” remake and would have been more akin to a 3D animated film in the vein of something from Pixar or Walt Disney Animation Studios. And an obviously animated remake of an animated film arguably has even less reason to exist than something like the new film which at least tells the story in a different way from a visual standpoint.
The comments section on the YouTube video is full of people asking for an entire ‘deep faked’ version of the 2019 Lion King, with animals that actually emote. Pity, if only a version of The Lion King existed where the animals were this expressive…
The Lion King is now playing. Check out our premiere guide for the rest of the big movies headed to theaters this year.