The live-action remake of the Disney classic The Lion King has finally hit theaters to mixed reviews. However, one of the most controversial aspects of the movie isn’t its overall quality, but more so the fact that it has been labelled as a “live action” movie. However, though it may not be like the typical live action movies that we are used to, The Lion King absolutely falls under the qualifications of a live action movie rather than an animated one.
The distinction of a live action movie and an animated movie isn’t as much about how the final product looks or how much CGI is used as much as it is about how the action is made. A live action movie is any type of movie that is made using cameras, as the “action” is captured “live.” An animated movie creates the action in a way that is not live. Originally, this was done by putting a number of drawn images together, but it now also includes movies that are made completely on a computer or stop-motion movies like Wallace & Gromit that put individually shot images together.
Had the new Lion King been made entirely on a computer like many of the modern 3D animated movies, then it would fall into the animated movie category. However, that’s not what happened. Much like The Jungle Book (and oddly Monster House), the majority of The Lion King was shot in a studio, using humans and props. The CGI was then clipped onto the movement of the actors and props to create the stunning visuals seen in the final product. Take, for example, the character Smeagol in The Lord of the Rings. Smeagol was not added into the movie in post-production; instead, actor Andy Serkis was on set the entire time in a motion-capture suit, with the CGI that formed his character being added after filming. The Lion King essentially did the same thing, but on a significantly larger scale.
The Lion King actually went above and beyond the technology that Hollywood typically uses for these projects, actually shooting a majority of the action using VR/AR technologies. This allowed the team to capture the action from practically every angle, creating a completely 3D “reality” on their computers. This made it much easier to choose different “camera angles” in the computer-generated world adapted from what was shot in the studio. It is an incredibly innovative approach that is sure to change how movies like this are made in the future.
Because the action of The Lion King was originally captured by a camera rather than created on a computer, the movie technically qualifies as a live action movie. It is sometimes considered to be a hybrid of both forms called “live action animation,” but in the end, that still falls into the live action category. Hopefully this confusion will be cleared up more when this latest remake from Walt Disney Studios releases on Blu Ray, which will undoubtedly reveal plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of the remarkable way this movie was made.
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