Jon Favreau talks The Lion King at Siskel Gala

Featuring the voices of James Earl Jones as Mufasa, and JD McCrary as Young Simba, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 29, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Actor-writer-director Jon Favreau was on hand Saturday night in Chicago to receive the 2019 Gene Siskel Film Center Renaissance Award.

With Robert Downey Jr. on hand, it’s no surprise that Iron Man would be a matter of discussion.  There were certainly other films brought up throughout the evening.  These films would include Elf, Chef, and Swingers.  The latest film to be directed by Jon Favreau is Disney’s The Lion King.  Of all the films based on animated classics, this film is by far the most ambitious.  What sets it apart from the recent Disney adaptations is that it’s completely photo-realistic.  There’s not a single human actor appearing on camera.  Nor is anyone in the film performing motion capture.  The film is entirely being made on computers.

Earlier in the evening, Favreau would talk about the advances in technology.  It’s amazing to think about when you look at The Jungle Book in 2016.  It’s safe to say that we don’t get The Lion King without The Jungle Book.  I personally can’t wait to see the film next month.

Jon Favreau:  Within Disney, just the story itself is part of the Mount Rushmore of Disney animated projects.  That’s one where–the old one is so good and the stage show is so good that you’re there just trying to service this to keep this story out there for new generations.  You have to do it while honoring and not trying to replace what came before it.  All this new technology offered a new medium that felt like a live-action film.  We’ve reached the point where we can have a completely animated piece of content and using virtual reality and techniques to give it a hand-made feel to make it feel as live-action as though something was really shot.  That felt like it wouldn’t be redundant.  I know that people who see the film like the stage show because it feels like another interpretation of the same story.  We tried to create that feeling with this. Then you’re there trying to service it, you’re trying to live up to everything that everybody remembers about it but then also surprise them, too.

Much like we’re mounting a stage production of a classic show you saw, bringing in a whole new cast could also breathe life for another generation of people.  We have a really talented cast.  We kept James Earl Jones, too.  I saw The King and I touring at the at the Westbury Music Fair when I was a kid and Yul Brynner was in the production.  They had a whole new cast around him but then you still get to see and I can say I got to see Yul Brynner play the king.  I think that’s sort of the spirit that this is.  When we talk about service, we want make sure that people who love it will still feel good and that you’re respectful of it.  It doesn’t feel like it’s my thing.  It feels like it’s everybody thing that grew up with it and Disney’s thing.

I got to work with great people like Hans Zimmer, who was around for the first time around, and all new people in the cast like Donald Glover, Beyoncé, and Chiwetal.  That’s been like a three-year journey of learning about the technology, developing new stuff, and trying new techniques…every day going in and pixel by pixel just really trying to craft this thing.  I’m very excited for people to see it.  It’s coming out in July.

Walt Disney Pictures will release The Lion King on July 19, 2019.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.