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I’ve been in this entertainment racket long enough to see some strange and incredible things on film and TV sets. I’ve walked through a “torture chamber,” watched Pennywise have a friendly chat with the crew, and strolled through a few stunning full-scale spaceships over the years, but I can safely say I’ve never been on a set quite like The Lion King.
That’s because it wasn’t really a “set” at all, but a warehouse full of groundbreaking technology, where filmmaker Jon Favreau and his crew (many returning from their previous collaboration on The Jungle Book) once again pushed the boundaries of innovation on what it means to make a digital production. Far removed from the dazzling African landscapes being were crafting inside, The Lion King production set up shop in a nondescript Southern California warehouse, where Disney invested in a multi-million renovation for a space where about 90% of the film was created through every step of the process, from design and story to filming and post-production.
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Way back in 2017 (it talks a long time to make a digital picture like The Lion King,) I visited the production headquarters with a small group of journalists, where we had the chance to speak with Favreau and his team and get a first-hand look at their unusual creative process and the innovative tech that allowed them to make the film. Walking through the maze of hallways, offices and workspaces, you wouldn’t find any of the animals, environments, or rows of trailers you might expect to find on a tradition movie set, but a team of about 150 crewmembers surrounded by computers, VR equipment, and screen after screen displaying the different renderings and various scenes at work.
The “stage,” as it were, was much the same; a techie’s dream space, where Favreau and his team...
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