Three animators who worked on the original 1994 animated The Lion King aren't happy that it was remade using "too real" CGI — while others are defending it

By Ale Russian
August 01, 2019 03:16 PM

Disney’s remake of The Lion King is a massive hit with audiences. It’s grossed over $1.04 billion worldwide since opening and boasts a glowing A CinemaScore rating. But animators behind the 1995 original are divided over the film.

According to a new story from HuffPost, some of the makers of the 1995 original movie aren’t thrilled about director Jon Favreau’s CGI approach, while others have no problem with it. The outlet reached out to 13 animators who worked on the film and six responded to them.

“I will only get myself in trouble if I comment on the ‘other’ version,” one anonymous animator said, according to the outlet.

“There is a huge resentment against these 3D remakes from the original 2D crews. Maybe if we got any kind of royalties it would be different,” another anonymous animator explained.

David Stephan, who the outlet reports worked on the original’s “Circle of Life” sequence and the hyenas’ design, went on the record and didn’t mince words when it came to his feelings on the remake.

“If you polled the crew of the original Lion King, most of them would say, ‘Why? Did you really have to do that?’ It kind of hurts,” Stephan said.

The animator seemed to mostly disapprove of the realistic depiction of the characters, which he felt diluted the impact of the story.

“It would jar me out of the film, literally. Especially with little Simba walking around. It was too real,” he said. “And then when he would talk, it reminded me of those old nature films where they would dub the voices over and the lips would move. I thought, ‘Oh, this is really cheap.’ … I just came away going, ‘Wow, that was a great story that I worked on back in ’93,’ ”

The Lion King
| Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Not every original animator is against the film. Dave Bossert, who worked on visual effects for the original, thought the remake did a great job paying homage to the animated version.

“Visually, it’s stunning … In some instances, it’s a shot-by-shot version of the original animated film, and that didn’t bother me at all because I think the filmmakers were staying faithful to the original property. The faithfulness to the original animated film certainly endears it to the audience, without question,” he said.

1994’s The Lion King
| Credit: Everett

Alexander Williams, another animator from the original who worked on Scar, chastised his colleagues for losing sight of the reality of working on a movie.

“I think some of my colleagues forget that when you work on a Disney movie, you don’t own it. They own it,” he said. “You get paid to work there, which is a great privilege. It’s an amazing company. You get to work on this great stuff. But when you walk away, it’s their movie and they can do what they want with it. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s kind of none of my business whether they want to remake it or not.”

Disney’s The Lion King, starring Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner and more, is in theaters now.