The Lion King experience
The weekend of September 16/18, 2011, The Lion King 3D, (a 2D film made 3D by technological wizardry), was number one at the domestic box office. In 1993 I was honored to have been assigned to work on The Lion King as an effects artist and am proud of the film as a work of art. The success of The Lion King does illustrate the animated film process, from first story pitch to the successful final film, and displays the results of the enormous effort by the many talented artists required to create such a beautiful finished film.
The following excerpts are from Flyin’ Chunks and Other Things to Duck
Chapter 17 My Pride With the Lions
Long before Vera and I moved to Glendale, we were invited to the first pitch of The Lion King story to the crew and far from being impressed, we were both disappointed. We discussed the story on the way home and both felt the story needed a lot of work. But the history of that movie illustrates that making an animated feature is usually more of a process than a live action film. Instead of starting with a script it starts with an idea for a story, no script. And because the art is so important in the telling of the story, the picture develops as a series of story board sketches. After thousands and thousands of sketches are pinned up, the story ideas pitched, thousands of sketches taken down, pinned up, taken down and thrown away a movie begins to take form……….
……….The Lion King was directed by Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers. It was an enormous success when it was released on June 24, 1994. It won two Oscars, Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Original Song, Can You Feel the LoveTonight, by Elton John and Tim Rice. After The Lion King was finished we had a huge wrap party in Pasadena at a vacant mansion. It was an elaborate affair and I remember it well. Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife Marilyn, along with Roy Disney and his wife Patty, were stationed on the patio where they were greeting everyone after we had wandered through the mansion to get to the backyard patio and a very large backyard. There was an abundance of food and many dancers and singers, all in African style outfits, entertaining in the spacious yard……….
………After that party Vera and I were invited to go to New York for the The Lion King opening in the Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Center. We sat in the first row center of the balcony with a few other Disney folks along on that trip and watched a stage presentation followed by a screening of our movie. We had a wrap party after the screening in what was the ice rink, in the winter, across the street from the Center……….
……….When all the festivities had ceased Vera and I checked out of the hotel wearing our Lion King hats. As we approached the cab which would scurry us to JFK the cab driver noticed our hats and began raving about them so Vera took hers off and gave it to a very gracious cabby. Our schedule called for us to be in Florida for The Lion King wrap party there, so off we went, JFK to Orlando Florida. The date was June 17, 1994. I know because when we got to our hotel at Disney World I turned on the TV to catch the news. OJ Simpson was taking a drive in Al Cowlings white Bronco on a Los Angeles freeway……………
……..The Florida wrap party for The Lion King was in an enormous building somewhere around the Yacht Club Hotel. That part of Disneyworld seems to be deceptive for there are large buildings that aren’t visible until you’re in one. The entrance to the building was decorated with jungle foliage and a big tree with a very large lion model, which looked real, lying in the tree over the doors. The party was different from most for there were games with Velcro suits. One would put on the Velcro suit then throw one’s self against a Velcro wall to see how high one could stick. There were many games of that nature and of course lots of food and beverages. Even Jeffrey Katzenberg was there participating. After that party our feelings of special-ness had to be put on the back burner until we finished another successful movie. This time we had a Native American waiting for us with the name of Pocahontas.