From all of Disney's releases in their animation history on the big screen, 1994's The Lion King truly stands the test of time. The title was created on a modest $48m budget. And, as it took home a remarkable $968m at the box office, the narrative would be etched in popular culture for decades since its opening.
Having weaved his magic for the studio by bringing The Jungle Book back to life in the form of live-action, Jon Favreau will attempt to do likewise for The Lion King. Sitting down next to his colleague for The Avengers in Scarlett Johansson at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Iron Man 2 director delved into his motivation and discussed what he wants out of the movie.
JF: Audience Has To Be Immersed In Memorable Moments
Having a fan base from a number of different generations, Favreau is of the belief that the new edition has to capture those iconic moments and build on them if it is to be a success.
"When you're directing, you have to love (what you're making)," he explained. "You have to love it to the point of obsession. I have to live, breathe, sleep it, dream it. If I'm going to do my best work, I need to be completely immersed... You look at the material and you get inspired, and then try to update it for our time. With the Disney stuff, people know even more... With Lion King, people really know (the original), and they grew up with it and it has emotional impact.
I think about what I remember about The Lion King? I did it with Jungle Book (too). (I asked myself), 'What do I remember about (the 1967 version of) The Jungle Book? I remember Mowgli and the snake. I remember the snake's eyes. I remember Baloo going down the river and Mowgli riding on him like a raft. I made a big list, and those are the images we definitely needed... and you have more latitude to shift and change those things."
Favreau All About Quality Over Quantity
Having proceeded classic animated flicks of the likes of Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Shrek, Favreau understands the affection felt by viewers towards The Lion King.
"The Jungle Book was 50 years ago, Lion King was 20, and people grew up with it in an age of video where they watched it over and over again. So, I have to really examine all of those plot points," the director argued. "Also, the myths are very strong in it, so you're hitting something even deeper than the movie sometimes. What I'm trying to do is honor what was there... There are certain expectations people have."
Quizzed by Johansson about his philosophy of filmmaking, the 50-year old referenced a late entertainer to say that the show has to be worth the price of admission.
“I think about when Prince played halftime at the Super Bowl,” he recalled. “There was more entertainment packed into that because he hit every song you wanted to hear and he did it the way you remember it or better… You can do that whatever your medium is… to me, it’s like you’re doing a big DJ set for the audience. It’s about the audience having the experience they’re hoping they have, and if you can surprise them along the way, they’ll enjoy it even more, but you gotta live up to what (people) want, so you get greater pressure with these beloved stories.”