Behind The Scenes of The Lion King 3D Premiere Event

My trip to LA for the Hollywood Premiere of The Lion King wasn’t all glitz and glam. Oh wait, yes it was! But there were different types of glam. If my first day in LA made me feel all Pretty Woman, the second day was all Noting Hill – yep, it was a Julia Roberts weekend.

It was my first movie junket, and the day was all about meeting the people behind the movie and learning about how the movie was made. Just like in Noting Hill, we went from room to room in the hotel meeting and interviewing people from different aspects of the movie. (Of course, I am Hugh Grant in this example since Julia was the star.)

After a leisurely stroll down Rodeo Drive (nope, I didn’t buy anything), I arrived at our first event to meet with the voice of young Nala, Niketa Calame, and the producer Don Hahn. After screening “Memoirs of a Producer,” which will be included in the release of The Lion King and is definitely worth watching, and listening to Niketa and Don I was fascinated to learn that The Lion King was the “B” project. The Lion King was created along side Pocahontas, which everyone believed would be Disney’s next home-run. The Lion King, it was a side project that no one seemed to think much of. In fact, it really wasn’t until the premiere that those who worked on it really understood what they had on their hands.

It was a theme repeated throughout the day by others who worked on the film, and I continue to be amazed.

The Suburban Mom & Niketa Calame
Next on the docket, African Dance lessons. Oh yes, eight months pregnant, and I was ready to get my African groove on! I laughed and laughed and laughed – it was so much fun. The instructor took one look at me and told me she needed to wrap my belly for support – I loved it! So I happily sported my belly wrap and uncoordinated bode and joined in the fun. By the end, I felt more energized than before we began.

Lion King African Dance Class
After the festive number, we were off to learn how this 2D classic was transformed into spectacular 3D. There was more math in this presentation than I could ever hope to follow, but what I did follow was fascinating. The man in charge of the sterioscope magic was Robert Newman, and he showed us how he used 3D not just to add a cool effect but to also add emotion to each scene. He began by marking up each shot – somewhere around 1,200 shots, then he based the 3D depth on the emotional depth of each shot. So for highly emotional scenes, like the opening number there is a lot of 3D depth where as other scenes are “flatter.” Having screened the movie in 3D the night before, I didn’t notice this use. But watching the movie at the premiere, I was able to clearly see how he used 3D to effect the audience – without us even noticing. The end result, a spectacularly gorgeous movie. It was fascinating!

Lion King 3D

Following our highly technical tour into 3D animation, we went back to basics with the amazing opportunity to meet with two of the supervising animators from The Lion King – Mark Henn, who oversaw Simba, and Tony Bancroft, who oversaw Pumba. Having zero artistic skills myself, I watched mesmerized as the artists sketched and they answered questions. It was mind boggling to learn that the animators considered a good week’s work to accomplish three seconds of film – three seconds! With each second comprised of 12-24 images, that’s somewhere between 36-72 hand-drawn (final) images per week. To make that even more staggering, that is just drawings of the character — these guys had nothing to do with the background or any other character in a scene! No wonder it took 18 months to animate and 89-minute feature film.

Lion King Annimators

But the highlight of meeting the animators (as fascinating as they were) was when the surprised our group by presenting us each with a sketch of Simba and Pumba! I cannot wait to get them framed and hang them in the playroom — I will treasure the sketches always!

As if a full-day learning all about my favorite movie wasn’t enough, after we cleaned up (still sweaty from African dance class) we were whisked off to a yummy dinner. Not just any dinner, but dinner hosted by the lovely Moira Kelly, voice of adult Nala. Because I am terrible with star’s names, I was unaware of her ’80s fame, she was none other than Kate Moseley from Cutting Edge (toe pick!). I was lucky enough to sit across the table from this now a stay-at-home mom, and Moira was wonderful.

The Suburban Mom & Moira Kelly

The Lion King opens in theaters in 3D September 16, 2011 for a two-week run, and then it will be released on Blu-Ray/DVD on October 4, 2011. Don’t miss this chance to see this magical movie in the theater and bring it home for your family.

Read more of my adventures in LA for the Lion King 3D Hollywood Premiere:

Disclosure — I was invited to the premiere event and all of my expenses were paid, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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