Posted Jan 30

VFX supervisor Adam Valdez on honoring original film, reality in 2019’s ‘The Lion King’

by The Focus
VFX supervisor Adam Valdez on honoring original film, reality in 2019’s ‘The Lion King’ by The Focus

No one can deny that the 2019 reimagining of The Lion King was a success. The film cracked the list of the top 10 highest-grossing movies in history, attracting USD$ 1.60 billion in worldwide box office sales. 

Disney's The Lion King (2019) brings a healthy balance between the traditional 1994 cartoon and the modern version for the new generations. The project brought the best of The Lion King to the present day, extolling the roots of the past with the help of technology. You can confess: if you cried with Mufasa’s death in 1994, surely you also cried in 2019 – it was so real! To make it happen, MPC Film worked with more than 1,200 artists, production and support staff.  

Adam Valdez, the movie's visual effects supervisor, was honored with the Variety Artisans Awards at the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Adam’s goal was to honor the original cartoon and bring something new to the story. “We had to respect the original film, to bring something new, to duplicate Kenya and honor the origins that place. We had to make people believe lions are real,” he explains.  

In the interview, Valdez said he was lucky to fly over Kenya and it’s a really incredible place to go: “I stayed in Kenya for a good couple of weeks and we went all over the country. It’s a beautiful place with extraordinary landscapes and skies. Seeing the animals in their native habitats was amazing. It’s nothing like having it in your bones and in your soul after you’ve been there.” Adam took hundreds of thousands of photographs in Kenya because, for him, The Lion King was still a big challenge: “When you witness the life of those animals for an extended period of time, you get to sample the country all the way around and you come back with a sense of responsibility to that place.” 

Adam Valdez and Jon Favreau worked together in The Jungle Book (2016) and won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Together again in The Lion King, Valdez praised Jon and his way of working: “It’s our second movie in a row and I just love his whole attitude to filmmaking. He is so great at things: writer, director, performer… He is also constantly learning, so it’s really fun. You always feel you’re challenging yourself,” he completes.

When asked about The Lion King being a live-action or CG, Valdez clarified that the film is both. “You can’t fully say it was live-action in the sense that we didn’t go film it, but we did film it,” he explained. “The way we recorded it, designed it and shot it had the intention of crafts of live-action. It’s just that a bunch of us, from the animated CG world, came in and were part of that from day one to make sure that there was really a marriage of mentalities and techniques.” 

Watch the full interviews with Valdez below.


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