Last month, I had the amazing opportunity to walk the “red carpet” at El Capitan Theater in LA for the premiere of Lion King 3D. This is another experience I will cherish forever and hold very close to my heart.
The Lion King, which first came to theaters in 1994 is a movie I watched over and over again. Although I was 14 years old when it was released, there was something about the feeling this movie gave me that kept me rewinding it on VHS over and over again (it might also have something to with my 7 year old brother). Needless to say, I could recite the movie verbatim. On September 16th, the Lion Kind will be in theaters once again, but this time, it will be in 3D.
My experience in LA was one to be remembered, along with the amazing red carpet premiere (which happened to be green AstroTurf), I also learned behind the scenes facts about the movie, how 3D movies are made, met with the producer, artists and actors all from one of my favorite Disney movies of all time. To say is was magical would be an understatement, it will be one of those experiences I will never forget.
I was surprised to learn the Lion King (“the story of a lion cub framed for murder”) wasn’t expected to be a box office hit at all. Many people who were asked to work on the movie quickly declined and focused their attention on the next Disney movie which was slated to be a huge success, Pocahontas. If it was possible to see in a crystal ball, I’m sure plenty of people would go back in time to change their mind. In any case, the Lion King was an experiment and not expected to “make it”.
Despite the lack of faith in the movie, the people involved, such as the producer, Don Hahn, were very dedicated to making the movie a success. So dedicated in fact, despite an earthquake and losing their office space, employees continued to work in their garages to get this epic movie completed. After 3 years of work, and plenty of trial and errors (and donuts) later, the movie was ready for everyone to see. There were 11 trial runs shown to regular people like you and me to get the movie just right, and sure enough people laughed when it was funny and cried when it was sad, and so, it was time to get the movie on the big screen.
It starts with the opening scene of Baby Simba being presented to all the animals of the pride land. The music, singing, scenery and animals celebrating the birth of the new king is enough to have the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. The opening music is actually song by a local LA valet driver named Lebo, it only took 2 takes to get the music just perfect. Although to us, the words are no more than a deep drum beat, the do have meaning, it’s all about freedom. “They say” everyone on in LA has a second job, well for Lebo, he could have never expected he was about to create the most powerful intro to a movie in modern time though his music.
And so, people came in droves to watch this movie that was never expected to be much of anything, and they came over and over and over again to watch in awe, a young lion cub develop into the king he was meant to be. The dynamics of the movie hadn’t been experience by Disney since Bambi. A young lion cub’s father is killed, and as it seems, it is the fault of none other then Simba himself left to blame for the tragedy.
Disney could have never expected the affect this movie had people. Not only was it a huge success, it also had the power to reconnect children with their estranged parents. Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) has such a riveting, deep and emotional presence, you can’t help but feel like it’s your own dad speaking to you during the scene with Mufasa in the sky. Power at its best.
Although the Lion King was simply an experiment, it is easily one of Disney’s most beloved and popular films. And now, here we are nearly 20 years later (oh my goodness), and the movie is being released into theater in 3D.
Converted to 3D
During the Liong King 3D event, I was also given the opportunity to see how a movie is turned from 2D to 3D.
I am by no means a technical person when it comes to animation or computers for that matter. I did however try my best to hang onto every word we were presented by the graphic designer on how 2D movies are converted to 3D. Although I understand the concept of placing things close and far away, the technical parts were a touch over my head. There were plenty of photos which showed how each and every frame needs to be placed a certain distance (background, foreground and everything in between to create layers), and I also learned it took 60 artists 4 full months of work to get the movie just right – which they did.
First 3D Screening
We actually saw the movie in 3D twice, and I have to say I was blow away by a number of things.
First, I was blow away while watching the movie in 3D how I felt like I was on pride rock with the giraffes and zebras celebrating the birth of baby Simba. I was also blow away with the wildebeest stampede. There were thousands of wildebeest running through the gorge and once again, it felt like I was nearly in the think of it with Simba and Mufasa.
I was also surprised how much I remember the movie, I was able to sing and speak along with each character as the movie played. Lucky for my neighbours, I kept all my comments in my head. It goes to show how much this movie made an impact on my life if still 20 years later, I am able to recite the movie. Congrats Disney – that is an accomplishment, I can’t remember my own child’s name many times.
Seeing the movie in 3D completely enhanced the experience for me, and although I knew the movie inside and out, it was like seeing it again for the first time through new eyes and brought me back to a place I loved being, a young girl.
The Red Carpet Event
The red carpet was a bit of a disappointment for me, not because it wasn’t spectacular, but because I didn’t exactly know it was happening. Being from a smaller Canadian City, I thought the red carpet, was always red. Turns out in this case it was green AstroTurf. Once we walked the carpet and made our way into the El Capitan, I was left asking, “When will we get on the red carpet”, to my surprise my moment had already past. Sure there was plenty of music and commotion going on, I’m not quite sure what I was expecting – oh wait, yes, I know what it was, red carpet.
Despite this minor confusion on my part, the entrance into the main event (Lion King 3D) was more than spectacular. In the old classic theater and on stage was a single organist playing every Disney song you can think of, I, along with the others sang along and enjoyed the amazement of being in this historic theather. We were also in the company of celebrities, a few of wihich we had the pleasure of personally meeting. After much anticipation the movie started and during the opening song, the clapping began – we were all pumped to see this flawless film.
Once again, I watched the movie and I cried this time (just a little). The experience was just too much for my heart to take. Me, a little “girl” from Halifax, Nova Scotia in LA for a movie premiere – who would have ever thought? But there was no time to reminisce and be teary eyed because we were off to the after party. Which included, dancing, music, games, food, crafts for kids and of course more celebrities. It was quite an experience to see actors young and old(er) attend the event. Melissa Joan Heart, Ali Landry, Rick Schroeder, Shaunie O’Neal, Adam Irigoyen (Disney Channel’s Shake it Up) Maria Canals-Barrera, Nolan Sotillo (Prom). All these famous people celebrating a spectacular movie!
People behind the success
Remember how I said I was able to meet some of the famous people at the event? Well, we were fortunate enough to have lunch with Niketa Calame (the voice of young Nala), Dinner with Moira Kelly (voice of adult Nala) spent a few minutes with Don Hahn the producer, and meet with Mark Henn (supervising Artist young Simba) and Tony Bancroft (Supervising Artist for Pumbaa).
What I loved most about meeting these people was to see each of them are real everyday people with strong passions, but in some cases the same worries as you and me.
For example, Niketa, spoke about how she still (to this day) dreads hearing Nala scream during the elephant graveyard scene. Who would think, 20 years later this would still play on her mind. I think her performance is absolutely genius and flawless! It just goes to show we are our own biggest critique.
Don Hahn, spoke to us about how the movie was seen as a big failure before it even started, but thankfully he stuck to it and we all know the outcome of his hard work and dedication. He would have never thought one movie would have the ability to touch so many different people in different generations, and now the opportunity is here for a whole new generation.
Mark Henn and Tony Bancroff, who are both Disney Artists spoke to us about encouraging our kids to draw by giving them paper and pencils and getting the best education out there if your kids are aspiring artists. Tony enjoyed drawing so much, I saw him at the premiere with a pad of paper and he was drawing never ending Pumbaa’s with a smile on his face, time after time. At the end of our event, both Mark and Tony had a very special drawing for each of us. This is something I will cherish forever.
We also had the opportunity to meet with Moira Kelly, she was adorable. It was such a pleasure and an honor to spend an evening with her while she told stories which once again made her seem so real, just like you and me going through the regular ups and downs of life.
Lion King 3D in your Town
Lion King 3D will be in theaters on September 16th, but only for a few weeks (and then will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 4th). This is one you will not want to miss, whether with your kids or without. The movie reaches across generations and touched lives in way no one ever thought possible.
I absolutely love the movie, however I do think there are a few parts which are a touch scary for the younger ones, such as “Be Prepared” and the final fighting scene with Simba and Scar. However, if you are ok with covering eyes, the kiddos are sure to enjoy the laughs of Timone and Pumbaa, the music of Elton John, and the power of parents.
Disney Second Screen
On October 4th, Disney is releasing a Free Lion King App called Second Screen. We had the opportunity to play around with the app. The kids are sure to enjoy colouring, drawing and reading along with movie. You can earn tickets to unlock special activities and get special exclusive content. Once this comes out, I will be downloading the app for DD as she enjoys using our iPad to play around, it will also help the Lion King 3D experience I had linger around a touch longer!
I want to express a very sincere Thank You to everyone responsible for putting this event together, it was incredible. I am still pinching myself. Just to think, I was staying at the incredible Wilshire Beverly Hills on the corner of Rodeo drive (sharing with Bruce Wills and the Beckhams) and had the opportunity to walk the “red carpet” despite completely unaware at the time (read above)! It was a weekend to remember.