Interview With Lion King Producer Don Hahn – Hollywood News

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Interview With Lion King Producer Don Hahn – Hollywood News

Postby lukasdxan » 08 Nov 2011, 01:37

To celebrate the release of THE LION KING 3D in theatres and on Blu-Ray, THN talked to the film's legendary producer, Don Hahn. A veteran at Disney, his other work incudes BEAUTY & THE BEAST, THE EMPORER'S NEW GROOVE and THE LITTLE MERMAID.   Q – If you were doing The Lion King right now in 2011, instead of 17 years ago, do you think it might be different? Would the technology now be useful to do something else you planned many years ago and couldn’t have done? A – Don Hahn: There have been huge technical advances in animation since we made The Lion King back in 1994, so no doubt we would have approached the movie in many different ways. I doubt that it would have affected the story, but the execution of the film would have been different. I’m not even sure that we’d make it a CG film.Africa is such a broad canvas of color and wildlife that painting the landscape and drawing the characters always seemed to work well for the subject matter. Great question, thanks. Q – Which are, in your opinion, the scenes that most benefited from this 3D transformation? A – Don Hahn: The opening song of the film “Circle of Life” just blew us back in our seats when we saw it for the first time in 3D. Then the wildebeest stampede makes you want to duck and cover as the stampede runs over the theater. The third moment that comes to mind (out of many) is the scene when Mufasa’s ghost appears to Simba in the clouds. It was always the emotional centerpiece of the film and now in 3D it has huge scale and a grandeur that makes the scene even more powerful. Q – Which was the most difficult part of the process of converting a traditional animation movie to a 3D animation movie? A – Don Hahn: Well, a hand drawn film like The Lion King is by nature a caricature of life made from flat drawings and paintings. So the hard part was taking that flat drawing and creating some geometry behind it so that it would appear to have dimension. CG animation is inherently 3D so the process is much simpler. This was more technically difficult because we had to create depth where there was none. It’s never been done before. Q – You have produced movies like Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc. Do you think that the fairytale feeling is absent in contemporary animated movies? A – Don Hahn: Seems like the fairytale is alive and well but in a different form. I think Harry Potter has all the myth and wonder of a fairytale just in a slightly different package. And I think Pixar’s next film, Brave, will surprise a lot of people with its original and incredible story. There will always be room for the classic telling of an age old story. Tim Burton proved that with Alice in Wonderland. Q – What can we expect from the sound and especially from picture quality? A – Don Hahn: Terry Porter the original sound mixer on the film did an extraordinary thing for this 3D version. He pulled all the original sound elements and then placed the audio in the theater in a way that makes it float out away from the screen. I’m not sure how he did it but the affect is like nothing you've heard before, like sitting in the middle of Hans Zimmer’s orchestra while you’re watching. The picture was stored digitally when we finished it, so we were able to pull the digital files from storage and use those for the point of departure on the 3D version. The result is clean and clear. The original color palette was kept the way film makers intended when we made it. Q – Which animal from the movie would you want to be? A – Don Hahn: Sadly, I relate most closely to the flatulent warthog. Pumbaa and Timon really make me laugh and I’m proud to know them. Q – In your opinion: What made The Lion King that successful? A – Don Hahn: Story story story. If we do our job right, you forget that you are looking at drawings and paintings and you just step into the film and are swept away by the story. Q – Have you ever considered the idea of a CGI sequel of The Lion King movie? A – Don Hahn: That idea quilted long coats scares me a little. I love CG movies. They are modern miracles. But the story of The Lion King is an allegory of very human emotions about our fathers, our children and about the wonder of Africa. A hand drawn style always seemed to fit that idea. It’s literally a handmade film. The music is very hand made with lots of percussion and African vocals. It all adds up to something that is unique to a hand drawn movie and I think it’s the right choice for The Lion King. Q – Do you think traditional cell animation has a future? Or can we expect predominantly CG works in the years to come? A – Don Hahn: I think it’s a predominately CG world that we live in and it has been for a long time. I do however think that there’s a strong future for hand drawn animation and, in fact, animation of all techniques. Tim Burton is directing Frankenweenie for us in stop motion. The films ofMiyazaki are masterpieces created with paint and pencil. To me, an audience doesn’t go to the movies to see a technique. The go to be entertained, regardless if it’s made with puppets, pencils or pixels. Q – In the film, there is a startling similarity between the characters and their voice over artists…is this intentional??…for instance Rowan Atkinson as Zazu… A – Don Hahn: Yes, I think it is somewhat intentional, although I think Rowan would laugh if you told him that he looked exactly like Zazu. The truth is that we study the actors' gestures and movements very carefully. The animators attend the voice recording sessions and we often film the sessions so that we have reference for the performance of the lines. Then the animator can use that reference to create a character that has the mannerisms and even some of the features of the actor, but in animal form. It’s one thing that animation does really, really well. Q – I confess that I was never keen on "The Morning Report" being added to the DVD. Did you keep the song in for the Diamond edition or did you return to the original Zazu dialogue? A – Don Hahn: "The Morning Report" is an out-of-picture song that is still available on the disc but the film itself is restored to the original version of The Lion King that came out in 1994. Q – Are there any animated films you’ve seen and thought ‘dang, I wish I worked on that?’ A – Don Hahn: The Incredibles, Iron Giant, Princess Mononoke, Ratatouille, UP, Tangled. Some great film makers out there working in animation. I wish I could clone myself and work with them all. Q – In the past Disney animators used to watch and analyze the movements of real animals in their habitat before starting to work on the movie. Is this technique still being used nowadays? A – Don Hahn: Yes. For The Lion King we sent a team of animators to Western Africa to study the animals and environment. We took all the animators to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park so that they could live with the animals for longer periods of time. Then we had Jim Fowler, famous for his television show "Wild Kingdom," bring live full size adult lions into the studio. It was literally breathtaking. Last we had an animal anatomy specialist Stuart Sumida come in a lecture about bone and muscle structure. It was like being in school for months on The Lion King, but the results were worth the hard work. Q – What’s your favorite Disney movie? A – Don Hahn: Peter Pan, it has everything: pirates, flying kids, mermaids, crocodiles,London, and Tinker Bell! Q – How did you get involved with The Lion King originally? A – Don Hahn: I had just finished Beauty and the Beast when animation head Peter Schneider asked me to take a look at a movie called King of the Jungle. Thomas Schumacher who had developed the project was moving into a more senior role in development and the project needed a producer. At first it was daunting. The story seemed like a dusty nature movie. The directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers and I sat down in a room for two days with Brenda Chapman our story head (the first female story head at Disney), mens canada goose jackets along with Beauty directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale and story artist Chris Sanders (who directed last year's How To Train Your Dragon). We locked the door until we finished the story. We filled sketchbooks and legal pads and consumed huge amounts of pizza and by the time we came out two days later, we had the story. It really didn’t change much after that. We changed the title to The Lion King and you know the rest. Q – Compared to The Nightmare Before Christmas, the conversion 3D of The Lion King has required a whole different process. Could you tell us something about this process? A – Don Hahn: With Nightmare we had real dimensional puppets on screen to use as a basis for the conversion. Industrial Light and Magic did the conversion and they basically created a three dimensional model for each character and each set in the movie and then projected the film onto that 3D model so that they could re-photograph it with a left eye and a right eye. Incredibly tedious but with amazing results. Converting a hand drawn film is a completely different process. The Disney conversion team used some proprietary software to create a geometry beneath each of the drawn characters in the film. That underlying geometry would push the artwork forward or make it recede to create an impression of 3D from types of jackets for women a flat drawing. It’s a tough process and it takes artists working hand in hand with technology to get it to work. And it does work brilliantly. It’s a first in animation and I think audiences will love the feeling of stepping into the movie. Q – Tim Rice and Elton John’s music is magnificent. Given the opportunity, would you work with them again? Likewise Hans Zimmer? A – Don Hahn: Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! Q – What were your delays and problems before the release of the movie in 1994, as the movie Pocahontas was realized in parallel and appeared more promising to the studio ? And what was your reaction when you saw the success of The Lion King all around the world? A – Don Hahn: At first I had a lot of trouble getting people to work on The Lion King. It was considered the “B” project at the studio and Pocahontas was the “A” project. it made some sense since Pocahontas was in the style of the Broadway musicals that made Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty so successful. Nobody wanted to work on what we jokingly called “Bambi inAfrica.” In the end we got a group of animators who were deeply committed to the movie and saw it as a chance to do something different. We had always hoped that the movie would be a modest success at the box office, but we just tried to block out those pressures and keep working up until the last minute. On opening weekend there were lines around the block and I think it was the first time we saw that something much bigger was happening to the movie than any of us ever saw. Q – My favorite film of yours (and of Disney in general) is The Emperor’s New Groove. Would you be planning to produce any more movies that are essentially, pure comedies? A – Don Hahn: Thank you for saying that. It’s one of my favorites too! Yes, I would love to do more pure comedies. Animation is made for it. I'll get to work on that! Q – This must be a very satisfying feeling, The Lion King being re-released after 17 years, What would you say is your proudest achievement? A – Don Hahn: I’m most proud of the people. If I have a skill, it’s that I know how to pick the best people, directors, artists and technicians, then I know how to back away and watch them create their magic. It’s a thrill every time and I’m lucky to work with the best. Q – Will the Blu-ray edition include any special material on the process of transformation applied to the film? A – Don Hahn: One of the features of the new disc is a never-before-seen blooper sequence. We went back to the original recording sessions and found the funniest outtakes and bloopers that happened while we were recording James Earl Jones, or Jeremy Irons or whoever. Then I called back all the original animators and we animated the characters flubbing their lines. It is very very funny. Also, there's lots of information on the making of the film including the challenges of taking a flat hand drawn film and dimensionalizing it into a 3D experience. Q – Don, any final thoughts on The Lion King‘s 3D release? A – Don Hahn: It’s humbling and thrilling at the same time to have been part of a film and a phenomenon like The Lion King. I know that I speak for all of us who worked on this movie when I say thank you for the warm reception that you’ve given these characters and this film in every corner of the globe. The 3D version of the film is very special and a whole new way to enjoy the world of The Lion King. It’s a handmade movie done with great care and love and we all hope that you enjoy it. Until next time, hakuna matata, Don Hahn. THE LION KING, DIAMOND EDITION is released on BLU-RAY and DVD on November 7th
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Interview With Lion King Producer Don Hahn – Hollywood News

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