Reinventing Roy­alty

Animation Magazine - - Tv -

Dis­ney delves into ter­ri­tory both new and fa­mil­iar with the fran­chise-ex­pand­ing preschooler se­ries

By Tom McLean.

While just about any an­i­mated show pro­duced for Dis­ney can be de­scribed as big, there are a few ex­tra rea­sons that la­bel so aptly ap­plies to The Lion Guard.

“There’s two dif­fer­ent ways to think of big,” says Ford Ri­ley, who de­vel­oped the Dis­ney Ju­nior show and is its ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. “One is the vol­ume of char­ac­ters, and the other is that it’s The Lion King, it’s part of that world. So for the Dis­ney com­pany, it’s big.”

Set to pre­miere Jan. 15, the se­ries so far is look­ing like it’s liv­ing up to its billing. A 44-minute spe­cial that aired in Novem­ber, Re­turn of the Roar, was a rat­ings hit for Dis­ney Ju­nior, as was a pre­view episode re­leased through the Watch Dis­ney Ju­nior app in De­cem­ber.

The Lion Guard fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of Kion, the sec­ond-born cub of Simba and Nala, and his di­verse group of friends as they unite to pro­tect the Pride Lands. They are: Bunga, a fear­less honey badger; Fuli, a con­fi­dent chee­tah; Beshte, a happy-go-lucky hippo; and Ono, an in­tel­lec­tual egret. Each of the first sea­son’s 26 half-hour episodes also fea­tures an orig­i­nal song and in­cor­po­rates a na­ture and con­ser­va­tion curriculum, as well as Swahili.

Ri­ley — whose first pro­fes­sional script was for Dis­ney’s Ti­mon & Pum­baa se­ries and later cre­ated and exec pro­duced Se­cret Agent Oso — says his own fam­ily in­spired the premise of the se­ries. “We al­ready had Kiara in place (from The Lion King 2), so let’s give Simba and Nala a son — a sec­ond born — and make him the hero,” Ri­ley says. That first key lead to the sec­ond, when Ford saw his own son play­ing su­per­heroes with his friends. “And that’s when it hit me; that’s what to do: Take a team of su­per­heroes and drop them into the Pride Lands,” he says. “Sort of an Avengers meets The Lion King.”

An im­me­di­ate call to Dis­ney lead to the stu­dio back­ing the idea, lead­ing Ri­ley to his next chal­lenge: Making sure the show looked right. “We can’t try to rein­vent the look of The Lion King be­cause we’ll lose ev­ery­body,” he says. “There’s so much good will that is part of this fran­chise and so I really wanted it to have a 2D look that is in­spired by the orig­i­nal.”

Tech­ni­cal As­sis­tance Su­per­vis­ing di­rec­tor Howy Parkins says achiev­ing that tra­di­tional hand-drawn look was made eas­ier by ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, par­ticu- larly Toon Boom’s Har­mony. “I don’t think we could have (done this show) be­fore Toon Boom or the Cin­tiq and the Har­mony tech­nol­ogy,” he says. “It would have been a real chal­lenge.”

Char­ac­ter de­signer Jose Zelaya de­vel­oped the look for the new char­ac­ters with the orig­i­nal movie in mind. “He de­signed char­ac­ters that are new to the world of The Lion King, but they fit right in,” Parkins says. “I said to some­body that it al­most makes you think: Did I miss them in the movie? Are they in the back­ground some­where?”

The show is script driven, with de­tailed an­i­mat­ics sent off to Mer­cury Film­works in Ot­tawa, Canada, for an­i­ma­tion.

An­i­mat­ing an­i­mal char­ac­ters — es­pe­cially ones ren­dered more re­al­is­ti­cally — is an­other chal­lenge for an­i­ma­tors. “It’s tough just from an in­tel­lec­tual per­spec­tive when you’ve got writ­ers and artists who are used to ei­ther hu­man beings or an­i­mals that are an­thro­po­mor­phic,” Ri­ley says. “Some were on board eas­ier than oth­ers.”

Ri­ley says work­ing with Mer­cury has been very re­ward­ing.

“As a writer you write jokes and some­times it gets lost in trans­la­tion,” he says. “There’s a mo­ment (in the spe­cial) where Simba says to Kion some­thing like, ‘You in­vited Bunga to join the Lion Guard?’ and there’s a rack fo­cus and Bunga is in the back­ground and says ‘Hi!’ It gets a laugh ev­ery time, but it’s such a sub­tle mo­ment and they really nailed it. [

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.