“The Lion King” in ARRI Multicam at Disneyland Paris

The recording of the musical “The Lion King” utilized a five-camera configuration of the ARRI Multicam System, incorporating four AMIRAs and one ALEXA Mini. This highly cinematic method of capturing a live theatrical performance was a first for Disney.

Mar. 3, 2020

The Disneyland Paris summer season opened in style last June with the production of a new version of the musical “The Lion King” in the Ile-de-France amusement park, a few days before the release of the eponymous film in cinemas. On this occasion, Disney made a complete recording of the show, to be able to project it for the entire season at Walt Disney Studios, its twin park in Marne-la-Vallée. In this way the audience was broadened for this spectacular stage show, which involves 30 artists on stage, allowing it to be screened in a 1,000-seat theater on a 19 m screen.

For this large-scale capture, Disney called on Julie Rohart, a director accustomed to musicals, since she worked on the production of “The Lion King” on Broadway, which enjoyed worldwide success, as well as the Sam Mendes version of “Cabaret.” Since then, she has gone on to record performances of the musicals “The Bodyguard,” “Grease,” Chicago,” and “Cats”—a true specialist!

“This was the first time that I shot a musical entirely with ARRI cameras, but I know the AMIRA and ALEXA Mini well, having used them several times on documentaries, commercials and promo reels,” says Rohart. “I really value their soft and natural look; they bring a lot of dynamic in the colors, while avoiding problems of saturation. The result is never flashy. It was important for the very colorful show that “The Lion King” truly is. I knew it was the ideal camera system to faithfully reproduce the work of the musical's creators. It was also the prefered tool of the Disney teams, who immediately suggested shooting with ARRI.”

Led by the audiovisual production department of Disneyland Paris, which manages nearly 400 projects each year, the recording took place in the new Frontierland Theater, opened for the occasion. Capable of hosting 1,175 spectators, it has a modular stage 40 m wide, and is equipped with 360° audio technology unprecedented in Europe.

“We had to contend with a lot of constraints on this project,” explains Carole Jublot, manager of audiovisual productions at Disneyland Paris. “The construction of the hall had just been completed. We only had a few days to shoot before it was opened to the public. We filmed over two days, under live conditions, and carried out the editing and color timing right after, since the projection at the Walt Disney Studios park was to be linked with the launch of the musical live at Disneyland's Frontierland Theater. It was a very big challenge.”

The Disneyland audiovisual department prepared for the recording well in advance. Comparative tests between different cameras were carried out, and the workflow was carefully prepared. “We have wanted to try an ARRI experience for a very long time," explains Pierre Maveyraud, production manager at Disneyland Paris and technical coordinator of the project. “We were very inspired by the recording of a Coldplay concert at the Stade de France in 2012 using AMIRA Multicam: the camera's non-digital rendering, the level of detail in the shadows and lights, the cinematic look. We were waiting for the right project to get started with ARRI.”

The stakes were high for Disney. It was the first time that the company had projected a show at one of its Parisian parks, and it had to measure up to the quality of the live show. “We wanted to offer the audience the best possible experience to avoid the disappointing aspect of not seeing the live show,” emphasizes Andy Standley, director of productions at Disneyland Paris. “Right from the first footage, we were seduced by the result. There was something unique about the texture. ARRI brought us the nobility of the cinematic image that we needed in order to offer the audience a unique entertainment.”

With this high quality in mind, the teams shot the musical six times over two days, changing the camera placements each time, so as to increase the number of angles. “Disney went to great lengths to meet the challenge of this recording,” notes Julie Rohart. “I had two dollies, a Technocrane, and a Steadicam at the proscenium, in addition to the fixed cameras. Our film crew comprised almost 70 people! In the end, I was able to work on 25 different axes to really immerse the spectator in the show.”

AMP Visual TV, which managed the shoot, is accustomed to capturing ARRI Multicam with AMIRA and ALEXA Mini. “One of the special features of ARRI cameras is their unique remote control capacity,” explains Oliver Bardet, video operations manager at AMP Visual TV. “We can intervene live on all menus from the control room, which is an important asset during operations.”

Julie Rohart confirms this advantage: “During the capture of “The Lion King” I wanted to switch the AMIRA on the crane to 50 fps for some sequences. At one point, a video screen that was on stage began to flicker in the image. I was immediately able to switch the speed of the camera back to 25 fps from the control room. Everything was done remotely in a few seconds, without stopping the shoot. It is a real plus while recording the show.”

In the end, the show was a real success and the recording of “The Lion King” was projected six times a day for three months, all through the summer season. “We are very proud of the superb result,” says Andy Standley. “It was an exceptional experience, and I would do it again tomorrow if necessary.” Pierre Maveyraud adds: “ARRI France supported us in all phases of this complex project. It was reassuring to have the manufacturer by our side, and decisive in choosing this solution. Above all, this support saved us a lot of time in implementing the project.”

Opening image: Valentin Desjardinsi ©Disney