The making of a graphic… about the making of a movie… that’s a remake of a cartoon… that’s a retelling of a Shakespeare tragedy…

When I discovered that a new version of the 1994 Disney smash hit The Lion King (itself heavily influenced by Hamlet and maybe the Bible) had been remade in a fantastically futuristic fashion, I rather stupidly thought it ought to be explained in an infographic!

The scene I'm going to reflect in my graphic. It's iconic but doesn't involve drawing too many isometric animals.

There are a few excellent articles online covering how the new movie was created with CGI and filmed in VR. The ones I reference are from Wired, Entertainment Weekly and IGN. Some are about 3,000 words long – a long read. I'm sure there are other articles out there, but in my line of work I don't really have the luxury of heaps of time – things need to move ahead apace.

I have to get drawing ASAP.

For production reasons, my graphic needs to fill a space occupying 163mm wide x about 200mm deep (no luxurious double-page spreads for me these days) – but crucially, it must still tell the same story as a 3,000-word article. This is not an easy task. To be honest, I don't really have a clue how to do this graphic, I just feel it needs to have one. My gut is telling me this is an important moment in cinema and I'd like to be one of folks who documents it.

It is not my best work. It is not my prettiest work. It is not the quickest read. But it is interesting, I think, to see the process, nonetheless. I work 99% of the time in Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is not a 3D modelling tool. It's a flat vector drawing app. But I need to try and create a 3D model landscape effect to explain how director Jon Favreau and his team of effects geniuses pulled this off.

It took me three working days (and several hours at the weekend) to research it, stroke my chin, worry, draw things, throw them away because they didn't work, draw new things, worry some more, and eventually produce an infographic that explains how it was done.

Here's how I went about it, in screenshots. It starts with a doodle… and ends with a nice retweet…

I show the boss this scribble and am given two or three days to make it work.

The visuals are described as being video game-like. But if they look too slick in my graphic, they won't look video game-like at all. For the purposes of illustration, I decide to go old school and use 8x8 grids.

It needs a hill…

… a less angular, more naturally bumpy hill.

Add Simba, Pumbaa and Timon (screen grabs from animal toys on sale on ebay)

The ground needs texturing. I use Photoshop to create an 8x8 pixel version of the top texture from the Minecraft video game's Grass Block.

I start painting the polygons to match the grass texture, as if it were tiled right across.

With polygons painted, they need to be shaded. I create a light/shadow layer to apply over the texture, based roughly on where the sun will be in my finished graphic.

Tweaking the transparency settings lights the polygon model pretty realistically.

Time to figure out how it'll fit into my limited space.

Placing foliage.

Working out where to put the text.

It's starting to come together.

The virtual reality text boxes would look great in blue or green if it weren't for the background being so green already.

Finally, an isometric dolly camera crew performs a tracking shot.

The blue text boxes are better switched to green's complimentary colour, red, even if they do look a little like blood spatter – the movie contains tragic elements afterall!

Almost immediately, the graphic is retweeted by the Senior Manager of Virtual Production at Netflix.

Visit to enjoy more tasty morsels of infographic goodness!

The Lion King graphic can be purchased from Graphic News. It is responsive and comes in the size shown above and a smartphone friendly format.


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