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‘The Lion King’ Roars Into Surprise Animation Awards Contention — Despite Disney’s Best Efforts

"The Lion King" nabbed animation slots from the Globes and ADG sans Disney support, and "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" got an ADG nod without a screening.

THE LION KING - Featuring the voices of James Earl Jones as Mufasa, and JD McCrary as Young Simba, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 29, 2019.© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“The Lion King”

Disney

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So much for “The Lion King” avoiding the animation label. Despite Disney’s best efforts to position Jon Favreau’s all-CG, photo-realistic game changer as a “live-action” awards contender, it grabbed Golden Globe and Art Directors Guild nominations on Monday for Best Animated Feature and Animation Film Production Design. And Disney had nothing to do with it.

That’s because the Hollywood Foreign Press Association chose to switch “The Lion King” from Best Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical (as submitted by Disney) to the animation category, while production designer James Chinlund submitted his own work to the ADG as an animated feature. (Disney encourages its craft artists to self-submit to guilds and professional organizations.)

Likewise, IndieWire has learned that “The Lion King” editors Adam Gerstel and Mark Livolsi submitted their work to the American Cinema Editors for ACE Eddie Awards consideration in animation. (Significantly, “The Lion King” was shut out of ASIFA-Hollywood’s Annie Award nominations, even though MPC submitted for Character and FX in an animated feature.)

Less surprising, though, was “The Lion King’s” Visual Effects nomination from the Critics Choice Association on Sunday. That’s in line with Disney’s VFX Oscar campaign for “The Lion King.” A nomination would be a first for an all-CG entry (the Academy branch traditionally judges live-action/CG integration), but the innovative character and environment work by MPC Film (under the overall supervision of three-time Oscar winner Rob Legato) represents a significant photo-realistic breakthrough. (The VFX committee meets on December 14 to determine the shortlist.)

Disney/Lucasfilm

Meanwhile, Disney came out on top overall in grabbing eight ADG production design nominations, dominating the fantasy category with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame,” Disney’s live-action remakes of “Aladdin” and “Dumbo,” and the “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” sequel. Additionally, Disney also dominated animation with nominations for the “Frozen II” and “Toy Story 4” sequels (from Pixar). In fact, if you factor in Fox, Disney collected three more noms with “Ad Astra” (fantasy), “Ford v Ferrari,” and “Jojo Rabbit” (both period).

Speaking of “The Rise of Skywalker,” it should be noted that the ADG did not view the movie (the December 16th premiere marks the first screening), but, instead, members of the ADG evaluated an online portfolio of work submitted by production designers Rick Carter and Kevin Jenkins.

In terms of the rest of the ADG production design nominations, it came as no surprise that all of the Oscar contenders were represented, including Bong Joon Ho’s LAFCA Best Picture winner “Parasite,” and period standouts “1917,” Sam Mendes’ innovative, single-shot, World War I thriller; “Joker,” Todd Phillips’ blockbuster origin story, which channeled gritty ’70s New York as Gotham City; Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which gave a 50-year facelift to Hollywood Boulevard; and Martin Scorsese’s sprawling mob epic, “The Irishman,” which crammed 117 locations into 309 scenes. (Both period and fantasy categories had six nominees, thanks to ties.)

Additionally, Golden Globe nominees for Best Score bode well for Oscar contenders “Motherless Brooklyn” (Daniel Pemberton), “Little Women” (Alexandre Desplat), “Joker” (Hildur Guðnadóttir),  “1917” (Thomas Newman), and “Marriage Story” (Randy Newman). Tapped for Best Song were: “Beautiful Ghosts” (“Cats”), “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” (“Rocketman”), “Into the Unknown” (“Frozen II”), “Spirit” (“The Lion King”), and  “Stand Up” (“Harriet”).

And, lastly, in spreading the crafts wealth around, the Critics’ Choice Awards also made sure to acknowledge the great work turned in by “The Lighthouse” cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, “Parasite” production designer Lee Ha Jun, “Uncut Gems” editors Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, and “Downton Abbey” costume designer Anna Robbins.

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