‘The One and Only Ivan’ Director on How ‘Lion King’ Helped Them Nail the Live-Action/CG Combo

     August 23, 2020

Visuals effects are getting more and more impressive every single day, but from my limited perspective, it does seem like one of the most challenging forms of effects to pull off are integrating CG characters in a live-action world. And, to get even more specific with it, especially when it comes to recreating real world animals using CGI and giving them the ability to talk. In The One and Only Ivan, however, that’s one of the best parts of the film. Not only do the visual effects artists manage to realistically recreate a number of animals, but they also do so in a way that allows them to express a significant amount of emotion.

The movie is based on the award-winning children’s book by K. A. Applegate and features the voice of Sam Rockwell as the title character, Ivan, a 400-pound silverback gorilla living in a shopping mall. That’s where Ivan serves as the headlining act of a circus attraction. While Ivan does take great pride in his ability to wow the crowds, eventually he comes to realize that a mall might not be the best home for him and the other animals after all. So what was the key to finding so much success bringing Ivan and co. to screen? Director Thea Sharrock credits the teams she worked with:


Image via Disney+.

“I had the absolute privilege of working with both Disney and MPC, who are a visual effects company, who together had worked on The Jungle Book, together had worked on The Lion King. So, I was working with a team of people who knew as much as anybody else, let’s put it that way. The combination in our movie is completely quite unique. Nobody’s done it quite like us. There were amazing days on set when I would turn around and I’d be looking at my visual effects supervisor and my animator and they would be literally scratching their head going, ‘Okay, so, how are we gonna do this?’ Because, however much prep we had done, there’s always moments that you cannot quite anticipate. And of course I often went back and watched moments in both of those movies. Particularly Lion King, I suppose, which was such a pleasure to watch. So it wasn’t that we could copy them but there was always stuff to learn from them and decisions that they’d made were very, very helpful for us for sure.”

If you’d like to hear more from Sharrock about her experience directing voice performances for the very first time, check out the full chat in the video interview at the top of this article. We’ve also got an interview with Cranston for you right here and one with Danny DeVito here.

Thea Sharrock:

  • How The Lion King and The Jungle  Book came in handy when nailing the combination of live-action and CG characters in Ivan.
  • What it was like directing voice performances for the very first time.

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