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Donald Glover’s son didn’t know his dad was in ‘The Lion King’

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Donald Glover at the Global Press Conference for Disney’s “The Lion King.”
(Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney)

Disney’s press conference for its live-action reimagining of “The Lion King” kicked off Wednesday afternoon with a live performance of “The Circle of Life” by soundtrack performers Clydene Jackson and Lebo M., plus a choir accompaniment composed of members of the film’s voice cast. (Jackson replaces Carmen Twillie on the new soundtrack while Lebo M. returns from the 1994 film.)

The junket, held at Beverly Hills’ Montage hotel, was attended by a star-studded yet incomplete roster of the film’s cast and crew, including Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Keegan Michael Key, Eric Andre, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, John Kani, Florence Kasumba, director Jon Favreau, composer Hans Zimmer and Lebo M.

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones and John Oliver were the key cast members not in attendance.

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Here are some of the best quotes from the hour-long conference:

Donald Glover didn’t tell his son he was in the movie

“I didn’t tell him anything, I really didn’t,” he said. “It’s his favorite movie so I was like ‘I’ll just wait until he gets there.’ But somehow he found out about it, but still didn’t know I was in it. He was just like, ‘Oh, the one with Beyoncé.’ And then during the movie, ‘Oh, dad’s in it too! This is great! A bonus.’”

Jon Favreau is behind a notable Easter egg in the third act

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“There’s a gag that references another Disney property in there and I drew inspiration from the stage show,” he said. “They threw in a joke about ‘Frozen’ in there that must have happened after ‘Frozen’ came on Broadway. And so we kind of tipped a cap to another live-action adaptation to another Disney animated classic.”

RELATED: ‘The Lion King’ premiere: Even Donald Glover gushed over Beyoncé »

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Seth Rogen and Alfre Woodard.
(Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney)

Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner shot all their voice scenes together as Timon and Pumbaa

“It was a lot of improvisation,” said Rogen. “And we were actually together every time we recorded which is a very rare gift to have trying to be funny in an animated film, which I’ve done a lot of and you’re often just alone in there. And I think you can really tell that we’re playing off each other.”

“I can’t imagine now looking back not being in the room together,” said Eichner. “Being able to riff off of each other and really discover our chemistry together in the same moment, you can feel it when you’re watching the movie. I was shocked by how much of the riffing actually ended up in the movie. I think it works and I think it feels very unique to other movies in this genre which can often feel a bit canned.”

“The fact that it has a looseness applied to probably the most technologically incredible movie ever made is an amazing contrast,” said Rogen. “It feels like people in a room just talking and it’s refined to a degree that is inconceivable in a lot of ways.”

Favreau and the cast have been working on this film for three years

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“We started experimenting with [VR] at the end of [2016’s] ‘The Jungle Book,’” he said. “We essentially were writing code as if we were going for a multiplayer VR filmmaking game. We kept the same film culture and planted into this VR realm. It’s nice to look at technology as an invitation for things to progress and not always something that is going to change the things that came before.”

RELATED: With new versions of ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Lion King,’ Disney straddles nostalgia and novelty »

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Young Simba, Timon and Pumbaa.
(Disney)

Next came casting: “To me, casting is the foundation of great cinematic storytelling,” Favreau said. “You can’t compromise one iota on cast because they’re the ones that are going to do everything. And we just built off of our cast. So it started with us in a room like a blackbox theater, it was like theater rehearsal. I had them all performing together in groups.”

The actors wore mics during rehearsals so the sound could be used in the film and their facial expressions while performing were recorded for the animators to reference. “The animators would take the choices that they made and interpolate it into what a lion would do or what a hyena would do.”

sonaiya.kelley@latimes.com

follow me on twitter @sonaiyak


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