It’s the circle of life. The generation that grew up with The Lion King movie will get to experience the television reboot, The Lion Guard, as adults. Although the TV show produced by Disney Television Animation and Mercury Filmworks is meant for kids, it’s more than likely adults will be interested in the show, if only just to see what everyone is up to in the Pride Lands.
Samuel Morin, a third-year Bachelor of Animation student at Sheridan, was lucky enough to work on the new show. “I feel like I’ve come full circle with The Lion King,” he says. “Growing up I was most obsessed with the movie and being able to work on the show is a crazy experience.” The first installment is a TV-film entitled The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, set to premiere in November 2015 on the Disney Channel. It will continue as a regular TV series throughout 2016.
“Growing up I was most obsessed with the movie and being able to work on the show is a crazy experience” – Samuel Morin
The show will centre around Kion, the second-born son of characters Nala and Simba. Kion and his friends, including some familiar faces from the movie, assemble as a team to protect the Pride Lands. “Bunga the honey badger who is one of Kion’s friends was my favourite character to work on,” explains Morin. “He has a lot of personality, which made it fun because he was extroverted and that reflected in his poses. He’s also two-legged so I was able to do different things with his arms that I don’t always get to do with four-legged animals.”
Morin first heard of Mercury Filmworks when a Disney animator came to visit Sheridan in 2014 to talk about his work on the Oscar-winning film Big Hero 6. “That’s when I decided I really wanted to work at Mercury,” he says. “Obviously the people who are working there are going places. I kind of had them in my mind the entire school year.”
At the end of 2014 and his second year in the program, Morin admits that he felt unsure about pursuing a studio job, so he dabbled in part-time work in retail and tourism. It only took a short time before he realized that he wanted to jump into studio animation and set an ambitious personal goal: to get his demo reel completed and work on animation applications. “I didn’t expect to get hired,” he says. “I figured I’m a student with no formal work experience. But Mercury got back to me and it was mind blowing. I was on a bus home after I heard the news with a huge smile on my face and felt like hyperventilating!”
At Mercury, Morin was assigned to work as a 2D animator and his tasks included taking pre-set scenes, animating them and bringing the characters to life, before passing them on for rendering. “As a student they could have just had me bring coffee to everyone, but instead they let me be hands-on with animating characters.”
Bringing back beloved Disney characters added some pressure to Morin’s interning experience. “I felt like I had to do the characters justice,” he says. “I want children who watch the show to feel the same magic that I did watching the movie.” The Lion Guard mixes feature-film animation with typical TV-cartoon qualities, giving it a unique look. He describes the style as ‘far ahead for television’ and one that added to his learning experience.
“I want children who watch the show to feel the same magic that I did watching the movie” – Samuel Morin
For Morin, the experience had its share of challenges, including working with a new animation software. With the support of his colleagues and his ability to problem solve, he quickly became comfortable with it and felt like part of the Mercury team. Reflecting on his time with his favourite cast of animation characters, Morin says: “If I were to give some advice from my experience on the show, I would say to go for things, and to not underestimate what’s possible.”
Pictured at top of page: Third-year Bachelor of Animation student Samuel Morin. Photo by Courtney Blok
Written by: Courtney Blok, Sheridan Journalism student and News Editor of the Sheridan Sun.