The Lion King Proves Deep Technical Expertise is the Future

The Lion King Proves Deep Technical Expertise is the Future

Categorized under: technology trends

Although technology advances and disruptions are all around us, sometimes parents can rightly wonder, does my kid really need to learn this? Disney’s new Lion King movie shows that this knowledge will be essential to their future success.

While creators have always been at the forefront of their respective fields, this groundbreaking movie illustrates how technical acumen is continuing to push the boundaries of what we initially thought was possible. The advances in software that have made it possible to animate animals and environments with photorealistic qualities was something that would’ve previously been considered impossible or highly improbable at the quality depicted in this movie.

However, if you’ve seen the trailer like 50 million others or watched the actual movie, you will realize not only did they try something new. But, they nailed it. So, beyond the entertainment aspects, what can be learned from a creative technical endeavor like this?

Leveraging Intellectual Property + Technology 

Historically, Disney’s strength has been that they owned the content library. As young people grew older, their animated characters could be recycled and reintroduced for the next generation. In essence, Disney continues to show the strength of great content.

So, as the generation that was introduced to the Lion King as children is now old enough to have kids who would appreciate the Lion King, Disney is able to leverage the nostalgia that the prior generation felt towards the movie to simultaneously enjoy the new offering while also introducing it to their own children.

Typically, in any endeavor labor is one of the highest costs. But, because Disney already owned the content, they could simply update and improve with a much smaller follow on investment.

In fact, the largest area of new investment was in the modern software and applications used to create the photo-realistic animations. While this software isn’t cheap, it was certainly less expensive than having to create a new movie from the ground up.

As we think about the applications of leveraging technology in other creative fields, one can quickly see how companies may simply have to invest in content upfront and then based on the success can update over time.

Largely, the new investments will be in software to modernize prior investments versus brand new investments in evergreen content.

Technology is the domain of difficult solutions

In this NYTimes article highlighting how the Lion King was made, the author goes into great detail about the technical challenges of creating photorealistic animations of animals. From elements such as the hair on the top of the lion cubs heads blowing in the wind to how their legs moved during action scenes, engineers worked through some really difficult issues. And, making photorealistic animated animals have the ability to talk is unbelievably amazing.

One of the most striking elements of technology has always been that this domain can often help us move beyond what was previously believed possible using trade forecasting and predictive frameworks. For example, I grew up during the time of paper maps. Before any family trips, my mom would go down to the American Automobile Association and print out a TripTik that outlined our journey. Years later, we began printing maps using the first web based mapping solutions. Now, we have real-time, GPS enabled navigation in our vehicles or via our mobile phones that fit in the palm of our hands.

Often times, technology can be taken for granted. We think that new solutions simply come into existence. However, there is quite a bit of work required in a mobile device knowing a location real-time and being able to navigate there while considering the various obstacles (construction, weather). Years ago, I don’t think anyone would’ve believed that you could create photorealistic animations of animals in a major motion picture. But, here we are with one of the most popular movies of all time using animals. This technological advance is groundbreaking. As boundaries are pushed, the next major challenge may be a photorealistic motion picture be created using humans. Or, can one create a virtual reality environment that immerses humans in a world that looks so realistic that it is indistinguishable from the real world?

There is no doubt that there are engineers and developers working to develop a solution like this right now. And, there is also little reason to believe that they won’t be able to figure it out. When thinking about what the next generation should learn, their education must necessarily be underpinned by computational knowledge that ultimately progresses to a high degree of technical acumen.

Better to be creator than consumer

While I’m certain that the Lion King will be a smash hit just like the 1st version that I watched growing up as a kid, the movie highlights the continued shift between creators and consumers.

Recently, Fortnite, held a tournament where players competed for $30 millions dollars in prizes. Several news stories came out immediately following the conclusion of the tournament that highlighted the relative youth of those who were successful. In fact, one 16 year old participant earned $3M. Although, it makes for good headlines when participants win millions of dollars; the reality is the game studio that created Fortnite earned many multiples on the participant prize money. By some estimates, Epic Games has earned billions of dollars from the Fortnite franchise. Fortnite is a great example of technical innovation driving financial rewards for creators.

Similarly, Disney will likely earn hundreds of millions of dollars or perhaps even billions of dollars during the Box Office and subsequent streaming release of this movie. Given how the economics were setup with the primary value creation coming through software and technological innovation (photorealistic animal animation) it is likely that this iteration of the Lion King will be even more profitable than the original.

When we think about value creation and economic security, it is important to pay attention to where in the equation the bulk of the rewards are being created. In modern day society and for the foreseeable future, creators especially those with technical skills will likely be well compensated for their technology based solutions.


Given this emerging economic dynamic, it makes the most sense to recognize the trends that are right in front of us. Even for something that is designed to entertain, we can learn. And, this knowledge can be used to better prepare our children for success in rapidly changing world.

The new Lion King movie proves that all across industries and value streams, technological innovators will continue to push the boundaries and uncover previously unforeseen solutions. Their innovations will continue to be highly rewarded and value in our technology driven world. To make sure that our kids are well prepared, the best investment we can make is in developing their knowledge of computational thinking.

About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the Co-Founder & CEO of Digital Adventures.