Yay Abe - The Lion King

11th June 2024

Designing Disney

Lion King is one of the most beloved films of all time. That’s why Balich Wonder Studio turned to TDF’s Russell Abrahams (aka Yay Abe) ahead of its highly-anticipated production of the 1994 classic.
Bringing the Disney masterpiece to the global stage, the Milan-based entertainment group needed a versatile artist who could replicate the film’s aesthetic without compromising its legacy. The Lion King remains the highest-grossing, traditionally-animated movie of all time. So, no pressure.
“We needed to create something fresh that the audience would enjoy – all while making sure it was still recognisable,” Yay says of the commission. “I tried to really deep dive during the sketch phase and just throw ideas into the air.”
Those ideas landed. Reimagining the savannah that introduced characters as distinct as Simba and Scar, Yay expertly played with patterns: introducing shapes and shades that both reflected and renewed the film’s setting.

“The challenge was pulling references from all over Africa, so that the illustration work was inclusive of a wide range of African countries,” Russell says, whose research also involved numerous screenings of the Oscar-winning animation.

Having relished the chance to “redraw the actual Simba from The Lion King”, Russell now has a place in Disney history.

For more from Yay Abe, click here.

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