Here's an unexpected bit of news. Oscar-nominated director of Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins, will helm the sequel to The Lion King. For clarification, we're referring to the 2019 CGI/animation reboot, which was helmed by Jon Favreau.
According to Deadline, "the story will further explore the mythology of the characters, including Mufasa’s origin story". They add: "Moving the story forward while looking back conjures memories of The Godfather: Part II, set on the African plain with a continuation of the tradition of music that was a key part of the 1994 animated classic, the 2019 film and the blockbuster Broadway stage transfer."
Invoking The Godfather: Part II is setting the bar high, but Jenkins is a prestigious name, and 2019's The Lion King was one of the year's biggest hits, grossing $1.6 billion worldwide. That made it the most successful 'animated' film of all time, moreso than Frozen, although labelling it as such proved controversial. Original screenwriter Jeff Nathanson is reportedly back on board, having completed an initial draft of the script, and the film will continue the photorealistic CG that garnered an Oscar nomination.
"Helping my sister raise two young boys during the ’90s, I grew up with these characters," Jenkins said. "Having the opportunity to work with Disney on expanding this magnificent tale of friendship, love and legacy while furthering my work chronicling the lives and souls of folk within the African diaspora is a dream come true."
Somebody has already 'imagined' Jenkins' take on the material, which delighted the filmmaker no end.
Ummmm, Lulu just sent this to me and man... well played SA 🙌🏿— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) September 29, 2020
Not a sequel. Not a remake.
All love... https://t.co/JGJclpEVMh
Another person who was delighted was Jenkins' partner Lulu Wang, helmer of critically acclaimed 2019 drama The Farewell.
Jenkins' sensitivity with character and atmosphere will no doubt set him up well for The Lion King. Given that Mufasa was voiced by James Earl Jones in both the 1994 animation and 2019 remake, we wonder who will be voicing the younger iteration of the character.
There's no word yet as to whether the likes of Donald Glover's Simba or Beyonce's Nala will return; given this sounds like an origin story, we struggle to see where they'd fit in, unless the movie has a wrap-around flashback structure. The remake movie also featured Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, John Oliver as Zazu, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as Timon and Alfre Woodward as Sarabi.
Is Barry Jenkins the perfect choice to direct the sequel to The Lion King? Let us know @Cineworld.