In surprising news, Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) has signed on to direct the follow-up to Disney’s live-action version of The Lion King. He will take over from Jon Favreau, who likely has his hands full with the Disney+ Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.
The sequel will reportedly be Godfather Part II-esque – a bold claim – moving backwards and forwards in time exploring Mufasa’s origins. Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the live-action reboot, is back to pen this sequel.
That there’s a Lion King sequel in the works is no surprise. What is surprising is Jenkins’ involvement. Having already found critical success with his aforementioned award-winning films, he should have plenty of opportunities to make more original dramas. A24 are surely happy to let him make whatever modestly-budgeted film he wants.
Taking his talents to Disney to direct a big-budget sequel seems like a waste, especially when most of these live-action remakes have been devoid of directorial flourishes, with the studio seemingly sticking their fingers in to make each entry feel homogenous and corporate, not taking any risks to appeal to the widest audience possible.
Jenkins somewhat explained his decision in a statement: “Helping my sister raise two young boys during the 90s, I grew up with these characters. 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”.
The good news is that The Lion King took an age to animate, so the sequel likely will as well, which means Jenkins will have plenty of time to work on his myriad other projects too. For example, he just finished filming a multi-part adaptation of Colson Whitehead‘s The Underground Railroad for Amazon.
At least we know that this sequel will probably be a bigger deal than the follow-ups to the 1994 film; the direct-to-video The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride and The Lion King 1 ½. Hopefully Jenkins is able to truly make his mark on this sequel. It’s possible that now the bland remake has been completed, he’ll be free to create something fresh with familiar characters. Fingers crossed.