In news that feels both inevitable and completely out-of-the-blue, Disney has tasked Oscar-winning Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk filmmaker Barry Jenkins to direct a follow-up to last year’s lavish Lion King remake (according to Deadline). He will be taking over directorial duties from Jon Favreau, who seemingly has his hands full with his Star Wars series The Mandalorian on Disney+ and other endeavors in a galaxy far, far away.
According to the report Jeff Nathanson, who wrote last year’s update (which was more or less a photocopy of the beloved 1994 animated original), will be back to script this new version, which supposedly moves backwards and forwards in time a la The Godfather: Part II, in part exploring Mufasa’s origins. Worth noting that the original animated film spawned several spin-offs and sequels, including direct-to-video premieres The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride and The Lion King 1 ½, along with a pair of television series, Timon and Pumbaa and the more recent The Lion Guard. There are also countless theme park attractions and, of course, the long-running Broadway musical. So it will be interesting to see if this new film covers ground that these other projects didn’t cover. Also, anyone who was paying attention knows that we already got the Lion King follow-up we deserved and needed. It’s called Black is King.
“Helping my sister raise two young boys during the ’90s, I grew up with these characters,” Jenkins said in a statement to Deadline. “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 report notes that Jenkins’ production partners Adele Romanski and Mark Ceryak are expected to come aboard The Lion King follow-up as producers. Jenkins just finished filming a multi-part adaptation of Colson Whitehead‘s The Underground Railroad for Amazon and has a number of other projects in development. Considering the time it took to animated The Lion King, chances are he’ll be able to continue those projects while in production on the animated follow-up.
2019’s The Lion King made $1.6 billion worldwide, which technically makes it the most successful animated feature of all time. (Disney claims that prestigious title goes to Frozen 2 but they were both fully animated features; calling The Lion King “live-action” is a weird aesthetic/marketing distinction.) But it’s also worth noting that this project could end up not happening at all. Before Favreau signed onto The Lion King, he was actively developing a follow-up to his hit 2016 adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book, which we haven’t heard anything about in the past few years. But with The Lion King being fully animated, you don’t have to worry about little kids growing up or awkwardly hitting adolescence.