In a major coup for Disney, the studio has hired Moonlight Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins to direct a sequel to The Lion King. According to the report from Deadline, it will be in the photo-realistic “live-action” vein of the 2019 remake, not the 2D animated palette of the 1994 original.
Although no plot details were given, Deadline reports that the premise will be a continuation of the Simba story, but one that also intercuts with flashbacks Mufasa’s origins — drawing direct structural comparisons to The Godfather: Part II.
While the project is not yet officially classified as a musical, it is loosely defined as being in the “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.” Whether that ends up being a full-blown musical or not remains to be seen.
In a statement Jenkins said:
- “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.”
Given the rather safe, predictable live-action adaptations of Disney’s 90s era remakes, wooing an artist of Jenkins’ caliber is an out-of-nowhere surprise and, more importantly, a bold, ambitious move. It’s hard to believe that Jenkins would take the job if he were not given creative carte blanche, much in the same way that Ryan Coogler was given for Black Panther and that Chloe Zhao received for Marvel’s upcoming The Eternals.
Indeed, one would imagine that a visionary, risk-taking approach is exactly what Disney had in mind when approaching Jenkins, a filmmaker who would balk at churning out a director-for-hire cookie-cutter sequel, seeing it as anathema to his whole reason for being.
Still, that payday’s gotta be pretty sweet, too.
A first draft has already been written by screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who adapted the remake by director Jon Favreau (who himself must be completely immersed in the Star Wars universe at this point), but it’s likely that Jenkins will be given a wide berth to change and evolve the story as he sees fit, even though it’s also likely that Nathanson’s script was part of the reason that he said “Yes” to begin with.
No release date for the film has been slated. Jenkins next project is the Amazon limited series adaptation of author Colson Whitehead‘s Pulitzer Prize winning book The Underground Railroad. The If Beale Street Could Talk filmmaker has directed all episodes in the series as well as serving as writer for several.