Barry Jenkins to Direct Lion King Prequel for Disney


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Disney is planning a return trip to Pride Rock. A follow-up to 2019’s photorealistic The Lion King is in the works, courtesy of Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), Deadline reports. The film will utilize the motion capture and visual effects technology used by Jon Favreau in the last big-screen iteration and 2016’s The Jungle Book. Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the most recent Lion King movie, has penned the script for Jenkins’ re-imagining.

“Helping my sister raise two young boys during the ’90s, I grew up with these characters,” Jenkins said in a statement. “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.”

Farewell filmmaker, Jenkins’ partner Lulu Wang, celebrated the news on Twitter.

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Here’s what we know so far.

What is it about?

According to Deadline, the next Lion King adventure will depict the early years of Mufasa, a character voiced by James Earl Jones in both the 2019 film and 1994 animated original. Jenkins’ vision will also include the franchise’s musical elements, per the outlet. Jenkins previously took to Twitter to clarify that his Lion King will not be a remake or sequel. “Ummmm, Lulu just sent this to me and man… well played SA. Not a sequel. Not a remake. All love…” he wrote alongside a fan-made video of Lion King clips set to the score from Moonlight.

Who’s in the cast?

Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Waves, Luce) and Aaron Pierre, who starred in Jenkins’ Underground Railroad series, will lend their voices to the film, Deadline reports. Pierre will play a young Mufasa while Harrison will play young Taka, Mufasa’s brother who’d later become known as Scar.

The rest of the cast has not yet been revealed, but we can probably expect some big names like those in past Lion King projects. The ensemble in the 2019 adaptation included Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, John Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric Andre, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Amy Sedaris and Chance the Rapper.

british actor aaron pierre poses arriving for the 23rd annual empire awards in london on march 18, 2018   afp photo  anthony harvey        photo credit should read anthony harveyafp via getty images

Aaron Pierre


new york, new york   february 11 kelvin harrison jr attends the world premiere of the photograph world at sva theater on february 11, 2020 in new york city photo by steven ferdmangetty images

Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Steven FerdmanGetty Images

When is the release date?

There is no release date yet, but Deadline reported in August 2021 that production for the yet-untitled film is already underway.

This will likely be Jenkins’ biggest-budget movie to date. His 2017 film Moonlight won the Best Picture Oscar and earned Jenkins a screenwriting trophy, while 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk led to Jenkins’ second screenplay nomination. The last Lion King movie grossed $1.65 billion worldwide, beating other Disney live-action movies such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin at the box office.

Who’s in charge of the music?

Past Lion Kings have brought along some iconic musical moments, thanks to Elton John and Beyoncé. For the prequel, Jenkins has tapped Hans Zimmer, who scored the 2019 film, Pharrell Williams, and Nicholas Britell of Succession fame to provide music.

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