It seemed inevitable from the moment his soulful indie sensation Moonlight was awarded Best Picture (you might remember it): Barry Jenkins would eventually take his talents to Disneyland. Or at least into the realm of tentpole moviemaking.
Jenkins followed up Moonlight with acclaimed adaptations If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) and The Underground Railroad (2021). But in between those projects it was announced Jenkins would helm Mufasa: The Lion King, a prequel to Jon Favreau’s photorealistic 2019 remake of the 1994 animated staple that focuses on a younger version of the lion voiced in both versions by James Earl Jones (Underground Railroad breakout Aaron Pierre now takes over). Favreau’s The Lion King drew surprisingly lackluster reviews (and endless social media quips about its digitally created lions’ inability to emote), especially given the filmmaker’s rousing success with CGI animals in 2016’s The Jungle Book.
Jenkins appeared at Disney’s D23 Expo to stump for the 2024 release, where he revealed to us that he met with Favreau prior to accepting the job.
“One, just respectfully, to see if he wanted to do it himself,” he says (watch above). “But also to ask him some questions about what it was like. And one of the best things he said to me was, ‘Don’t worry about the original film or the film I made. You have to make this film in your voice.’ Which I thought was very cool.
“And then the other thing was that The Lion King is The Lion King. People are really obsessed with these characters, they really love these characters very deeply. And I told him I have a love of these characters. He said, ‘Let that be the compass that guides you.’ And that’s been the best advice.”
Meanwhile, we also had to ask: Is there any chance Jenkins would try to recruit Beyoncé, who played Nala in Favreau’s film, back for a cameo?
“If I answered that question, they would roll me out of here,” he responds with a smile, “and you would be talking to another director on this film next week, so no comment.”
Mufasa: The Lion King is scheduled to open in 2024.