I still haven’t seen The Lion King. No, not Disney’s classic Oscar-winning 1994 animated film. I’m talking about last year’s “live-action” remake. I’m putting “live-action” in quotes because contrary to what it may look in the pic above, the Jon Favreau-directed blockbuster was a fully CG-produced effort that featured some jaw-dropping photo-realistic visuals. So-real-its-unreal graphics wasn’t enough to earn the film more than a tepid critical reception, but The Lion King roared its way to over $1.5 billion at the global box office. And with those kinds of numbers, it should come as no surprise that Disney announced last night that it’s now developing a follow-up film. Maybe I should watch that other one now.
I intentionally didn’t refer to this still-untitled production as a sequel as Variety reports that the new film may also be hopping back to the past to “partly focus on the early years of Mufasa, the regal father of Simba whose death forms the emotional heart of the first film and its remake.” So a pre-sequel then. The writer of the 2019 remake, Jeff Nathanson has been tapped to pen this follow-up as well.
Favreau won’t be back behind the camera though (especially since he’s very busy in Disney’s galaxy far, far away). Instead, Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins will take up the director’s chair. In 2016, Jenkins blasted into superstar status with LGBTQ-drama Moonlight which he co-wrote with Tarell Alvin McCraney. Among the many awards it earned, the duo’s writing on Moonlight would net them the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. More impressively, Jenkins picked up the biggest accolade in the industry with an Oscar for Best Picture, only the second black person in history to do so (it’s also the first film with an all-black cast get that achievement). While Jenkins’ next film, 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk, didn’t repeat that success, it was still hugely acclaimed and earned several nominations at the Oscars and Golden Globes, with Regina King winning for Best Supporting Actress at both shows.
All of that is me trying to say that Disney is really not playing around when it comes to the talent they’re attaching to this follow-up to The Lion King. In a statement, Jenkins spoke about getting the opportunity to tell this story.
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.
Disney has yet to share any major details about this film, including which of its star-studded voice cast would be returning. The previous film featured Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, Billy Eichner as Timon, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, John Kani as Rafiki, John Oliver as Zazu, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, and James Earl Jones as Mufasa – the latter having also voiced the same character in the original animated cartoon.
That cartoon actually boasted two direct-to-video sequels of its own in the late-1990s and mid-2000s, respectively, as well as a handful of animated series follow-ups more recently. It’s believed that this “live-action” sequel won’t be taking story cues from any of them.
Last Updated: September 30, 2020