Disney is returning to Pride Rock again. The House of Mouse is developing a sequel to Jon Favreau’s 2019 CG-animated remake of The Lion King and has tapped Oscar-winning Moonlight director Barry Jenkins to helm the follow-up. It’s unclear if the film will adapt the direct-to-video animated The Lion King II, or if it will include the film’s all-time banger of a song, “One of Us.” If not…deception and disgrace.
Walt Disney Studios has set Barry Jenkins to direct the Lion King sequel, Deadline reports. The follow-up to Favreau’s 2019 mega-hit will be penned by Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the first installment, and has already completed an initial draft of the script.
The Lion King sequel will once again be a CG-animated film done in the same photorealistic technology Favreau used in the 2019 film and in 2016’s The Jungle Book. There are no details yet about what the sequel will be about, but Deadline reports that the story will “further explore the mythology of the characters, including Mufasa’s origin story.” There goes the dream of this being a straight adaptation of the 1998 direct-to-video animated sequel The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, far and away the best of the Disney direct-to-video sequels, partly because it continued the first film’s tradition of doing a loose adaptation of a Shakespeare play (this time was Romeo and Juliet) and featured two all-time great Disney songs: “He Lives In You,” which was later used for The Lion King Broadway musical, and “One Of Us.”
Honestly, I would be happy to forgive all if they just managed to include “One Of Us” in this unasked for The Lion King sequel.
There is no release date set for the Lion King follow-up or for the production start, but the project is a top priority for Disney after the first film raked in $1.6 billion worldwide. Jenkins also appears to be excited about the project, tweeting about the news (alongside his SO Lulu Wang) and saying in a statement:
“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.”
This is Jenkins’ second film project at Disney, with a biopic of famed choreographer Alvin Ailey in the works at Searchlight. It’s a bit of a left-field project for Jenkins, whose exquisite, deeply emotional films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk are as far removed from the uncanny valley of The Lion King as possible. But hey, maybe this will get Jenkins the blank check he deserves to make as many passion projects as he wishes.
There’s no word on the cast yet either. The first film starred Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones, John Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric Andre, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Amy Sedaris and Chance the Rapper. Hans Zimmer, who composed the original animated film, composed music for the last film with Pharrell Williams.
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