Disney’s live-action remake train continues to barrel down the tracks. So successful has it been that Deadline reports it’s already developing the first live-action remake sequel to one of its most successful movies to date: The Lion King.
What’s more, it has an excellent filmmaker attached: Barry Jenkins, the director of Best Picture-winning Moonlight and Oscar-nominated If Beale Street Could Talk. Jon Favreau directed the remake of the original animated classic. It earned mixed reviews but a monster box office, bringing in a whopping $1.6+ billion at the global box office. It’s unclear why Favreau isn’t directing the sequel, but it’s likely that he just simply doesn’t have time with all his other projects under the Disney umbrella, including directing and producing The Jungle Book 2 and his ongoing work as head writer and showrunner on The Mandalorian.
As for Jenkins, he’s thrilled to be joining the Disney family, 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.”
It may come as a surprise to some that Jenkins got the job, considering he’s known for his sensitive character studies and intimate portrayals of relationships. But tapping Jenkins to direct the sequel continues Disney’s trademark of hiring proven auteurs to work on their films, though this isn’t the only Disney project Jenkins has on his plate. The other project is more in his traditional wheelhouse, however: He’s developing a biopic of choreographer Alvin Ailey under Disney’s Searchlight banner.
Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the first movie, is back to write the sequel script, which will reportedly take a The Godfather: Part II approach of being a sequel that explores the origins and backstory of a few characters, namely, Mufasa. As with previous Lion King movies, it will be set on the African plains with a heavy emphasis on music as part of the storytelling.
It’s unclear whether or not the cast will return. The original cast included Donald Glover (Simba), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), James Earl Jones (Mufasa), Beyoncé (Nala), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), Billy Eichner (Timon), John Oliver (Zazu), Alfre Woodard (Sarabi), John Kani (Rafiki) and others like Amy Sedaris and Chance the Rapper in minor roles.
In response to the news, Jenkins’ partner, filmmaker Lulu Wang, had perhaps the best reaction of all time:
With the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and Jenkins’ busy schedule right now, Disney hasn’t yet set a release date for the film and it’s not clear when it aims to start production. Considering the post-production and effects-heavy nature of the film, however, we’re likely looking at two years at the very least before it hits theaters.