Yep, you read that headline correctly: Deadline reports that Barry Jenkins, whose 2016 film Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture, is directing Disney’s follow-up to the 2019 “live-action” The Lion King.
Jenkins also won an Oscar for the Moonlight screenplay, but this as-yet untitled sequel is written by Lion King screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who has reportedly completed an initial draft of the script. Presumably it’s not following the story of 1998’s The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, which found Simba and Nala’s daughter involved in a Romeo and Juliet romance. The new film will, according to Deadline, “explore the mythology of the characters, including Mufasa’s origin story.” We anxiously await a deep dive into the political machinations of the pre-Simba era.
Jenkins’ pride of lions most likely won’t appear on screens for some time; the director has multiple projects in the works, including a biopic of choreographer Alvin Ailey and an already-completed limited series adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. He’s also involved in Steven Soderbergh’s sequel to The Knick. Jenkins’ response to the news breaking was succinct:
— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) September 29, 2020
According to a Forbes piece last fall, The Lion King is the “top-earning franchise in box-office history.” In 2014, the Broadway musical beat out The Phantom of the Opera to become the biggest Broadway moneymaker ever. The original 1994 film was the highest-grossing film of the year; the 2019 remake is the highest-grossing animated film of all time (yes, above both Frozens). Still, Emmet Asher-Perrin was understandably underwhelmed.