Barry Jenkins has signed on to direct the follow-up to Disney’s 2019 remake of “The Lion King.” The hiring gives Jenkins, an Oscar winner for “Moonlight” and the beloved indie filmmaker behind “Medicine for Melancholy” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” his first major Hollywood studio tentpole. Deadline first reported the news, which was confirmed by Jenkins on his social media accounts. Jeff Nathanson, who scripted the 2019 remake, is returning for the follow-up and has already turned in a treatment.
“Helping my sister raise two young boys during the ’90s, I grew up with these characters,” Jenkins said in a statement. “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.”
No release date for Jenkins’ “Lion King” follow-up has been announced. The 2019 remake was directed by Jon Favreau and grossed $1.6 billion worldwide, making the development of a follow-up a no-brainer for Disney. Favreau utilized a groundbreaking virtual reality production and relied on photorealistic VFX to bring “The Lion King” to life. Jenkins is expected to do the same.
“The Lion King” was nominated for the Best Visual Effects Oscar but lost to “1917.” The voice cast included Donald Glover as Simba, Beyonce as Nala, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as Timon, and John Oliver as Zazu, among others.
While plot specifics for Jenkins’ “Lion King” follow-up are remaining under wraps, Deadline reports “the story will further explore the mythology of the characters, including Mufasa’s origin story. Moving the story forward while looking back conjures memories of ‘The Godfather: Part II,’ set on the African plain with a continuation of the tradition of music that was a key part of the 1994 animated classic.”
“The Lion King” follow-up joins Jenkins’ growing list of projects, which includes directing an Alvin Ailey drama for Disney-owned Searchlight and scripting an adaption of the Netflix documentary “Virunga.” The filmmaker recently wrapped production on his Amazon limited series “The Underground Railroad,” which will be his first release since “Beale Street.”
— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) September 29, 2020