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D23 Expo: Barry Jenkins Reveals He ‘Saw Myself’ in Mufasa After ‘Moonlight’ Oscar Win

Jenkins revealed that his upcoming prequel to "The Lion King" explores the fact that "Mufasa is great because of the family and the friends that he has."

Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins

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One of the more eyebrow-raising pieces of film news to emerge over the last few years was Disney’s announcement that Barry Jenkins would be directing a follow-up to Jon Favreau’s remake of “The Lion King.”

While the “Moonlight” director’s talent has never been up for debate, the material didn’t strike everyone as a natural fit for his sensibilities. Many fans have been wondering about the nature of the project and why Jenkins was drawn to it, and they finally got some answers when Jenkins made an appearance at D23 Expo to offer a first look at the film.

Jenkins took the stage to reveal that his film is a prequel entitled “Mufasa: The Lion King,” which will tell the story of Mufasa and Scar as young cubs, with Aaron Pierre and Kelvin Harrison Jr. stepping in to voice the iconic talking lions. Jenkins promised that the movie will expand parts of the “Lion King” mythology that fans may have previously taken for granted.

“It’s a story about how Mufasa rose to royalty,” Jenkins said. “We assume he was just born into his lineage, but Mufasa was actually an orphaned cub who had to navigate the world alone. In telling this story, we get to experience the real journey of how Mufasa found his place in the circle of life.”

Jenkins explained that, while he was always a fan of the original film, it was a personal connection to the material that ultimately inspired him to direct the prequel.

“As I was reading this wonderful script, I was thinking about Mufasa, and why he’s great, and how people become great,” Jenkins said. He added that, while he is not a king — let alone a lion king — he was able to relate to Mufasa more after his ascent to the apex of Hollywood.

“I was on stage at the Oscars with ‘Moonlight.’ And I was there, and five of my best friends from college were also there. And what you’ll learn from the story is that Mufasa is who he is, is great, because of the family and the friends that he has. And so I saw myself in that. I thought: ‘This is a really beautiful story to tell.'”

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