Barry Jenkins chosen as director for Lion King sequel

Owen Herman discusses the announcement of a new Lion King film to be directed by Barry Jenkins.

Owen Herman
14th October 2020
Barry Jenkins, director of Oscar winner Moonlight (2016), If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), and Medicine for Melancholy (2008) has been chosen as director for the upcoming The Lion King sequel.
Image Credit: IMDb
Barry Jenkins

For Jenkins, making the all CGI blockbuster is going to be a big departure from his previous work. 2019’s The Lion King was helmed by Jon Favreau, who’d proven his skills for making effects heavy blockbusters with films like Iron Man (2008) and The Jungle Book (2016). While this is a step away from his lower-budget dramas, Jenkins will nonetheless delight Disney with his sheer talent and filmmaking knowledge. Moonlight, which won Jenkins his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (alongside Tarell Alvin McCraney), was also well known for winning Best Picture after it had been wrongly awarded to La La Land in 2017.

Jenkins is perhaps a surprise choice for Disney, who have usually gone for more mainstream names such as Tim Burton (Dumbo) and Guy Ritchie (Aladdin) for their back catalogue remakes, but it may be a decision that follows in the success of directors like Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) in the Disney owned Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film itself will be a follow up to the 2019 film and not a remake of 1994’s The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. It will also include prequel elements, such as heavily focusing on the origins of Mustafa. It is likely to be highly anticipated and Disney will hope it is another big financial hit like its predecessor, which made over $1.5 billion worldwide. Returning to the film include stars Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles, James Earle Jones, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan.

Image Credit: IMDb
Beauty and the Beast (2017)

The success of The Lion King, and other remakes such as Beauty and the Beast (2017), Dumbo (2019), and Aladdin (2019), has led Disney to further their strategy of bringing nostalgic gems to the big screen again. Alongside The Lion King 2, Aladdin is also reported to be having a sequel, and a remake of The Little Mermaid and One Hundred and One Dalmatians spin off Cruella, with Halle Berry and Emma Stone in the lead roles respectively, are in the works. Due to current circumstances Disney chose to release their most recent remake, Mulan (2020), and the upcoming Pixar film Soul on their streaming platform Disney+, meaning if they are successful enough for Disney financially, we could see more future films spending less time in the cinema, or even skipping a theatrical release entirely. 2019’s The Lady and the Tramp was also only released on Disney+, to help launch the streaming service, and at this moment Disney’s plan for future releases is unclear.

The announcement of Jenkins as director has split opinion among film fans. While his involvement in such a mainstream non-original project is disappointing to some, many suggest the money and exposure it will give Jenkins will be sure to enable him to return to more arthouse projects in a better position. Jenkins’ other future works also include Amazon Studios series The Underground Railroad and a biography of choreographer Alvin Ailey.

Feature image credit: IMDb

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