By Jake Coyle
NEW YORK — The Walt Disney Co. will make a follow-up to the 2019 live-action “The Lion King,” with Barry Jenkins, the director of the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” and the James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk,” set to direct.
Disney announced plans Tuesday for a kind of prequel to last year’s poorly reviewed but highly popular photorealistic remake. The new “Lion King” grossed more than $1.6 billion worldwide, so a sequel was perhaps always likely. Less expected was a “Lion King” with Jenkins directing. The film, Disney said, will explore the mythology of “The Lion King,” including Mufasa’s origin story.
“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.”
Jenkins earlier this year completed shooting on the Amazon limited series “The Underground Railroad,” based on the Colson Whitehead novel. He won an Oscar for the script to the best-picture-winning “Moonlight” and was nominated for the screenplay to 2018’s “If Beale Street Could Talk.” He also last year made plans to direct a film based on the life of choreographer Alvin Ailey for Disney’s Searchlight Pictures.
Disney didn’t announce any further plot details or casting on the new “Lion King” project, which was first reported by Deadline Hollywood. Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the 2019 movie, is returning to pen the follow-up.
Directed by Jon Favreau, “The Lion King” featured a voice cast including Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, John Oliver, Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen and James Earl Jones. Reviews weren’t good (52% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) but it was more lucrative than any other “live-action” remake of a Disney classic. Unadjusted for inflation, 2019’s “Lion King” ranks as the seventh highest grossing film ever.