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Lion King Sequel To Be Helmed by Moonlight's Barry Jenkins

Despite what Disney would have you believe, Frozen 2 is not the biggest grossing animated feature of all time. That honour belongs to another animated film released in 2019, Jon Favreau's reimagined The Lion King, but for unknown reasons, the Mouse House has done its damndest to try and convince the world that it's not actually animated. Their attempts were not in vain, as the majority of the mainstream media and audiences still calls it the "live-action Lion King." While that may be the subject of some debate, its popularity with audiences was not, to the tune of  $1.65 billion at the global box-office.

Numbers like that made a sequel a cert, and one was quickly mooted, although confirmation had not come through until now. Sequels to Disney's otherwise live-action adaptations are an interesting proposition. Although the original animated films often have sequels, they are of the direct-to-video variety and not considered to be part of Disney's Classics cannon, so won't be used as the basis for the sequels. The video sequels were generally just cheap rehashes of the originals, but the new films will be free to forge a path of their own using the beloved characters.

And so, DTV sequel The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride is not going to be used as the inspiration for Disney's upcoming sequel which will instead use a wholly original new story from Jeff Nathanson, screenwriter of the 2019 film. In surprising news, director Favreau will not be returning, however, and the reins have been handed to Barry Jenkins, director of Best Picture winner La La Land Moonlight.

Favreau not directing again is unexpected but makes sense when you consider he's already attached to a sequel to his 2016 Jungle Book, as well as his involvement with  Disney Plus series The Mandalorian possibly leading to a bigger role in the future of Star Wars.  If Disney want to get the sequel moving forward sooner rather than later, a new director was the only way to go. And now that the tech developed for the first film is in place, its presumably easier for a director to come over from live-action.

There's another reason the change is smart though. The first film saw the potential for the film to improve on the first film's representation and celebrate African culture, and the voice cast, and much of the creative team, were from an African-American background.  It seems only appropriate then, that the director should be as well.

It's new territory for Jenkins, who is known for sensitive adult drama. It'll be interesting to see what he can bring to animation. Jenkins spoke of what the original (1994) means to him:

Helping my sister raise two young boys during the ’90s, I grew up with these characters. 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.

The plot hasn't been revealed at this time, although it's suggested that it will explore the back story of Simba's Poppa, Mufasa. Does this mean a full-blown prequel, or will it be through flashback?

We'll be waiting some time to find out, as there's no news of a release date just yet. It's not been confirmed who from the first film will return either.

Disney's remakes have attracted a lot of criticism alongside their huge box-office hauls, but with their sequels (as well as this and Jungle Book 2, an Aladdin sequel is also in the works) they will have the chance to try and prove their critics wrong and stand out as quality films in their own right. At the very least, getting a director the calibre of Jenkins on board definitely feels like a step in the right direction.