According to Variety, Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) has been tapped to take over the franchise reins from director Jon Favreau. Relying on groundbreaking technology he'd used on his The Jungle Book remake, the Iron Man vet was able to create an immersive world of talking, photorealistic animals.
Details about the follow-up are scant, although some outlets (like The Hollywood Reporter) are saying that the project will actually be a prequel. If that's the case, then it could draw from 2004's The Lion King 1½, which explained how Timon and Pumbaa first met prior to the events of the first movie. If it's directly following the events of the first movie, however, Jenkins can look to The Lion King II: Simba's Pride or The Lion Guard TV series.
"Helping my sister raise two young boys during the '90s, I grew up with these characters,” Jenkins said in a statement run by Variety. "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' partner, Lulu Wang (the celebrated filmmaker behind The Farewell), rang in the news on Twitter with a parody of The Lion King's iconic "Circle of Life" opening.
Featuring an all-star voice cast that included Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Alfre Woodard, John Oliver, Billy Eichner, and Seth Rogen, The Lion King 2019 brought in more than $1 billion at the global box office, becoming one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time.