In 2019, Walt Disney Studios released a live-action version of The Lion King. It was technically a CGI — as I imagine it's hard to get real-life wild animals to talk and sing — reimagining of the 1994 animated classic directed by Jon Favreau and written by Jeff Nathanson.
The adaptation largely followed the story of the original Disney film, as we journey to the African savanna and follow the life of the future king, Simba. I'm sure everyone around these parts is familiar with the story of The Lion King, but the gist of it is Simba's father, King Mufasa, is murdered by his brother and former heir to the throne, Scar, forcing Simba into exile and throwing Pride Rock into disarray. While Simba is in hiding, he befriends a meerkat and warthog, who teach him the ways of Hakuna Matata. Simba eventually figures out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
Anyway, the 2019 live-action film wasn't met with great enthusiasm by critics, as evidenced by its 52% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics praised the visual achievements of the film but called it a "by-the-numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart" of the original. While many would agree with that consensus, the film does have a 88% audience score, suggesting a good number of people did enjoy the film.
This brings me to D23, where Disney announced this weekend Mufasa: The Lion King, a prequel to the film that tells the story of Simba's father, Mufasa. While details are scarce, the film will focus on Mufasa's rise from humble beginnings to becoming ruler of all the Pridelands.
Mufasa: The Lion King will be directed by Barry Jenkins, who's best known for writing and directing the 2016 Oscar-winning film Moonlight.
"I had to make this movie," said Jenkins (via IGN). "Because when I was 14 I was raising two nephews and there was a VHS tape that we watched about 95 times in the span of two days. I was thinking about Mufasa and how he becomes great… I am not a king, I am not a king… Mufasa is great because of the family and friends he has with him."
A brief teaser was shown at D23 alongside the announcement. Although it hasn't made its way online, IGN has a recap of what was shown:
The trailer begins at Pride Rock with a voiceover from Rafiki and a snatched melody from the famous Lion King soundtrack. Swooping across the Pridelands, we see baby Mufasa caught in a flood and washed away... so, it looks as though this orphaned cub will be forced to navigate this harsh world alone.
Unfortunately, it looks as though he'll be doing it without the help of our favorite meerkat and warthog.
"I don't feel seen," says Timon, who seems pretty mad about not being in the movie.
James Earl Jones voiced Mufasa in both the original animated film and the 2019 live-action remake. But as this is a prequel, it's possible the mighty lion will be voiced, at least partially, by someone else.
Mufasa: The Lion King will debut in 2024, presumably in theaters.