Two years ago, news that Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins was making a prequel to The Lion King made everyone scratch their heads. What the heck would that be and who asked for that? Well, finally, at the D23 Expo, Jenkins showed up to explain what it was about Mufasa: The Lion King that makes it unique.
Yes, Mufasa is the origin of the older king we see perish in The Lion King—but what we’ll learn is, he wasn’t born into royalty like his son Simba. Mufasa was an orphaned cub who worked his way up the food chain to become the powerful leader he was. And in that story, Jenkins saw a bit of himself. The Moonlight director explained that when that film won Best Picture at the Oscars, he looked around and saw all his talented collaborators, and that’s made him relate to Mufasa. He’s a character made great by his friends and family.
The film is told in two time periods. One is the past, of course, as we see a young Mufasa grow into a lion king, and the other in a present where Rafiki, Timon, and Pumbaa, tell Mufasa’s story to a young cub. Which means, yes, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner will reprise their roles from the Jon Favreau Lion King remake.
Oh, right: that’s the other thing. This film has the exact same aesthetic as the Favreau film. A brief teaser soared over Pride Rock, to the other side of the desert, and up on to a smaller rock where a young cub stands. The cub looks up and sees a drop of rain hit him in the face. But the rain keeps coming and a flood begins. Mufasa is caught up in the flood and finds himself swept away in the flood, only to be discovered by another mystery lion.
The footage then cut to Rafiki, Timon, and Pumbaa where Timon was complaining that they weren’t in this story. But you are, Timon. You are.
Will Mufasa: The Lion King live up to its incredible pedigree both on screen and off? We’ll see. But now, at least, we know what it’s about and why Barry Jenkins is making it.
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