Mufasa: The Lion King was officially announced at D23 2022. We all knew a prequel to The Lion King entered into production sometime in 2020, but now it seems the movie has found its footing as Barry Jenkins takes the reins of Mufasa. The Oscar-winning director is excited to shape the story of Simba’s father as we watch him become king of the pride lands. The announcement at D23 had audiences looking at the official title as well as a bit of preview footage which only gave a few fun facts away. One thing’s for sure, Mufasa: The Lion King is a story we have been waiting a long time for.
There still isn’t much known about Mufasa, despite the D23 reveal. That being said, this Mufasa announcement came to land on excited ears, and the anticipation only grew from there. Old friends from the 2019 Lion King film will reappear, and familiar characters will tell you Mufasa’s story. Though it was hinted that we might not see as much of them as we want to.
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Mufasa might be more than just another addition to the Lion King anthology. In the hands of Barry Jenkins, it could be a story we didn’t know we needed.
Mufasa: The Plot
Walt Disney Pictures
The short preview footage shown to D23 audiences gave us a glimpse at how the story would unfold. In this prequel movie, we will see Mufasa struggle against fate to become the king we were introduced to so long ago. As we open on Pride Rock, the familiar voice of Rafiki begins to narrate our tale.
“In this place, a lion was born without a drop of nobility in his blood. The lion who would change our lives forever.”
We fly over Pride Rock, far to the other side of the Savannah, where a young lion cub sees rain coming. As a few drops build into a downpour, a flood comes and sweeps the little lion cub away. He survives and is found by another mysterious lion. Then we cut back to Rafiki, Timon, and Pumbaa. Timon makes a quick meta joke for the preview, “Wait, wait, wait, am I not in this story? I don’t feel seen.”
Seeing Mufasa grow up to claim his right to be king will certainly be interesting. The preview footage alone begs a lot of questions. Now that we know this massive flood orphaned Mufasa, we know that Scar was not his brother by birth. This mysterious lion that adopted Mufasa must bring him into the pride to raise him alongside Scar, who is heir to the throne by birthright. And since we all know how their relationship ends, this story of Mufasa’s childhood may change our perspective on both him and Scar forever.
Mufasa: The Cast & Crew
Walt Disney Pictures
The voices may have been one of the most revealing things in the D23 footage. Billy Eichner was back as Timon, reprising his role from the 2019 film, so it’s probably a good bet that Seth Rogen will return as Pumbaa too. John Kani was the voice of Rafiki in the 2019 film, so we can probably count on hearing a few familiar voices. Variety has reported that Aaron Pierre and Kelvin Harrison Jr. will voice younger versions of Mufasa and Scar, respectively.
As mentioned, director Barry Jenkins is at the helm. He is known most for his Oscar-winning picture Moonlight and the film If Beale Street Could Talk. He is deeply attached to the original Lion King movie, having watched it a great deal with his family. Though The Lion King is such a big title for Disney, Jenkins seems pleased that he will have some creative freedom with the film.
In a tweet from Deadline, Jenkins talked briefly about his meetings with Disney, which reinforced his ability to bring his own voice to the production. Rather than altering his style for the movie, he would be able to express his own creativity.
The Lion King is ultimately one of Disney’s biggest and most foundational films, so bringing an artistic storyteller like Jenkins into the canon should do nothing but help the movie grow. Jon Favreau brought The Lion King into the modern era with 3D rendering, replacing the 2D animation. Now the narrative style of Barry Jenkins should add depth to the franchise that could be a breath of fresh air into its world.
Jenkins is known for creating stories focusing on childhood and rites of passage, so this should be the perfect movie for him. Lion King fans should definitely be excited about his upcoming film, as the story of how Mufasa became king will likely reflect how Jenkins became such an excellent filmmaker.
Mufasa: The Lion King is set for a 2024 release.