Mufasa: The Lion King director Barry Jenkins defends film against ‘soulless’ criticism

A social media user told the ‘Moonlight’ director that working on prequel of Disney live remake was ‘soulless’

Nicole Vassell
Wednesday 01 May 2024 17:12 BST
Mufasa: The Lion King (Teaser Trailer 1)

Barry Jenkins has defended his upcoming prequel to 2019’s live-action The Lion King remake after one sceptical fan described the project as “soulless”.

On Monday (29 April), the first trailer for Mufasa: The Lion King was released online giving Disney fans a preview of what the film will have in store.

Though many expressed their excitement for the film, others on social media gave a more lukewarm response, criticising it as being a vehicle in service of Disney CEO Bob Iger.

“Barry, you’re too good and talented for this Iger’s soulless machine,” reads one comment on X, formerly Twitter.

Jenkins, whose directing credits also include the films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, replied directly to the comment and noted that the Lion King story had affected countless fans in deep ways since the 1990s.

“There is nothing soulless about The Lion King,” Jenkins replied.

“For decades children have sat in theatres all over the world experiencing collective grief for the first time, engaging Shakespeare for the first time, across aisles in myriad languages. A most potent vessel for communal empathy.”

When news of the prequel was announced in September 2020, Jenkins released a statement sharing his enthusiasm for the Lion King story, and how figures such as pride leader Mufasa and his son Simba had meant to him.

Barry Jenkins directs the forthcoming Lion King prequel
Barry Jenkins directs the forthcoming Lion King prequel (Getty / Walt Disney Studios / screengrab)

“Helping my sister raise two young boys during the Nineties, I grew up with these characters,” Jenkins said.

“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.”

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Notably, the recently released trailer for Mufasa revealed that Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s 12-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, will voice Kiara, the lion cub daughter of King Simba and Queen Nala.

In the 2019 live-action film, adapted from the 1994 animation, adult Simba was voiced by Donald Glover, while Beyoncé voiced Nala.

While both versions of The Lion King follow Simba on his journey to inheriting the title from his stern but loving father, Mufasa, the forthcoming prequel is set to give an insight into Mufasa’s early life before becoming the leader of the animal kingdom.

Aaron Pierre and Kelvin Harrison Jr will portray the younger versions of Mufasa and Scar, respectively. Mufasa was voiced by James Earl Jones in both the 1994 animated classic and the 2019 remake.

John Kani, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner are among the returning cast members, while Mads Mikkelsen and Thandiwe Newton are set to join.

Mufasa: The Lion King will be released in cinemas on 20 December.

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