"Mufasa is the king, the greatest king of the Pride Lands, and you assume he got that way just because he is. And I thought the studio and Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the script, did a great job of really exploring how people become great."
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Barry Jenkins, the filmmaker behind the Oscar-winning Moonlight, thought he knew all there was to know about Mufasa from The Lion King. Then he was sent a script by screenwriter Jeff Nathanson for a prequel, and he felt like the planned movie was charting new territory.

Jenkins spoke with EW at the recent D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif., about signing on to direct Mufasa: The Lion King, which is on track to debut sometime in 2024 and features the same photo-realistic CG technology that Jon Favreau used for his 2019 Lion King remake.

"I think you'll see a ton of familiar faces," says Jenkins. "It is a prequel, but again, it's a prequel in the sense that these are all the same characters, but we're telling you how they came to be who they are. So we're literally going backward. We're going back in time with many of these characters. We're in the present, as well, but we're also going back to tell who these characters were."

He adds, "Please expect musical numbers. Really wonderful musical numbers, I'd say."

THE LION KING, from left: Mufasa (voice: James Earl Jones), young Simba (voice: JD McCrary), 2019. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
Mufasa appears in the 2019 remake of 'The Lion King' as voiced by James Earl Jones.
| Credit: Walt Disney Co./Everett

We already know some of these "familiar faces." As confirmed on the D23 stage, Mufasa: The Lion King will tell the story of the king of Pride Rock through flashbacks told by Rafiki, Timon, and Pumbaa. These characters were voiced by John Kani, Billy Eichner, and Seth Rogen, respectively, in 2019's The Lion King. James Earl Jones originated the Mufasa voice role in Disney's 1994 film, and he returned for the remake to voice the character again in 2019.

As EW previously reported, Aaron Pierre will voice young Mufasa, while Kelvin Harrison Jr. voices Taka, which is Scar's real name.

"Mufasa is the king, the greatest king of the Pride Lands, and you assume he got that way just because he is," Jenkins explains. "And I thought the studio and Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the script, did a great job of really exploring how people become great, how people come to be these mythic figures we look up to."

Watch the interview in the video above.

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