2023 was a tough year for Disney at the box office. Although some of their silver screen failures, like Haunted Mansion (2023) and The Little Mermaid (2023), have since picked up the pace on Disney+, movie theatre ventures haven’t been as strong as projected for Disney. However, with successful live-action remakes such as The Lion King (2019) and Jungle Book (2016), Disney has remained dedicated to rehashing classic stories, although their original content, like Wish (2023), has struggled to tread water on weekends where Disney used to own the box office.
With a steady portfolio of diverse content ready to release in 2024, Disney has two immediate problems on their hands. How to fill seats at movie theatres and what to do with their Kang character from the MCU now that Jonathan Majors will no longer move forward with Marvel.
We’ll let someone else worry about Kang the Conquerer, but to answer the other question, Disney will release a follow-up to its 2019 billion-dollar grossing live-action remake of The Lion King (1994), and it could save the day for the House of Mouse.
‘The Lion King’ 2019
2019 gave us a few new additions to Disney’s catalog, like Toy Story 4, but none were as successful as The Lion King. Featuring stunning visuals and an all-star cast including Beyonce, James Earl Jones, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, and John Oliver, the movie quickly gained support from Disney audiences.
Retelling the original story of Simba, the heir to the king’s throne in the Pride Lands, prince Simba is exiled after the death of his father, Mufasa. After meeting the unlikely duo of Timon and Pumbaa, Simba is forced to choose between his carefree adopted lifestyle or returning to face off with his insidious uncle Scar and reclaim his rightful place among Pride Rock.
Featuring breathtaking animation of live-referenced animals, Walt Disney Pictures spared no expense in bringing The Lion King to live-action. Jon Favreau, who has had his hand in much of the success surrounding Star Wars and Marvel, directed the critically acclaimed film, earning Disney a whopping $1.7 billion (rounded up).
‘The Lion King’ 1994
Although 2019’s version of the Shakespearean tale left audiences with mouths agape, the live-action version of The Lion King couldn’t have run if the original story hadn’t sprinted first.
In what many consider to be a resurgent age of Disney animation, The Lion King was the crown jewel of 90’s family movies. Although scarring in a way, we all remember the wildebeest scene. The original movie helped set an extremely high standard for what Disney fans expect from their animation arm.
Also, the film reintroduced another strong point of expectation from Disney fans: music! Much like the days of The Little Mermaid (1989), The Lion King featured a savvy soundtrack, mostly compiled by Sir Elton John, which introduced unforgettable songs like “Hakuna Matata,” “The Circle of Life,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
The original Lion King animated movie carried some serious firepower regarding casting. Jeremy Irons, who famously ruined his voice while recording “Be Prepared,” was joined by James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
This smooth success of the original film, attributed to this all-star cast, led to several follow-up sequels and shows, including The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), The Lion King 1 ½ (2004), The Lion King’s Timon & Pumbaa (1995-1999) and The Lion Guard (2016-2019).
The massive success of The Lion King and its sequels would spread like wildfire throughout Disney, bringing shows and attractions to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, musical theatres, and even Disney’s own streaming service that launched in 2019.
‘The Lion King 2’ – Live-Action
If there’s one certainty in the wonderful world of Disney, it’s that The Walt Disney Company isn’t going to miss out on a chance to cash in on a productive product. For that reason, the success of 2019’s live-action version, despite calls from fans to stop the recycling process, is due to a sequel, and if the word on the street holds any merit, a live-action Lion King sequel could be what brings domination at the box office back into the fold for the mega-sized company.
However, the sequel film will not be heralded by Jon Favreau this go around. Instead, it will be led by Barry Jenkins. Mufasa: The Lion King will take a look at Simba after his return to the throne as king of the Pride Lands.
Citing the storyline as follows, “Simba, having become king of the Pride Lands, is determined for his cub to follow in his paw prints while the origins of his late father Mufasa are explored,” IMDb credits casting to some familiar names associated with the 2019 film.
Seth Rogen will return, as will John Kani and Billy Eichner. Although James Earl Jones may not be taking on the voice of Mufasa this time around. Although you may see “Mufasa” in the title, the term, which means “king” in Swahili, could be a reference to Simba. However, the film, according to Screen Rant, is expected to take a look at the origins of the Mufasa that we know, who will be voiced by Aaron Pierre.
Why You Should Get Excited for ‘Lion King 2’
We understand that there may be a little bit of fatigue out there for Walt Disney live-action remakes. With recent box office flops like The Little Mermaid (2023) and expectations surrounding upcoming remakes like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it’s difficult to get excited about a potential Lion King 2, but you should!
Likened to The Godfather II (1974), Screen Rant went on to explain that although Favreau will not be sitting in the director’s chair, he will be a producer for the film. Despite the loss of Favreau in leading the project, it remains in the careful and capable hands of Barry Jenkins.
Jenkins is accredited with several beautiful titles that highlight the use of African-American talent. The creative and necessary choice to utilize a heavy African-American cast in the first live-action remake worked well, as the original story is about characters from, well – Africa.
Jenkins’ work is highlighted by his 2016 film Moonlight, which includes stunning visuals that will surely lend themselves to the excitement surrounding this upcoming sequel to Disney’s 2019 billion-dollar masterpiece. Most exciting, the director took the helm from Favreau after he was “blown away” by the film’s script.
As 2024 gets underway, it’s certain that The Walt Disney Company hopes to perform better at the box office, and given the little information we have surrounding Mufasa: The Lion King, the excitement is brewing, and the company may be primed to reclaim their own crown in the coming year.