Mufasa Director Reveals Movie That Helped Him Know He Could Do The Lion King Prequel

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Mufasa: The Lion King director and Oscar winner Barry Jenkins has revealed that his time working on Prime Video’s The Underground Railroad with ILM helped him realize he could be the one to bring this prequel to the Lion King to (the circle of) life.

Speaking to IGN, Jenkins shared that The Underground Railroad was his first “heavy visual effects” project, and it was a revelation for him.

“It was something I always wanted to do,” Jenkins said of working on a project that made heavy use of CGI. “I was finishing up the Underground Railroad when this project came to me, so it was great to work with a lot of visual effects for the first time in my career. I had done visual effects but not at all that way. It was really great to see from the inside what that process was like. It helped me realize that I could make this movie.”

For those unfamiliar, The Underground Railroad was released on Prime Video in 2021 and was a series based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead. It followed Cora Randall’s “desperate bid for freedom in the Antebellum South.”

ILM worked on the project and contributed 122 shots across seven episodes, based on “a CG recreation of the Chicago Train Hub, a sprawling network of underground tunnels and train tracks, and the scorched plains of Tennessee”.

As for the movie itself, Jenkins talked about Mufasa and how he is the epitome of greatness, although that greatness is something he had to earn.

“Mufasa is greatness, he’s just greatness,” Jenkins said. “He’s James Earl Jones, and he’s basically perfect. And I think for kids it’s really important to understand that people aren’t born perfect, they’re not just kings, their experiences shape them. You so can expect to take this journey and understand how his friends, his family, his experiences have shaped him and made him the person he is.

“I think it’s a good thing for kids to see, and for any human being to see, because maybe in the world we think, ‘I can’t be that because I’m not born here’, and watching the original movie, I always guess, ‘Oh Mufasa, he’s obviously the king.’ And in this movie, we find out how he became king.”

Every Upcoming Disney Live-Action Remake

Mufasa: The Lion King was officially announced at D23 2022 and will serve as a prequel to the 2019 live-action adaptation of The Lion King when it hits theaters in 2024. For everything else D23, check out our roundup of Disney and Pixar Studio Showcase, Marvel, Star Wars and 20th Century Studio Showcase, and Disney and Marvel Games Showcase.

Francesca Rivera is a video producer at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @fbrivera.

Adam Bankhurst is a reporter for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Tic.

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