‘Moonlight’ Oscar Winner Barry Jenkins Has Defended His Decision To Direct ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’

Indie favorite Barry Jenkins is an unexpected pick to direct a photorealistic Disney prequel, but the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Moonlight claimed that there’s a lot of similarities between his previous work and Mufasa: The Lion King.

After Jenkins shared the teaser for Mufasa on Twitter on Tuesday, one of his followers wrote, “Barry, You’re too good and talented for this Iger’s soulless machine.” He replied, “There is nothing soulless about The Lion King. For decades children have sat in theaters 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.”

Another Twitter user jumped into the replies to say that he interviewed Jenkins when Moonlight screened at Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, “and that Barry Jenkins wouldn’t have said what you just said. You can do a Disney movie for the check, in order to work on your passion projects at a later time, but you don’t have to shill like this.”

Jenkins had a lot to say about that. “Bruh what kind of logic is that? How about this, here are a few videos from the ‘same Barry Jenkins who premiered Moonlight‘ (as you put it) showing some of the things I was doing in my spare time AT THE SAME TIME I was writing Moonlight,” he wrote. Jenkins’ proof:

Jenkins added, “Children have figured prominently in every single one of the projects from Moonlight til’ now without exception. Like… BRUH. You can say whatever you want about the film but telling ME that something I SAID about why something is meaningful to me for children is CAP? Nah bruh.”

If Jenkins’ Mufasa: The Lion King paycheck gives him the time and financial freedom to make another masterpiece like Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, and The Underground Railroad, sure, whatever. He deserves the benefit of the doubt this time. But if Jenkins’ next movie is, like, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids… Again, then maybe we should be worried.

Mufasa: The Lion King comes out on December 20.