D23 Expo is back in its physical iteration, and this time, live-action adaptations have become all the rage. The new Lion King prequel and The Little Mermaid took centre stage at Disney’s biggest event, with each offering a first look at what’s to come in due time – starting from the official title for the first project.
Titled Mufasa: The Lion King, the movie sees Moonlight director Barry Jenkins heading to Pride Rock to tell the origin story of Simba’s father. It will explore his childhood growing up with his brother Scar, initially known as Taka, which as revealed by Rafiki (John Kani) in exclusive preview footage for event attendees, shows him as an orphaned cub who had to navigate the world alone before becoming the king. “In this place a lion was born without a drop of nobility in his part,” Rafiki narrates in the opening scene. “The lion who would change our lives forever.”
Mufasa: The Lion King is currently slated for a 2024 release in theatres, and will feature the voice of English actor Aaron Pierre (Krypton) and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (It Comes at Night, Elvis) as younger versions of Mufasa and Scar respectively. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen are set to reprise their respective roles as Timon and Pumbaa.
Elsewhere, a mermaid has surfaced from under the sea. The teaser trailer for the Little Mermaid live-action remake also made an appearance at the expo, offering a glimpse of main star Halle Bailey in Ariel’s getup while belting out the iconic “Part of Your World”. The costume design, meanwhile, is fairly similar to its animated counterpart, except for the seemingly longer fins and the more sophisticated (or shall we say, or so-fish-sticated) look that has replaced the shell bra underwater aesthetic.
Adapted from the 1989 film from John Musker and Ron Clements, which was based on the Hans Christian Andersen 19th century fairy tale, The Little Mermaid follows Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton (Javier Bardem), the ruler of the underwater kingdom Atalantica, as she falls deeply in love with the suave Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) after saving him during a shipwreck. Classic Disney sidekicks Flounder, Scuttle and Sebastian are also poised to return, with Jacob Tremblay, Awkwafina, and Daveed Diggs lending their voices to the respective characters.
The movie is directed by Rob Marshall (Marry Poppins Returns, Chicago) and will feature four new songs when it splashes into theatres on 26 May 2023. Jane Goldman (The Woman in Black, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) and David Magee (Life of Pi, Mary Poppins Returns) wrote the script, while Lin-Manuel Miranda Miranda, Marshall, John DeCula and Marc Platt are serving as producers.