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Barry Jenkins defended his involvement in “Mufasa: The Lion King” after he was criticized on social media this week for helming the Disney live-action prequel.

Jenkins shared the first “Mufasa” trailer on X (formerly Twitter) following its release on Monday, which prompted some fans to criticize the filmmaker, known for the Oscar-winning films “Moonlight” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” for working on such a mainstream project.

“Barry, You’re too good and talented for this Iger’s soulless machine,” one user wrote, referring to Disney CEO Bob Iger.

“There is nothing soulless about ‘The Lion King,’” Jenkins replied. “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 commenter said he interviewed the director when “Moonlight” premiered at the 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,” the X user continued, to which Jenkins replied, “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.’”

Jenkins then listed several projects he was working on during the production of “Moonlight,” all of which were linked to one common thread: “Children have figured prominently in every single one of the projects from ‘Moonlight’ til’ now without exception.”

In a recent Empire interview, Jenkins also responded to this concern among fans that his creative expression will disappear in the world of film franchises.

“When you step into a world that already exists, it can be easy to assume that freedom is denied,” Jenkins said. “I think, instead, you have to just work to create freedom, and I think that was what this process was. A friend once said to me, ‘You’ve done the thing you set out to do when, 10 years on, you could put the film up on the wall and point to it and go, ‘There, that’s where I am.’’”

“Mufasa: The Lion King” premieres in theaters Dec. 20.





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