Jon Favreau’s lavishly expensive remake of The Lion King hits theaters this weekend, marking the latest massive film from the director who has become a blockbuster mainstay with films like The Jungle Book, Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens. Jon Favreau’s career hasn’t been entirely in the blockbuster realm though, as he also directed Elf and wrote and directed Made and Chef. So will he go back to making smaller movies post-Lion King? Here’s what he told CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg in an exclusive interview:
I think each medium demands a different, it’s like a puzzle, each one has a different sweet spot. I think if you’re gonna make something for the big screen with this level of budget and this level of visual effects where you can really push the limits, having a story that the studio feels comfortable committing these resources to and knowing there’s an audience for that internationally is very important for something of this scale. But at the same I’m doing The Chef Show for Netflix where I’m cooking in a kitchen with friends and that’s very small but that also hits a huge audience too.
Jon Favreau doesn’t seem to be specifically aiming to do a big budget movie next or a small personal piece à la Chef. Instead, he’s viewing his endeavors through the lens of what’s best for and what’s achievable within each medium. Having been in the filmmaking industry for some time, Jon Favreau has a clear understanding of the business realities that govern artistic expression.
Following the success of his remake of The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau wanted to spend even more money to push the technology further for The Lion King. He was able to do that because there is a huge worldwide audience for the film, so the studio (Disney) felt comfortable affording him the resources to exact his creative vision. That was just what he calls the ‘sweet spot’ for this though, and that doesn’t mean that he wants to spend his entire career only doing $175+ million films.
The Lion King director is playing on both ends of the spectrum and finding what works for him in each medium. As he told Eric, The Chef Show on Netflix, the one where Gwyneth Paltrow found out she was in Spider-Man: Homecoming, is just a show where Jon Favreau cooks in a kitchen with friends. No bleeding-edge technology is required for that, but it still is able to reach a wide audience.
That’s not the only TV project Jon Favreau is working on though and he went on to tell Eric about how he is excited to explore projects big and small in the changing media landscape:
So right now there’s this shifting sands of how content is distributed. Or The Mandalorian for Disney+ where you’re really playing to a specific fanbase from Star Wars that’s interested in that type of story. It’s smaller than the big movies but it’s bigger than the small shows, so it’s bigger than TV, it’s smaller than something like this [The Lion King]. What you learn and how you do it, those walls are coming down, but I love to explore all the different platforms and formats because each one offers a different opportunity for telling stories.
It’s strange now to think that it wasn’t that long ago that there were TV directors and movie directors. Now the lines are completely blurred, and the advent of streaming services and, as Jon Favreau calls them “the shifting sands” of content distribution, allow for more creative freedom and stories of all sizes. His upcoming Disney+ series The Mandalorian won’t be on the scale of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but it’ll be vastly bigger than The Chef Show.
Ultimately it sounds like Jon Favreau doesn’t want to pigeonhole himself into only doing films the size of The Lion King or returning to projects like Chef. Instead, he’d rather explore all the new and different storytelling opportunities afforded by different platforms and formats. He’s done movies big and small, now he’s doing small and big TV. Maybe next he’ll tackle something like a limited series or a mid-budget film. The options are many and given the box office he’s been delivering for Disney, he can probably do whatever he wants.
You can hear Jon Favreau’s comments to Eric in the video below: