Walt Disney Pictures has enjoyed a streak of not only commercial success, but also critical success with its recent live-action remakes/re-imaginings of such beloved Mouse House animated films as Cinderella and The Jungle Book, as well as a 21st century version of live-action/animated hybrid, Pete’s Dragon. Next in line to get the live-action treatment is Disney’s 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast (which opens in March of next year) and the studio most recently announced that The Lion King is getting re-imagined for the big screen in the same cutting-edge technological manner as The Jungle Book (complete with Jon Favreau calling the shots as director).
Reports of Disney working on a live-action version of Mulan – the studio’s 1998 animated take on the world-famous Chinese legend – first emerged back in 2010, though that initial version of the project well by the wayside. A live-action Mulan re-entered active development in 2015 and it’s safe to say the film is now moving full speed ahead, with Disney having even claimed an official theatrical release date for the movie.
Variety is reporting that Disney has scheduled the live-action Mulan to hit theaters on November 2nd, 2018. As of right now, that release date is not being staked out for any other major studio film releases, with Illumination Entertainment having set its animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas to arrive a week after (and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sequel slated to hit the scene two weeks later). That month will also be rounded out by the release of the Disney animated fairy tale musical, Gigantic.
The initial spec script for this new live-action version of Mulan (written by lesser-known screenwriters Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin) is being rewritten by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver: the husband/wife duo who also wrote Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in addition to early script drafts for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World (Jaffa and Silver also wrote one of the four Avatar sequels currently in development). The film currently does not have a director, but the search is underway for a Chinese actress to portray the film’s namesake.
The story of Mulan revolves around the title character, a young woman living in ancient China who pretends to be a man in order to participate in the battle against the army of Huns invading China. Disney’s 1998 animated version of Mulan was a noteworthy critical and commercial success alike, grossing around $304 million worldwide in theaters and landing an Oscar nomination for its score (it also includes such beloved Disney tunes as “Reflection” and “Be a Man”). Although Mulan isn’t expected to be a musical in the vein of Beauty and the Beast (2017), it will probably find a way to work in one or two of the songs from its animated predecessor, as some of the other Disney live-action fairy tale remakes have done.
While a Care 2 petition asking Disney to not white-wash the role of Mulan in its live-action film made waves online this year, it was always highly doubtful that the Mouse House would cast a non-Asian actress in the film; not with the studio helping lead the way to improve diversity in casting (with respect to gender and race) in Hollywood, with the latest Star Wars movies, the next wave of Marvel films and projects like Disney Animation’s Moana. Perhaps the more pointed question concerns who is going to direct this film. After all, a live-action Mulan done in the vein of a lavishing Chinese war epic (though kept family-friendly enough to fit the Disney brand), perhaps even by an Asian filmmaker no less, could make this one Disney remake able to stand both apart and on its own from its cherished predecessor. We’ll see what happens, in that respect.
Mulan opens in U.S. theaters on November 2nd, 2018.