Walt Disney Pictures’ current habit of turning its animated features – most of which are based on classic fairy tales or fables – into modern live-action “re-imaginings” is now such common knowledge, it’s even been parodied on Saturday Night Live. It would appear that the next centuries-old legend turned Mouse House animated feature lining up for a live-action remake is Mulan – a story Disney first adapted as a 2D ‘Toon in 1998.
This isn’t Disney’s first attempt at a live-action Mulan film adaptation; five years ago, the studio made plans to fund a live-action retelling starring Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers) that ultimately fell by the wayside. However, this new version stands a better shot at coming together, now that the House of Mouse has refined its technique for re-fashioning popular titles from its animated filmography as modern live-action tentpoles.
THR reports that Disney’s purchased a Mulan live-action film script from the relatively unknown screenwriting duo of Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin – meaning, the next step is to attach a director to the project. As for the story: the Mulan legend usually revolves around a young woman named Fa Mulan, who disguises herself as a man to take her ailing father’s place and serve in ancient China’s army when war breaks out.
Mulan is a pretty timeless narrative (thematically-speaking) that doesn’t require much tweaking to fit contemporary moviegoer preferences – not so much beyond what the 1998 animated film adaptation offered, that is. That movie was generally well-received and financially successful – so again, that’s all the more reason to suspect that Mulan ought to be a relatively traditional “story retold”, similar to this year’s live-action Cinderella.
So, what other Disney live-action remakes of animated features will be arriving in the future? Well, in 2016, Jon Favreau’s live-action/CGI The Jungle Book will hit theaters, followed later that year by David Lowery’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) live-action/CGI Pete’s Dragon – the latter, admittedly, being a remake of a live-action/2D animated hybrid. (Oh, and let’s not forget Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, also coming in 2016) Disney also recently set Dreamgirls director Bill Condon’s live-action Beauty and the Beast musical for a 2017 release – and some point thereafter, Tim Burton’s Dumbo live-action movie will be released.
Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella has by far come closest to earning near-universal acclaim out of Disney’s modern live-action re-imaginings of its animated films. Alice and Maleficent, despite being rather huge at the box office, left general audiences and critics more split by comparison. Disney’s upcoming wave of live-action remakes will probably continue to be relatively hit/miss, but there’s certainly potential for any of these projects to be creative accomplishments (as well as lucrative investments for the Mouse House) – including, Mulan.
The story of Mulan has, of course, been adapted to film several times (not counting Disney’s 1998 animated feature); most recently, with the Chinese epic Mulan: Rise of a Warrior (a.k.a. Mulan: Warrior Princess), in 2009. A live-action version – with all the production values afford by a big-budget Disney movie – could be quite impressive (in terms of spectacle). If the script’s up to scratch it might even provide some compelling drama, to go with the visually-lush historical action/setting.
One last thing – the live-action Mulan probably won’t be a musical, but that’s okay. It would be hard to top Donny Osmond’s “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, anyway.
We’ll keep you updated on Mulan‘s development as more information is made available.