With all the talk about next year’s dual Snow White movies, it’s easy to forget that Walt Disney Pictures has been developing its own unorthodox spin on the fairy tale since 2002. That live-action project was previously referred to as Snow and the Seven, but has now been re-dubbed The Order of the Seven.

Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) was previously onboard to helm the picture, but has now been replaced by commercials director and visual effects supervisor Michael Gracey.

The reasoning behind the title change is reportedly because the project has evolved into more of an original fantasy tale. That and studio heads were probably concerned that audiences might be suffering from Snow White movie fatigue by the time Order of the Seven reaches theaters.

Here is how Heat Vision describes the project, in its current state:

In this iteration [of ‘Snow White’], the seven are a 19th century-set disparate band of international warriors belonging to a centuries-old order who have lost their way. Their meeting with an Englishwoman being chased by an ancient evil is the catalyst for their redemption. While the project is set in China, the warriors will be from locales near (the U.S.) and far (Russia), and each warrior will have a unique fighting style.

Natalie Portman was previously said to be circling the lead role in Order of the Seven, but it’s not clear if she is still connected to the project. It’s doubtful many people would object to the Oscar-winning actress donning armor to play a kick-ass warrior gal again, in a movie more serious than this year’s Your Highness.

Will Portman join 'The Order of the Seven'?

On the surface, Order of the Seven bears more than a passing resemblance to Universal’s upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman. Both are being fashioned as unique action-oriented fantasy adventures that retain elements of the original Brothers Grimm story – not to mention, each project will mark the feature-length directorial debut of a helmer who previously worked in the area of commercials, and is being scripted by a handful of noteworthy writers. In Order of the Seven‘s case, Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) penned the most recent draft, while scribers like Pulitzer Prize recipient Michael Chabon (Disney’s upcoming John Carter) and The Hangover screenwriting duo of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore previously took a stab at the screenplay.

Order of the Seven certainly sounds far less ludicrous now than back in the day, when it was being described as “Snow White trains with Shaolin monks.” It could end up being a fairly fun, fantastical period adventure tale that’s more along the lines of Disney’s 1993 Three Musketeers movie, striking a nice balance of humor, action, and drama. That would also set it apart from both Universal’s gritty and grim Huntsman adaptation, as well as Tarsem Singh’s more traditional Snow White retelling.

Production on The Order of the Seven is expected to begin in early 2012, so expect to hear more about the project over the upcoming months.

Source: THR