It appears that Disney's next original animated film is going to be a fantasy adventure that's tentatively known as Dragon Empire. The Mouse House's animation studio has knocked out hit after hit for the good part of the last decade now, with films like Tangled, Zootopia, and Moana pleasing general audiences and critics alike. Up next for Walt Disney Animation Studios is this November's Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, followed by another animated sequel a year after that in the form of Frozen 2. However, for the time being, Disney doesn't have an official animated entry scheduled for release in 2020.
Back in 2015, Disney announced it was developing an animated Jack and the Beanstalk re-telling titled Gigantic, which re-imagines the infamous giant from the fairy tale as a precocious 10-year old girl (giant). The Mouse House eventually shifted the film back to a 2020 release before it announced last fall that Gigantic had been shelved over concerns about the creative direction of the project (translation: it just wasn't working). Disney has yet to announce what will take Gigantic's former spot in November 2020, but it sounds like Dragon Empire is a plausible candidate, based on this new update.
According to THS, Disney is actively moving forward with Dragon Empire, an animated film that (by the sound of it) is an original venture that's not based on any IP. Frozen and Big Hero 6 head of story Paul Briggs is making his directing debut on the movie alongside longtime Disney story artist Dean Wellins, with Cars and Cars 3 screenwriter Kiel Murray handling the script. Story details for Dragon Empire are being kept under lock and key for now, though THS has learned that the main character is a young heroine named Jan-Nin, who is joined on her quest in the film by Bolin - the male lead, described as a 900 year old comic relief and mentor to Jan-Nin - and, possibly, a male supporting character named Katsu.
Further, THS reports that Jamie Chung has expressed an interest in voicing Jan-Nin in Dragon Empire, though it doesn't appear that she's firmly set to play the character just yet. Chung has a history with the Mouse House that works in her favor, having previously voiced Go Go Tomago in Big Hero 6 - a role she's reprising for Disney XD's Big Hero 6 sequel TV series - and played the live-action Mulan in Once Upon a Time, the recently-concluded ABC TV show that takes place in a universe populated by various Disney fairy tale characters. For the time being, she's the only actor reported to be circling one of the main roles in Dragon Empire.
DreamWorks has its own dragon-centric franchise in How to Train Your Dragon and will conclude that animated film series next March with the long-awaited third chapter, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Dragons aside though, it thankfully doesn't sound like Dragon Empire and How to Train Your Dragon have much in common, either in terms of their cultural influences or lead (human) characters. Dragon Empire will further continue the recent trend in Disney animated films of focusing on a non-romantic couple and could make for another memorable fantasy heroine's journey in the vein of Moana, based on the details available at the moment.
We will bring you more information on Dragon Empire - including, whether it will serve as Disney Animation's 2020 release - as it becomes available.