With the most anticipated Disney movie, Beauty and The Beast, finally premiering last weekend (but only on the 30th in Malaysia), Disney has decided to release further information on their progress of remaking the Disney classics; movies such as Mulan, The Lion King, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Cruella and others.
Now, let’s get down to business. As most of us would know, Mulan has been set for release on the 2nd of November 2018. A lot of controversy has taken place since Disney first announced the remake of this famous 1998 Disney movie. It started with the rumours of a white lead actor/actress at the start of April last year which angered many fans and led to the #whitewashedOUT movement. Rest assured, the global casting search for a Chinese Mulan, as well as the rest of the cast, took place months later at the start of October.
A week later, it was outed that Disney had purchased a spec script. An anonymous source known as ‘ConcernedforMulan’ sent an open letter to the Angry Asian Man website containing the details of said spec script. Essentially, ‘The Legend of Mulan’, written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, is about a thirty-something year old European trader who joins the Chinese Imperial Army and fights to protect the teen-aged Mulan due to a mutual attraction between them. Did I mention he only cares for women and pleasure? Before he met Mulan of course. In the end, it’s the merchant who gets credited for defeating China’s primary enemy, not Mulan (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read that correctly. Mulan doesn’t get credited for defending China this time).
However, all that was quickly rebuked by Disney who told Vulture, a New York Entertainment Magazine, that:
“The spec script was a jumping-off point for a new take on the story that draws from both the literary ballad of Mulan and Disney’s 1998 animated film. Mulan is and will always be the lead character in the story, and all primary roles, including the love interest, are Chinese.”
The script is currently being rewritten by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, the couple who co-wrote Jurassic World, and produced the Planet of the Apes movies. As for the director, the movie was supposed to be helmed by Ang Lee, a Taiwanese born filmmaker. Alas, he turned down the offer. Thus, the movie is now being directed by Niki Caro. This is the studio’s second movie budgeted over $100 million, to be directed by a female filmmaker but in Hollywood, it is only the fourth time ever. The Executive Director for this movie will be Bill Kong, also known as William Kong, who is famous for his active role in the Hong Kong film industry and International co-production.
Sean Bailey, the President of Motion Picture Production at Walt Disney Studios, calls Mulan a fresh new take on female empowerment, which is really important to the studio. He commented further saying that “Mulan is clearly an empowered-female story but we can also do something new in this reimagining, make it a little more muscular, stronger, with touch of Ridley Scott.” To those of you don’t know who Ridley Scott is, he is a film producer and director whose films are known for its strong female characters. This Chinese legend based film will also allow the studio the opportunity to impact the overseas markets. “Obviously, the idea of working with collaborators in China is an interesting opportunity too,” input Bailey.
In an interview with Screencrush, Niki Caro enthusiastically mentioned that she hasn’t started yet so she can’t give us any real details but the budget, location and story is offering such a scope for an incredible, muscular piece of girly martial arts extravaganza in China.
In another interview, with Moviefone this time, Niki mentions yet again that Mulan is going to be a “big, girly martial arts epic. It will be extremely muscular and thrilling and entertaining and moving.” However, from what she understands, there will be no songs included in the movie right now, much to the horror of her children (and us Mulan fans too!). When asked about the rumours regarding a deleted scene where the Huns sneak in via a Chinese Dragon, Niki replied with “I could not possibly comment upon that.”
As of 6am on the 20th of March, Malaysian time, Jo-Anne Rowney, a journalist for the Mirror, a UK news website, tweeted a photo about Mulan and a new love interest known as Chen Honghui. Where she got the photo from, nobody knows, however, this rumour has not been approved nor denied by Disney. We can only pray that Chen Honghui is not going to replace Li Shang.
As for the remake of The Lion King, Disney just can’t wait to start its production on this heavily based CGI movie. The shooting is supposed to start as early as May this year in Los Angeles, California. However, the success or failure of Beauty and The Beast will affect how quickly Disney moves on the production of The Lion King. Directed by Jon Favreau, who helmed The Jungle Book, Lion King already has Donald Glover set to play the role of Simba and James Earl Jones to reprise his role of Mufasa once again (YAY!).
Whether Disney is successfully bringing back the old cast (such as Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella), no one knows yet. Nevertheless, if Disney really is set to start production in two months, or one and a half, there’ll surely be more updates on the cast members and their respective roles soon. Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who inscribed the script for Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, has also been hired to pen the script of The Lion King. Disney is also quick to mention that the remake will include songs from the original film (Thank the Lord!). Even though, The Lion King doesn’t have a set release date yet, numerous websites have stated that it will most likely be out in early 2019.
In regards to the remake of Aladdin, Guy Ritchie will be directing alongside Producer Dan Lin, Executive Producer Jonathan Eirich and scriptwriter John August. The film is set to keep many of the musical elements from the original movie. However, there isn’t any news to be reported on the cast yet as the casting call had only gone out on the 9th of March. Though, this is good news to fans everywhere as it means the cast won’t be whitewashed and will be Middle Eastern. As per the casting call poster, shooting is to begin this July.
Bailey had mentioned that Guy Ritchie became interested in doing a Disney movie and they talked a lot about it. When it came to Aladdin, Guy said, “My stories are really about street hustlers. That’s what I know how to do. And Aladdin is a classic street hustler who makes good.” Bailey also pointed out that Guy has his own version of the story in his life. But he wanted to honour and respect the Disney part of it. Bailey further commented that “We never want to feel like we have a playbook to these things because we worry it’ll make us creatively complacent. The idea of a highly energized Guy Ritchie Disney musical felt like, ‘Oh, we haven’t done that before,’.”
The producer, Dan Lin had also said in an interview with Collider, a movie/tv show news website that they aren’t there to make Prince of Persia but they are going to make it more diverse with more people, and thankfully enough, both Guy and Disney are aiming for that too. Aside from that, he mentioned that Disney has been doing such a great job with all the remakes so far that it sets the bar even higher for the production of Aladdin.
Now on to The Little Mermaid. This movie is still in its early stages of development but we do know that Alan Menken will return to compose and write songs alongside the producer Lin-Manuel Miranda. Announced in May 2016, The Little Mermaid has had its key people dropping out of production. Said people were the directors, Sofia Coppola and Joe Wright and actress Chloe Grace-Mortez.
In February 2016, actress Lindsay Lohan posted a photo of her and Ariel side by side, on her Instagram account, saying she wants to play Ariel in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid if Bill Condon, who is also the director for Beauty and The Beast, helmed the movie. When approached by Vulture at the Beauty and the Beast premiere, Condon replied “I know! It was sweet, it was very sweet of her. I hope she gets to make that movie … but I’ll go see her in the Little Mermaid, absolutely.”
Mary Poppins Returns is also due to be released nearing Christmas in 2018. The film involves Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as the acting cast, Rob Marshall as the director and David Magee, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman as the movie’s composers.
Disney is also working on the revival of Dumbo directed by Tim Burton with Eva Green and Danny Devito as its stars. For the live-action remake of Winnie The Pooh, Alex Ross Perry, an Indie filmmaker, has been hired to pen the script with Brigham Taylor producing and Marc Forster directing. However, Tom McCarthy has recently been brought on to rewrite the script.
Cruella’s initial script by Aline Brosh McKenna is also being rewritten by Kelly Marcel. Cruella will be starring Oscar award winner, Emma Stone. There will also be a sequel to Maleficent and another Peter Pan story written and directed by David Lowery.
A senior box office analyst, Jeff Bock has also given his two cents saying that he doesn’t think Disney is anywhere close to trailing off soon. He thinks that they will run out of their best animated films in maybe a decade, without including the sequel movies such as The Little Mermaid II, Lion King II, Mulan II, Aladdin II, Cinderella II and more.
However, Disney will not be doing any remakes on Frozen, Moana, Lilo and Stitch, The Emperor’s New Groove, Princess and the Frog and others as there’s an unofficial boundary line at the end of the Disney Renaissance period, around the year 2000 or so. He said that “We’re not looking at anything very recent, anything that still feels like it’s the provenance of current Disney animation.”
Disney’s Studio Head, Alan F. Horn has also alleged, during the Beauty and The Beast premiere, that the company remains committed to mining Disney’s best characters. Remakes of the classics are “are quintessential Walt Disney company properties and we believe to our toes that we are the company that should bring these stories to the screen in live action. We want to do so with an underscored emphasis on quality – they have to be good.”
Written by Stephanie Leng
Captions by Tiffany See