Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast is going to make a whole lot of money this weekend. Tracking for a debut between $165-&170 million, the film is poised to break all kinds of records, including a shot at the title for best March opening of all time if it can beat Batman v Superman‘s $166M. But regardless of the top dog bragging rights, Beauty and the Beast is going to haul in major profit for Disney, who is coming off of their most profitable year of all time in 2016.
That success comes from a seemingly foolproof business plan built on the shared strength of their tentpole assets — Disney Animation, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and the string of live-action remakes pulling from the studio’s catalogue of animated classics. Aside from a couple disappointments, the live-action investment has paid off in spades and looking towards the future, Disney is going all-in with a massive slate of remakes on the docket.
Speaking with Vulture in a fantastic deep-dive interview into Disney’s live-action remake business, president of Motion Picture Production Sean Bailey offered some insight to the approach the studio is taking with two of their most anticipated projects — Guy Ritchie‘s Aladdin and Niki Caro‘s Mulan.
Thus far, the studio’s live-action remakes have varied in tone and faithfulness to the original animated films. Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland and the Angelina Jolie-led Maleficent were fuelled by reinvention while the most recent lot — Kenneth Branagh‘s Cinderella, Jon Favreau‘s Jungle Book, and Bill Condon‘s Beauty and the Beast — have veered toward classicism mindful of the audience’s love and nostalgia for the original films. When it comes to Aladdin, you know a filmmaker like Ritchie is going to bring a heavy dose of his signature style, but per Bailey that style is something new for the company and the right fit for the material.
“Guy became interested in doing a Disney movie and we talked a lot about it. When we talked about Aladdin, he 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.’ Guy’s got his own version of that story in his life. But he wanted to honor and respect the Disney of it all,” Bailey said. “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.”
As for Mulan, unlike Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, the film isn’t currently planned as a musical adaptation, but a bit of a tougher, “fresh take on female empowerment” (that also has some appealing box office potential in the Chinese market).
“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,” he said. (Sources close to production say that, unlike Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast, Mulan is not expected to prominently feature songs, though that could change.)
Mulan is expected to be next up on the live-action remake lineup, with a release date set for November 2, 2018. Favreau is also working on Jungle Book 2 and The Lion King, while Aladdin has just kicked off the casting phase.