Disney has had a lot of success with its live-action remakes of its animated features, and things are looking good for its upcoming adaptation of Mulan (not to be confused with the live-action version Sony is doing). According to THR, the studio has hired Whale Rider helmer Niki Caro to direct the film based on the popular 1998 animated featured. Caro previously worked with Disney on the sports drama McFarlane, USA, and she was on the short list to direct Captain Marvel for the studio. However, now that she’s on Mulan, that likely takes her out of the running for Captain Marvel.
But Mulan is nothing to scoff at. This will be the second film with a budget of over $100 million entrusted to a female director by Disney (the studio previously gave Ava DuVernay a similarly massive budget for her adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time). If you look at the animated feature and Disney’s other live-action adaptations, Mulan is certainly going to need that massive budget when you consider the cost of the period setting and the massive battle sequences.
While there are some who may be upset that this Chinese tale isn’t being helmed by a Chinese director, the studio did reach out to Ang Lee and Jiang Wen, but both passed on the project. However, Disney wants to make culturally sensitive with regards to the project, and “is bringing on Hong Kong-based super-producer Bill Kong as executive producer. Kong produced the most successful Chinese films to cross over – Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which he received an Oscar nomination – as well as many of China’s biggest hits, including Monster Hunt, Wolf Totem and Journey to the West.”
Additionally, while there were rumors that the film would have a white male lead, Disney is making sure that all of the primary characters are Chinese. The studio is focusing its search in mainland China for the main roles, and China has no shortage of talented and internationally bankable stars.
As for Caro, she’s definitely earned this, and I’m excited to see what she does with the material. I’m also glad that Disney continues to lead the way with giving female directors big budget features, and I hope that other studios will start to follow suit.