As it became clear that Disney was on track to remake all of its animated classics into live-action features, folks began wondering if and how the studio would attempt to tackle some of its non-white films like Aladdin and Mulan. We learned yesterday that director Guy Ritchie will be bringing the Arab-centric Aladdin to the screen, and Mulan—based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan—landed a 2018 release date last week. However, some potentially troubling news regarding Mulan surfaced yesterday as a script made the rounds that would see a “White Knight” taking the lead of the story, maligning the heroic Chinese female character to a co-lead role.
A full rundown of the spec script for The Legend of Mulan appeared on a blog, detailing how a thirtysomething European trader falls for Mulan and decides to help the Chinese Imperial Army to win her love. Something about this script felt…off. Disney has certainly been oblivious before, but would they be this dull in 2016? As it turns out, probably not.
Per Vulture, this spec script by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin was only ever purchased by Disney as a “jumping off point”, and the studio has now enlisted Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World scribes Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver to work on the script. A source close to the film provided Vulture with a statement that should qualm fears of whitewashing:
“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 of the primary roles, including the love interest, are Chinese.”
So, if this source is to be believed—and if Disney is not incredibly stupid—the entire main cast of Mulan will be made up of Chinese actors. When the release date was announced, we learned that the studio was fast-tracking the film while launching a global casting search to find the movie’s titular heroine, so again it makes little sense that Disney would be going to such lengths only to undermine them by setting Mulan up with some pasty British dude.
Ming Na-Wen voiced Mulan in the 1998 animated film, which was a global success and spawned a straight-to-video franchise for Disney. The story of a young girl who masquerades as a man so she can fight with the Chinese army has the potential to really resonate with today’s audiences (U.S. women were only just allowed in combat), and Disney’s track record thus far of Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon is a streak of extremely well done films each with a distinct, director-driven personality.
Aside from casting, it’ll be very interesting to see who Disney sets to helm this potential blockbuster. With a November 2, 2018 release date set, we should hear news on this front sooner rather than later.