With Mulan moving to 2020, we look at the full slate of upcoming fairytale movies from Disney and otherwise!
You’ve probably noticed the avalanche of live-action fairytales gracing cinemas over the last decade. And guess what? That is not about to stop any time soon since re-spinning a recognizable, fantastical yarn with human actors instead of animated ones always makes big money for the Mouse House. This process has become so popular that there are currently more of these live-action fairy tales in production than Marvel Studios, DC Entertainment or Star Wars movies. That’s a lot of films. And one of the most anticipated, Disney and Niki Caro’s remake of Mulan with Chinese film star Liu Yifei, moving to 2020, we thought it was time to breakdown all of the release dates!
Now that Beauty and the Beast has smashed box office records, you can expect this lot to reach your local multiplex next…
Mowgli – October 19, 2018
Look, another Jungle Book movie! This one’s a Warner Bros. adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s beloved 1894 story collection with a screenplay by newcomer Callie Cloves. But the most eye-catching behind-the-scenes aspect is likely that Andy Serkis is directing (building on his experience as the second unit director on the Hobbit films), as well as voice and motion-capture performing Baloo.
Mowgli is played here by Rohan Chand, who’s previously appeared in Jack and Jill, while Benedict Cumberbatch is Shere Khan, Christian Bale is Bagheera, Cate Blanchett is Kaa, and Namoie Harris is Raksha. The movie has already completed post-production, but was likely partially moved to 2018 in order to distance itself from the 2016 smash hit version of the tale from Disney and Jon Favreau.
Mary Poppins Returns – December 25, 2018
As a direct sequel to Walt Disney Robert Stevenson’s classic Disney picture, this film will pick up with Mary Poppins 20 years later in Depression-era London, adapting elements from the later instalments of P.L. Travers’ book series along the way. Rob Marshall of Chicago, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Into The Woods is directing. Emily Blunt is playing Mary Poppins in the picture.
Admittedly, Blunt is a pretty perfect choice to pick up the flying umbrella, however the shadow of Julie Andrews will likely be hard to shake. Still, she will have some help with new supporting characters to interact with, including Meryl Streep (who like Blunt, also sang for Marshall in Into the Woods) as Topsy and Colin Firth as William Weatherall Wilkins. Also, Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer will be playing the Banks children all grown-up.
Yet, the casting that will likely most please fans of a certain demographic will be Lin-Manuel Miranda taking on a character simply known as “Jack.” While he is obviously not playing Dick Van Dyke’s Bert, the writer and star of Hamilton is obviously poised to be a scene-stealing supporting character.
Dumbo – March 29, 2019
Disney has snapped up Tim Burton for another live-action fairy tale. The Alice in Wonderland director is attached to helm a retelling of Dumbo, presumably based around a flying CGI elephant. Ehren Kruger, a veteran of the Transformers and Scream franchises, provided on the screenplay, and current Burton muse Eva Green is confirmed to have a starring role, as is frequent Burton stalwart Danny DeVito. Will Smith was also even oferred a role in the picture, which he turned down. However, the picture has added Colin Farrell and Michael Keaton (Batman reunion!), and is rapidly approaching.
Aladdin – May 24, 2019
Guy Ritchie’s long incubating reimagining of Aladdin is apparently gaining major traction at the Mouse House. Previously, Ritchie–who famously ‘rethought’ Sherlock Holmes as a Robert Downey Jr. action movie and is offering similar services to King Arthur later this year–had circled this project in hopes of creating a nontraditional take on the material. Given the amazing box office for 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, it is likely this and other Disney Renaissance remakes will only be gaining traction.
In that vein, Aladdin is moving ahead with casting, with unknown Mena Massoud as the titular “street rat,” Power Rangers’ Naomi Scott as Jasmin, and movie star Will Smith as the all-powerful Genie. We love ya’, Will, but good luck filling Robin Williams’ shoes. Also if you think this is going to be just a run-of-the-mill remake, Disney is at least indicating it will be marketed differently. Sean Bailey, president of motion picture production at Walt Disney Studios, illuminated to Vulture how a Ritchie version of the 1992 classic would look like.
“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… The idea of a highly energized Guy Ritchie Disney musical felt like, Oh, we haven’t done that before.”
The Lion King – July 19, 2019
Jon Favreau is the man charged with bringing to life a presumably photorealistic take on Disney’s biggest ever hand-drawn animated movie, The Lion King. The remake was fast-tracked at Disney after the overwhelming success of the talking CG-animals in Favreau’s 2016 hit remake, The Jungle Book. However, at least even that had a human Mowgli. It remains to be seen what humanity there is in a Lion King redo with just a different type of animation (which was never intended for the story crafted in 1995).
Although, Favreau is also juggling The Jungle Book 2 for the studio this became the obvious priority, especially beginning with its first wave of intriguing casting that included Donald Glover (Community, Atlanta, Solo) has been cast as the voice of Simba. Further, James Earl Jones will be reprising his majestic performance as Mufasa. Then came the rest of the cast, which includes Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Afre Woodard as Sarabi, Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari, John Oliver as Zazu, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as Timon, and Beyoncé as Nala. You might have heard of the last one?
Jeff Nathanson (Rush Hour 3, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) is providing the screenplay.
Mulan – March 27, 2020
Here is one that has been moved several times, as it is. Originally slated for Nov. 2, 2018, it looks like it will have its final release date on March 27, 2020. We don’t expect it to move again by simple virtue that it actually now as a director and lead, and we imagine should come together gracefully at this point.
Disney first bought a live-action Mulan script from screenwriters Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek (that’s been subsequently rewritten by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa), which is set to again bring the Chinese ‘Hua Mulan’ legend of a female warrior to the big screen. More intriguingly, the movie is also going to be directed by Whale Rider and The Zookeeper’s Wife‘s Niki Caro. The directorr also promised to ScreenCrush the movie would be a “muscular piece of girly martial arts extravaganza in China.” And it found its lead in Chinese cinema star Liu Yifei, who has been described as the “Fairy’s Sister” in her native land’s press due to her angelic features.
It should be noted that Martin and Hynek’s original script came under fire when an anonymous blog alleged that the film had a white character (a merchant) as Mulan’s love interest, who ends up fighting the villains for her as the hero in the third act. However, Disney has since announced that this script was a jumping off point, and all “primary characters,” including the love interest, will be Chinese.
John August (Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) has taken on the script writing duties.
Cruella – At Least 2020
Following in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie in Maleficent, Emma Stone is going to have her own fiendish turn, as she steps into the spotted fur coat with Cruella DeVille. Disney confirmed as much in April 2016 when it was revealed the Oscar nominated Stone (Birdman, La La Land) had nabbed the role of a character previously played in live-action by Glenn Close. However, given the title change from 101 Dalmations, it is highly likely that this will be a revisionist tale that pities the villainess and rewrites her transgressions as one of misguided heroism (again like Maleficent), as opposed to the puppy-stealing monster from the original animated film
Aline Brosh McKenna of The Devil Wears Prada vintage is on scripting duties, along with Jez Butterworth, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis. Mozart in the Jungle creator Alex Timbers is also purported to make his directorial debut on the project.
There are of course many other live-action fairy tales in development that haven’t announced release dates just yet. Details on these ones are a little scarce, but here’s everything we’ve heard about them so far.
The Little Mermaid (Not Disney)
Working Title and Universal are developing their own live-action take on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. A release date has yet to be announced, but this one has been long in production with a screenplay by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and first Sofia Coppola and then Rebecca Thomas attached to direct.
Chloe Grace Moretz was announced in November 2015 to play the eponymous fishy siren (note: she is not Ariel, who as a name and redheaded visage is copyrighted by Disney). But Moretz has since left the project. And it remains unclear if the movie is still in development.
The Little Mermaid (Disney, This Time)
While it is a bit a mystery whether we might just see the Universal version of this story or not, Disney is seizing on the ambiguity to adapt to live-action the film that kicked of the Disney Renaissance. Before the original The Little Mermaid, Walt Disney Animation Studios was still struggling to find its voice 20 years on from the death of Walt himself, and afterward, the animated fairy tales took on a decidedly grandiose, Broadway style that led to a rejuvenation of talent.
Now, Disney is eying the opportunity of going Under the Sea with Ariel, their copyrighted, auburn-haired mermaid. While currently neither a director or even a writer are attached, Disney has still made this a priority by tapping Marc Platt (Into the Woods, La La Land) to produce the picture, as well as hiring Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda to write new songs for the picture. These will presumably complement the 1989 movie’s original songs, which Menken co-wrote with Howard Ashman, winning them an Oscar for “Under the Sea.” And Miranda, again, has plenty of sudden pop culture clout thanks to masterminding Hamilton.
At long last, we might just get that Enchanted sequel, which seemed like such a sure-thing all the way back in 2007! This would be a follow-up to Disney’s delightful self-satirical farce about animated fairy tale characters making the jump to the big screen. It is the movie that made Amy Adams a star, and she has patiently championed for another turn as Giselle, the princess-to-be who opted instead to become a presumably great stepmother in 21st century New York.
Adam Shankman (Hairspray) is now directing, and there have been multiple screenplay drafts by Jessie Nelson, J. David Stem, and David N. Weiss. Yet, not much else is yet known about the project, although it’s rumored to include James Marsden as Adams’ formerly animated suitor, Prince Edward, and Patrick Dempsey as Robert Philip, the man Giselle ended up marrying in the magical land of… Manhattan.
The Jungle Book 2
Speaking of Favreau, he is slated to also return to Disney for The Jungle Book 2. Indeed, that movie, which also has screenwriter Justin Marks hired to reprise his work, would continue the story of Mowgli and all the lovable characters from the 2016 film. However, as The Lion King appears on the outside to be the priority for Disney, it makes this film’s prospects a bit ambiguous since Neel Sethi can presumably only play Mowgli for so long.
Two movies based on or around Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs are now in development at Disney. The first, Rose Red, has been around for a while, and it’s a spin-off that follows the story of Snow White’s sister. The second is a straight live action retelling of the Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs story from what we can tell. Erin Cressida Wilson (who wrote the script to The Girl on the Train) is working on the latter, but no director has been attached to either.
Either way, Disney seems to be quietly trying to make amends for blowing a sure-thing with Mirror, Mirror a high-concept reimagining of the Snow White tale that only took sparingly from the original 1937 Disney movie while feeding into more of Tarsem Singh’s passions than that of those who wanted a nostalgia-filled remake. That movie, despite opening first, was overshadowed by Universal’s Lord of the Rings-ified Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012. But then that too underperformed in 2012 when Universal attempted a sequel without actually having Snow White in it.
Angelina Jolie could still star in this follow-up to Maleficent, her villain-justifying Sleeping Beauty adaptation from 2014. The film is being written, like its predecessor, by longtime Disney stalwart, Linda Woolverton. Currently the studio is courting Jolie, who has become very selective of her Hollywood output as of late. But the movie remains a priority for Disney if they can get the movie star to commit. If Jolie returns, the movie is also expected to see the return of Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and Brenton Thwaites as Prince Philip.
Mulan (Not Disney)
But if you are looking for another Mulan movie that supposedly hews closer to Chinese history, Sony is develping their own version of the tale, which has nothing to do with singing dragons. This version was revealed to be co-financed by ex-Sony executive, Doug Belgrad. Apparently, Sony is eying doing this in China with an all-Chinese cast.
Oz The Great And Powerful 2
Oz The Great And Powerful was a decent success for Disney in 2013 when global box office all accounted for. Hence, there’s still work on a sequel at the moment (although little has been heard for some time), with screenwriter Mitchell Kapner and producer Joe Roth both returning. Sam Raimi doesn’t look likely to join them. The plot, if the film is ever made, will apparently not feature Dorothy Gale. Instead, it will tell another story in the period before her arrival in Oz.
Pinocchio (Not Disney)
Robert Downey Jr. is producing and starring in a live-action Pinocchio, heralding from Warner Bros. and his own company, Team Downey. He’ll play Geppetto, and some reports have suggested that he might even provide the voice for a CGI Pinocchio, too. The film has had various incarnations as a screenplay over the years, including with drafts turned in by Jane Goldman (Kingsmen: The Secret Service), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), and Michael Mitnick (The Giver).
Most recently, Ron Howard (Inferno, A Beautiful Mind) has signed on to direct the picture.
Pinocchio (Disney, This Time)
But just so you know, yes, Disney has their own adaptation of Pinocchio in production, albeit who knows when we will see it. This one currently only has a screenwriter attached, Pete Hedges, best known for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy, and Dan in Real Life.
Given the decent success of Cinderella, it’s not too surprising that Disney is looking at ways to tell other stories in that film’s world. Thus when Matt Fogel wrote a comedic script about Prince Charming and his underachieving brother, Disney bought the piece and has put it into production. It is unclear yet whether Richard Madden will actually play this verison of PRince Charming, or if we’re in for a whole new prince with dazzling white teeth.
The Sword in the Stone
This one could be a franchise-launcher if all goes well since The Sword in the Stone was the first novel of T.H. White’s four-part The Once and Future King series. The film comes from Disney, and marks another of their live-action dusting-offs of beloved animated films. Bryan Cogman – one of Game of Thrones’ writers and producers – is working on a script, suggesting that this take could be a little darker and more grown up than the 1963 classic.
No word has been heard on this one for a while, though…
Dinsey’s Tinker Bell
Not content with their animated straight-to-DVD Tinker Bell series, Disney is also producing a live action cinematic spectacular for the Peter Pan’s fairy pal. It’s called Tink Bell, and Reese Witherspoon is attached to star. Victoria Strouse – who’s recently worked on Finding Dory – is scripting it after previous drafts by Marti Noxon and Elizabeth Shaprio.
Fox’s Tinker Bell
And another! Fox are working on a Tinker Bell movie too, although it’s less clear if this one will be live-action. Shawn Levy has been hired to direct. He blended live action with CGI in Night at the Museum and seems likely to repeat the trick here. Melissa McCarthy will star in the title role, and the film has been described as a comedy-adventure.
There hasn’t been any visible movement on this film since 2014, and with Disney and Reese Witherspoon throwing their hat into the ring, perhaps this project has faded into development oblivion.
Winnie The Pooh
Winnie the Pooh is getting a live action movie too. There’s no date announced yet, but we can tell you that Alex Ross Perry – the writer-director behind the comedic drama Listen Up Phillip – has signed up to helm the film for Disney. We’d assume that Winnie will be rendered into physical environments using CGI, like the Paddington movie, unless Disney has been cooking up anthropometric teddy bears in a lab.
However, the picture is expected to be about Christopher Robin as an adult. Perhaps, he’ll wonder why he talked to teddy bears as a child who were obssessed with honey?
We’ll update this article with more information on these movies as we hear it.