If there was any suspicion that moviegoers might not embrace Disney’s new penchant for live action remakes of its past animated favorites, Beauty and the Beast‘s monster opening weekend put them to rest. With moviegoers under the spell of Bill Condon‘s new version of the 1991 animated classic, the studio is moving full steam ahead on matching up top filmmakers with other hits from the Disney Vault. Tim Burton is working on Dumbo, Jon Favreau is switching animal kingdoms from The Jungle Book to The Lion King, and now Niki Caro confirmed to Yahoo Movies previous reports that she’s going to be the director putting the mythical Chinese warrior, Mulan, through her paces.
“That’s locked and loaded,” Caro remarks of her involvement with the live action Mulan, which is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on Nov. 2, 2018 — 20 years after the title character’s animated adventure became a summer 1998 blockbuster. The original film featured Ming-Na Wen as the voice of Mulan, while Eddie Murphy played her wisecracking dragon sidekick, Mushu. And while Caro’s film is still in the casting process, she has a strong vision for what she wants her new Mulan to be. “My intention is for it to stand alongside these amazing reboots of classic animations like Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella,” she says. “The princess movies have a new relevance, and of all the princesses, Mulan is the best one. She’s kick-ass, and I love her.”
To understand Caro’s affection for the female soldier known as Hua Mulan in Chinese lore, Caro says you only have to look at her filmography. The New Zealand-born filmmaker has a demonstrated passion for telling stories about women who defy the conventions and expectations of their respective eras and cultures. That theme underlines her breakout 2002 feature, Whale Rider, as well as 2005’s North Country, starring Charlize Theron as a mine worker who launches a successful legal campaign to challenge the endemic sexual harassment at her company. (The film was inspired by a true story, but fictionalized certain elements.) It’s also very much part of Caro’s latest film, The Zookeeper’s Wife, starring Jessica Chastain as Antonina Żabiński, who operated Poland’s Warsaw Zoo during World War II and hid numerous Jews on its grounds out of sight of Nazi soldiers.
Each of those films also highlight Caro’s willingness to travel the world in search of great stories: North Country took her to Minnesota’s mining country, while The Zookeeper’s Wife re-created World War II-era Poland in the Czech Republic. For Mulan, she hopes to shoot as much of the film as possible on location in China. “Nothing is as good as a real landscape, and China has extraordinary landscapes. I’m really looking forward to that, but to also bring visual effects and magic to that [landscape] makes it a great challenge. It will allow me to flex my filmmaking muscles on a much bigger scale. I’m sure it will be a great joy.”
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