'The Lion King' and 'Mulan' Present Two Very Different Visions for Disney Remakes…and One of Them is Far More Exciting

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Mulan looks like the better approach for future Disney live-action remakes.)

I spend a lot of time going to bat for reboots, remakes, and relaunches. When done well, they bring a whole new wave of excited viewers to a property. They’re also pretty critical for keeping franchises alive. Yeah, we all have that purist friend who looks down their nose at anything that’s even close to a spin on something they loved growing up, but they’re super gatekeepy and we all avoid talking to them for a reason. Folks like that also get to enjoy all of the things that a new wave of fans help provide, like new merch, conversations, and renewed interest from old fans. 

But what happens when the idea of a remake gets a little too literal? In the first trailer, Disney elected to do almost shot-for-shot remake of a key scene The Lion King. Now, it’s easy to see what they were going for. The original film is universally beloved and considered pretty close to perfect by a lot of fans. Don’t mess with perfection, right? Thing is, you probably just shouldn’t bother remaking the movie if that’s going to be the case. Heck, just re-release the original as a cinematic event and save yourself a few boatloads of cash! 

The Lion King certainly isn’t Disney’s first live action remake. Several others preceded it to varying degrees of success, but it’s definitely the first one to lean so hard into remaining true to the original. The thing is, it doesn’t really seem like that’s working out in its favor. 

Take the first Mulan trailer, for instance. It, too, is joining the live action game, but with something mostly original. When the film was first announced, it came with the caveat that there’d be no Mushu, and it wouldn’t be a musical like its predecessor. Now, whether you’re into that idea or you’re super bummed that we won’t be getting down to business (To defeat the Huns! Get your head out of the gutter! This is a children’s film!), the fact remains that Disney brought a pretty bomb first trailer.

That first trailer shifted the conversation from annoyance over the change in tone to a general hype surrounding the film. Sure, I’ll miss Mushu and Crickey, and believe that everything should be a musical, but if the new Mulan turns out to be what the trailer’s selling, then there’s not a doubt in my mind that this retelling will be incredible. 

Trailers have one job: get folks hyped for a movie. Obviously, Disney thought that the spectacle of Pride Rock would be enough to get the job done. Now that the film is in theaters, the conversation seems to entirely center on how it’s too similar to the original film. Meanwhile, you’ve got Mulan out here taking risks and getting people amped to take down some Huns! 

Hollywood’s rough. Original ideas get squashed every day, while more of the same makes it to the big screen over and over again. But if there’s any studio that can and should take risks, it’s Disney. The overall takeaway here is that no, there’s nothing wrong with The Lion King (2019). It’s pretty, it’s got some new jokes, and outside of that it’s exactly what you’re expecting. If that’s enough to get you out to a theater, you’ll probably have plenty of fun.

You could also stay on your couch and pop in you’re The Lion King blu and get the same story. Movies are expensive, y’all. Whether it’s your job to watch a lot of them, or you’ve got a whole family you’ve got to get through the door, those dollars add up. For my money, I’d rather watch a brand new take on an incomparable badass. For my money, Mulan looks like the better direction for future Disney live-action films.

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