Disney has been hard at work on reinventing a slew of its animated classics as live-action features for modern audiences, finding massive success with Cinderella, The Jungle Book and most recently Beauty and the Beast. One of the studio's most anticipated projects as part of this new slate is Mulan, directed by Niki Caro (The Zookeeper's Wife, McFarland, USA). Originally scheduled to open in November of 2018, the mystical adventure was pushed back to an unspecified 2019 date.

Things went quiet after the announcement, and the project has been shrouded in mystery ever since, leading fans to wonder when we'd hear more about it. Fortunately, the live-action adventure is picking up steam once again, because some pretty exciting news have come our way...

Disney Has Finally Found Its Mulan: Liu Yifei

'The Forbidden Kingdom' [Credit: Casey Silver Productions]
'The Forbidden Kingdom' [Credit: Casey Silver Productions]

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney conducted an exhaustive search for the part of Mulan, looking for an actress who was proficient in martial arts, English and had star quality. After a year of auditions that spanned five continents and approximately 1,000 candidates, the House of the Mouse chose Chinese actress Liu Yifei (also known as Crystal Liu) to play the warrior.

Yifei may not be a household name (yet), but she has an impressive resumé under her belt. The actress gained fame acting in several Chinese TV series, most notably 2003's The Story of a Noble Family and Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. Eventually, Yifei transitioned to film, and worked on projects like The Chinese Widow and Outcast, in which she starred alongside Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen.

As if that weren't impressive enough, she's also worked as a brand ambassador for Pantene, Dior and Garnier. Seeing how thorough the casting process was and her constant praise as an actress, I can't wait to see what she does with the role.

[Credit: Disney]
[Credit: Disney]

A Brand New Take On Mulan

With an actress in place to portray the beloved warrior, I thought it was appropriate to give a little rundown of what we know so far about Mulan. First of all, the film is expected to be a blend between its animated counterpart and the original Hua Mulan legend. Similar to Disney's 1998 classic, the movie will have our titular character being forced to disguise herself as a man and join the army to prevent her aging father from fighting in the impending Hun invasion.

One of the biggest changes to the story will be Mulan's love interest. In the animated film, our protagonist fell in love with her trainer, Captain Li Shang, but he won't be part of this new iteration. As a casting call revealed back in 2016, her new love interest will be an entirely different character named Chen Honghui, a fellow solider with great ambitions:

Honghui is another recruit who joins Commander Tung's unit, and he’s determined to be the best soldier in human history. Full of himself, with a mean, bullying streak to him, he quickly realizes that Mulan is his chief rival, but he does not realize that she is a woman. Grittily determined to be simply the best at everything, Honghui is increasingly peeved by Mulan’s ability to match or out-maneuver him. But after learning that his rival is a woman, his intense feelings of rivalry turn into something very different, something like love.

These deviations from the animated story may worry longtime fans, but they shouldn't really be cause for concern. Looking at Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, Disney knows how to inject its adaptations with a new flavor while keeping the elements that made their predecessors so beloved in the first place. Given that track record, I'm confident that Mulan will be yet another hit for the studio.

While Disney hasn't specified when in 2019 Mulan will hit theaters, so we'll have to wait a little for more information. In the meantime, check out the original Mulan trailer to soak up in nostalgia and get ready for the live-action adaptation:

[Source: The Hollywood Reporter]