Disney has been rewriting both its history (“Saving Mr. Banks”) and its own movies (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Maleficent,” “Cinderella”).
As Big Mouse continues to raid its vault for future projects, it apparently plans to do so via female writing talent, albeit from the same small pool. After proving herself capable of penning another blockbuster by adapting “50 Shades of Grey,” Marcel is now attached to write “Cruella,” a live-action take on the fur-loving villainess of “101 Dalmatians.” Woolverton, too, has been working on the “Wonderland” sequel “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” which will fall into theaters next year.
A live-action “Mulan” is being developed by screenwriters Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek, while elsewhere at the studio, “Frozen” writer and co-director Jennifer Lee is adapting Madeleine L’Engle’s children’s novel “A Wrinkle in Time.” As producers, Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea will likely have a strong hand in bringing “Tink,” with Tinker Bell in the spotlight, to the big screen.
It’s great that so many prominent women writers are being asked to take a first stab at these female-centric projects (though sorely lacking from this list is the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast,” starring Emma Watson). But it’s also a reflection of the studio’s commitment to looking backward that no woman of color is represented among these writing ranks, nor any female directors attached to these projects.
Yes, some of these films are in the early stages of development and have no filmmaker at all attached. But it’s still galling that not one of the live-action adaptations that have already been made or have a helmer committed to the production feature a female filmmaker, especially for a studio built on the dreams and wishes of girls and women.
In 1938, Walt Disney wrote to a young woman who hoped to work at his studio, “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men.” Disney has come far since then, but with only 7.4% of its features directed by women from 2009 to 2013, it hasn’t come far enough.