Oscar Watch: Mulan

After its theatrical release was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney’s live-action version of their 1998 animated tale Mulan is set to stream on Disney+ beginning tomorrow for a fee of $30. With a reported budget of around $200 million, this is certainly one of the highest profile features to ever (if ever) hit the PVOD circuit.

Over the past decade, the Mouse Factory has made billions of dollars with this sub genre of bringing their well-known drawn properties to a human scale. And there’s already a history of these pics garnering technical nominations at the Oscars.

The review embargo for Mulan lapsed on the eve of its release and reaction thus far is mostly on the positive side. Niki Caro’s remake is generating praise for its action sequences and overall visuals. Some of the reviews are a bit less kind. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is currently 73%. That’s a marked improvement over last year’s Aladdin (57%) and The Lion King (52%). Yet it falls short of the highs of The Jungle Book (94%) or Cinderella (84%). It’s actually right in range with 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, which scored 71%.

Let’s take that trip down memory lane for Disney’s output in this genre, shall we? In 2010, Alice in Wonderland won both Art Direction (now Production Design) and Costume Design and was nominated for its Visual Effects. 2014’s Maleficent also received a nod for its costuming and that happened a year later with Cinderella. In 2016, The Jungle Book was victorious for its Visual Effects. Beauty and the Beast received nominations the next year for Production Design and its costumes. Christopher Robin got a Visual Effects nod in 2019. And last year, The Lion King picked up a Visual Effects mention while Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was nominated for Makeup and Hairstyling.

You’ll notice that none of these pictures landed attention in the major categories and I don’t expect that Mulan will change that. When it comes to down the line nominations, I do expect this will contend in Production Design and Costume Design especially. Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling are also possibilities and maybe even Cinematography. And there’s also the matter of Best Original Song. Christina Aguilera, who sang the track “Reflection” over the end credits 22 years ago, has composed some original works here. She recently put out the single “Loyal Brave True” and it certainly could contend.

Bottom line: Mulan is unlikely to be the first live-action Disney remake to compete for the big prizes, but it should carry on the tradition of its technical achievements being noticed. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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