Disney is officially pushing back its release schedule for Mulan and two of its biggest franchises: Star Wars and Avatar. Meanwhile at Universal, Top Gun: Maverick and A Quiet Place Part II have been delayed from 2020 to new release dates next year.
Originally scheduled for a theatrical release on August 21, Mulan has now been removed from the release calendar. This leaves audiences to speculate whether Mulan will now come out in 2021, or if Disney plans to release it overseas before it arrives in the U.S.; a likely solution for Tenet. There are rumors that the next animated Disney/Pixar movie, Soul, may come out on Disney+ instead, but this is unlikely to happen with live-action tentpole movies like Mulan.
The original plan was to release the Avatar sequels and new Star Wars movies on alternating Decembers, starting in 2021 with Avatar 2. That entire schedule has been pushed back one year, with Avatar director James Cameron posting a letter explaining how the coronavirus interrupted their filming schedule. (Please note the infamous Papyrus font when he uses Na’vi words; Cameron is nothing if not dedicated to branding.)
Avatar’s repeated delays have now become a running joke, accentuated by the four sequels’ $1 billion combined production budget, for a franchise with far less cultural footprint than Star Wars or Marvel. Avatar 2 and 3 started filming in 2017, featuring a star-studded cast and a characteristically ambitious amount of special effects and stunt sequences. But as Cameron explains in his letter, the coronavirus safety measures are a particular issue for movies that require a lot of indoor greenscreen filming.
The one-year delay may end up being a boon for the Star Wars franchise since there’s a lot of uncertainty about the creative direction of future movies after the Skywalker saga. This gives the studio more time to figure out what comes next. However, the reverse seems true for Avatar, whose release dates have now been delayed over and over again, and whose creative process can only be described as a marathon. As it stands, the fifth and final movie is now scheduled for 2028, when James Cameron will be 74 years old.