Walt Disney Pictures is actively working on a live action project inspired by the collection of Middle Eastern folk tales collectively known as “One Thousand And One Nights or Arabian Nights.” The project will infuse the classic tales with fantasy and sci-fi elements and is being written and executive produced by Arash Amel.
Amel recently wrote the highly rated Disney+ movie “Rise,” which told the real life story of NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as “A Private War,” starring Rosamund Pike as war correspondent Marie Colvin.
This will reportedly be an original take, drawn from the ancient folk tales and reinterpreted in a more modern style. Most importantly, the re-imagined stories will reportedly be from stories OTHER than “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp,” and will not be related to any existing Disney properties such as their “Aladdin” franchise. The collection known as the Arabian Nights offers a variety of different stories all connected by the frame story of Scheherazade telling a king stories that are so fantastical and imaginative each night that he cannot bring himself to kill her. These include well-known stories like “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp,” “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor” (though fans of the Aladdin franchise will note that Ali Baba has also made an appearance in Disney’s canon).
The collection has proved fertile hunting ground for film, tv and video game producers over the years. Among directors to tackle these stories have been George Méliès, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Miguel Gomes. Guy Ritchie most recently revisited “Aladdin” in 2019 with Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, and Will Smith in a new live-action take.
The potential danger of adapting the stories in the Arabian Nights is the potential of recreating Orientalist stereotypes of the Middle East. Many of the translators and folklorists of the 19th century had a very particular image of the Middle East and its people, and these stories were selected, translated, and published because they replicated, reiterated, and reinforced that image. Thankfully, Amel has already proven that he is an accomplished and nuanced writer. Born in Wales and raised in Iran until the Iranian Revolution prompted his family’s return to the UK, Amel’s biographical films have been praised for their complex portrayals of their subjects, while his work as executive producer on the recent Netflix sci-fi action movie “Outside The Wire,” starring Anthony Mackie, shows that he’s able to bring a bit of fun to projects he works on as well.
No release date has yet been announced but be sure to check back for more information as it comes in.
One could also check out George Miller‘s recent “Three Thousand Years of Longing” if this type of theme interests you.