In an unexpected turn of events, Disney is steering its plans for the 1991 classic “The Rocketeer” into uncharted territory. Insider sources have revealed that the original reboot project, “The Return of the Rocketeer,” is undergoing a complete overhaul, featuring a groundbreaking change: the lead role, initially intended for a Black male character, will now be portrayed by a Black woman.
As reported by Deadline in August 2021, “The Return of the Rocketeer” was initially in development under the stewardship of David Oyelowo and his wife Jessica, serving as producers. The lead role, once eyed by David Oyelowo, was set to deviate from the original stunt pilot character Cliff Secord and instead focus on a retired Tuskegee airman. The script was penned by Edward Ricourt, with J.D. Dillard signing on as the director.
However, exclusive insider information has unveiled that Disney is charting a new course for “The Rocketeer.” The forthcoming reboot will spotlight a Black female protagonist, marking a significant departure from the original concept. Moreover, the storyline will shift its backdrop from World War II to the era of the Cold War.
Sources intimate that the initial blueprint for “The Return of the Rocketeer” has been discarded altogether. Azia Squire, who had been attached to the project before Edward Ricourt’s involvement, will now be taking the reins to script the revamped reboot. The central character will be a Black female pilot, embarking on a mission to thwart an evil rocket scientist’s plot to abscond with jetpack technology during a pivotal juncture in the Cold War.
The motivations propelling Disney’s decision to pivot the direction of “The Rocketeer” reboot remain somewhat shrouded in mystery. One plausible factor could be the departure of J.D. Dillard from the project. In the past year, Dillard made headlines by stepping away from both “The Return of the Rocketeer” and a Star Wars pilot-centric endeavor, citing a desire to explore filmmaking beyond the realm of period aviation.
Further influencing Disney’s recalibration could be the ever-evolving strategies in the realm of streaming. Initially tailored for Disney+, “The Return of the Rocketeer” might have encountered reevaluation due to shifting dynamics in the budgets for original content across various streaming platforms. This shift could indicate Disney’s intent to reserve a distinctive cinematic spectacle for traditional theatrical releases instead of exclusive streaming unveilings.
“The Rocketeer” originated from a comic book character of the same name, drawing inspiration from the heroes that attained popularity during 1930s serials. The 1991 cinematic adaptation, helmed by director Joe Johnston, featured Billy Campbell in the role of the titular hero. Interestingly, Johnston later embarked on directing “Captain America: The First Avenger,” continuing his journey of bringing iconic heroes from bygone eras to the big screen.
This innovative reimagining is not the first instance of “The Rocketeer” embracing change. In 2019, Disney Junior introduced “The Rocketeer” animated TV series, introducing Kit Secord (Kitana Turnbull), the great-granddaughter of the original jetpack-wielding hero. Although the animated series faced premature cancellation after a single season, its legacy lives on through streaming availability on Disney+.
With the upcoming Rocketeer reboot, Disney is boldly embracing change, propelling diverse storytelling to the forefront while redefining cinematic heroes in unprecedented ways.