mulan chinese audiences

I’ll admit I didn’t know much of the original Ballad of Mulan when I set foot on the set of Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan two years ago. Like many others, I had grown up watching Disney’s animated Mulan thinking of the heroine as a feminist icon (though one typical of the ’90s version of the concept): she was a tomboy, she was an outsider, she was too rambunctious, too independent. But most importantly, Mulan was the lone Disney princess who looked a little like me. Though I didn’t share her cultural identity, it meant something to a 6-year-old Asian American — and thousands of other Asian-Americans — who had never seen herself represented on the big screen.

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There are many elements that seem to set Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan apart from other Disney remakes, but two of them stand out the most: it’s not a musical, and it doesn’t feature any of the wacky sidekicks that made the 1998 animated film so beloved.

While the live-action remake directed by Niki Caro seems to take the serious war epic approach to the story of Fa Mulan, the Chinese folk hero and Disney heroine, producer Jason Reed teased to /Film during a visit to the set of Mulan that some of the elements of the beloved 1998 animated film will make their way into the film. You might just have to go on the hunt for them.

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How ‘Mulan’ Approaches Its LGBTQ Romance [Set Visit]

mulan lgbt

Disney has been championing more progressive diversity representation in their films in recent years, but have tread lightly when it comes to LGBTQ elements making their way into international releases. So that makes the live-action remake of Mulan a bit of a conundrum.

In the original 1998 animated film, the central romance was between Mulan, disguising herself as a man, and her commanding officer Li Shang, who was implied to be attracted to Mulan despite thinking her to be a man. That dynamic turned Shang into “sort of an LGBTQ icon,” producer Jason Reed acknowledged to /Film on the set of Niki Caro‘s Mulan. But while Disney has withheld LGBTQ elements from releases in China before, Reed assures that the romance will “play the same way as it does in the animated [film].”

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mulan love interest

It was a question heard around the world when the casting for Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan came out: Where is Shang? The commanding officer and romantic interest of the 1998 Mulan provided an unexpected LGBTQ element to the film (as well as many a sexual awakening for a young moviegoer). But the hunky character’s name was nowhere to be seen in the cast list. Would Disney be doing away with the pseudo-homoerotic romance that made the animated Mulan feel so groundbreaking? Not quite.

Worry not: the live-action Mulan will still have a strong central romance, but Liu Yifei‘s Mulan will instead be flirting with a fellow conscript instead of her commanding officer. In the live-action remake, Li Shang has been split into two characters: Donnie Yen‘s Commander Tung and Yoson An‘s soldier Chen Honghui. The change stems from the Me Too movement currently overtaking Hollwood.

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mulan hair

It was an iconic scene in Walt Disney Animation’s 1998 film Mulan: in despair that her injured father was going to be sent off to likely die in war, Mulan weeps underneath a giant stone dragon statue, uncaring that she’s caught in a downpour. Suddenly, as Jerry Goldsmith‘s intense score swells to a crescendo, Mulan looks up with a steely resolve. The montage is epic and frightful, Mulan heading first to her ancestral shrine to light an incense stick then to her sleeping parents’ room to leave her comb. Then she descends on her father’s armory, unsheathing his sword and — flinching for a second — using it to cut her long hair.

It’s a strong, impactful scene that is still remembered today as a formative feminist moment for audiences who grew up watching it. But it’s nowhere to be seen in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Mulan. Read More »

Walt Disney and Disneyland tv series

Agent Carter Showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters have sold an hour-long dramatic television series pitch to Disney-owned network ABC, that is “based on the Disney theme park mythology.” As a Disneyland fanatic, this excites me, even though I can’t quite comprehend what this even means.

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