Die-hard Disney animated movie fans were vocally upset by the lack of classic Mulan songs, character changes, and one clear character omission.
Early on, Disney confirmed the character Mushu, Mulan’s wisecracking sidekick dragon, would not appear in the live-action remake. Though Western fans were wildly disappointed, fans in China were pleased with Disney cutting the sidekick.
Sixth Tone (a Shanghai United Media Group publication) reported one Weibo user – think Chinese Twitter – was baffled by Western fans’ obsession with Mushu and the Disney songs.
The user said that, conversely, Chinese audiences “care about whether Hua Mulan looks charming and whether the film accurately reflects Chinese culture and Mulan’s perseverance.”
The legend of Hua Mulan is well known and revered in China. The story follows a similar one to the Disney animated movie: a young woman disguises herself as a man in place of her father to defend her home against the invading Huns.
Though there is no talking dragon in the legend, Disney fans have grown to love the character. But in China, moviegoers are more concerned with historical accuracy and due respect to the legend. (Even the name “Mushu” is problematic – it’s a popular Chinese-American takeaway dish. Way to reflect the breadth and depth of Chinese culture, guys.)
One Weibo user wrote: “This is the real Hua Mulan!! … After seeing faces obscured by beauty filters for so many years, I thought I could only accept perfect looks. But after watching the trailer, I was reminded that Mulan is going to war like men; it’s only right she doesn’t wear makeup.”
Of course, this is Disney – a major Western studio – adapting a Chinese story for a global audience. Poetic license was taken. In particular, Chinese audiences were quick to spot geographical and chronological inconsistencies and errors.
Another Weibo user pointed out the anachronistic home in which Mulan’s family lives. The beginning of the trailer shows them living in a tulou, a structure associated with the Hakka people from China’s Fujian province.
According to the legend, however, Mulan is from the central province of Henan during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534), far from the Eastern province of Fujian, and long before tulou were built centuries later.
Though some Chinese moviegoers were annoyed by the mistakes, others were quick to defend the Disney remake. One user said: “Fans should accept these little geographical issues with earnest gratitude.”
The incongruity was jokingly explained away by a Chinese Weibo user, saying the studio likely hired consultants from American Chinatowns, whose populations are largely Fujian immigrants.
Weibo conducted an online poll of 115,000 users and according to Sixth Tone, the blogging site found a majority were “satisfied” with Mulan’s appearance in the trailer.
On Zhihu, another Chinese social media site, a user wrote: “After seeing the trailer… I know that Mulan will probably be my favourite Disney live-action movie.”
Mulan is out in cinemas on March 27, 2020.