Disney’s animated film Mulan flopped in China 10 years ago as audiences complained the titular character Hua Mulan was too foreign-looking and the plot was too different from the original legend, which has a young woman disguising herself as a male warrior to perform military service for her ailing father.
A live-action reboot of Mulan featuring Chinese starlet Liu Yifei looks set to be more rewarding for the American studio. When a three-minute teaser of the new film was released on Sunday, it was viewed more than 35 million times on Chinese social media in 24 hours. The hashtag #HuaMulan has also been viewed over a billion times and attracted 707,000 comments on Sina Weibo.
So far, feedback on the remake has been positive. “To be honest, I was sceptical when I first heard that Liu was going to play Hua Mulan. After all, can someone so feminine play a woman that could pass as a man? But after watching the trailer I was convinced. All the action sequences perfectly demonstrate how brave and good at fighting Mulan is,” one netizen wrote. “China’s first Disney princess, so looking forward,” another gushed.
Others were more amused by the makeup. In the trailer, Liu is shown in ceremonial gear with red lips, reddened cheeks and a red fan-like design on her forehead between her eyebrows. Many netizens commented that the forehead design bore a striking resemblance to Huawei’s logo and inferred she was going into battle for the under-attack firm. “Indeed, Mulan is already bringing honour to her country,” one jokingly wrote, referencing Washington’s targeting of Huawei.
In contrast to Western reaction, Chinese audiences weren’t too upset that Disney has cut the 1998 version’s iconic musical numbers and Mulan’s comedic dragon sidekick, Mushu.
“What we care about is whether Hua Mulan looks charming and whether the film accurately reflects Chinese culture and Mulan’s perseverance,” one netizen, quoted by SixthTone, wrote on weibo after reading international comments on Instagram. “But (the Western audience’s) main focus is that there are no songs and no Mushu? I’m speechless.”
The film features an all-star Chinese cast, including action hero Donnie Yen, who plays Mulan’s mentor, while Jet Li is cast as China’s emperor. Gong Li will play the film’s villain, a wicked witch. The English-language film will hit cinemas worldwide on March 27, 2020.
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