Disney’s live-action Mulan remake is almost upon us. However, as we know, this film will not be an exact “reflection” of the 1998 animated classic. Before you make a note of this, point your index finger at a random passing cricket, and screech: “Dishonor on your whole family! Dishonour on you! Dishonour on your cow! Dis-”, let’s take a look at what prompted the filmmakers to make these changes.
An article published by Collider recently detailed a visit to the set of Niki Caro’s war epic in the green pastures of New Zealand. Mulan producer, Jason Reed, was on-site to provide some insight as to why several alterations were made. According to him, these changes were necessary to strike a balance between two distinct audiences, namely China and the rest of the general audience who grew up with the animated film. For instance, one particular change that people weren’t too pleased about was the exclusion of Mushu. Here’s what Reed had to say:
The dragon is a sign of respect and it’s a sign of strength and power, and that sort of using it as a silly sidekick didn’t play very well with the traditional Chinese audience.
However, it was noted that there will be a “mythological sidekick of sorts”. Indeed, brief glimpses of such a creature have been shown to us via the trailers and TV spots that have been released.
Furthermore, while the musical numbers may have been our childhood jam, and are very much a key component of the Disney animated films, this time, they will be left behind.
There are a number of songs that are iconic for the movie and tell a great version of the story and they are very helpful to us in how we’re putting the movie together. It gets a little easier in animation to keep the tension and the reality in place and still have people break into song and sing [into the] camera. We made the decision that we wanted to keep the world, even though it’s a fantasy, more grounded and more realistic, so those emotions really played and the threat is very real so we are using music in a slightly different way.
I, for one, am extremely open to this sort of retelling. An adaptation need not be a beat-for-beat remake of something that we have already experienced before. That’s why I dug Will Smith as the charismatic Genie in 2018’s Aladdin remake. He was not there to prove himself as the new Robin Williams because that’s not what was expected of him. He took the role, poofed some of his Fresh Prince magic on it and. Made. It. His. Own. It’s important to pay tribute to the source, but having a fresh spin and perspective onto an already established IP should always be welcome. Or… we’re just gonna be dwelling on emotionless CG lions running around on screen for the rest of our lives.
At least, there is a risk being taken with Liu Yeifei’s interpretation of the female warrior, and I applaud them for it.
Mulan charges into Malaysian cinemas on the 26th of March 2020.