Disney dropped its teaser of the live-action version of its animated classic Mulan (1998), and reactions globally have been conflicted.
The trailer debuted during the Women's World Cup final over the weekend. It focused on the character of Hua Mulan, played by relatively unknown actress Crystal Liu Yifei, and not more high-profile cast members such as Donnie Yen, Jet Li, or Gong Li.
The short clip rippled across the internet, generating more than 14 million views on YouTube, and 650,000 tweets and millions of Weibo reactions within the next 12 hours. Notably, many people said they missed Mushu the dragon, voiced by Eddie Murphy in the original. On Weibo, the topic attracted 40,000 comments alone, with people lamenting the missing comedic character.
Disney appears to have dropped Mushu as well as the original musical songs from the movie, in an effort to make a more realistic war epic. However, some Chinese commenters on Weibo pointed out that Disney's interpretation of the actual Hua Mulan's story is meant to be entertaining in the first place, and that stripping it of all those elements removes the "magic" of a Disney production.
Telling southern and northern China apart
But while people seem to be able to tolerate a magic talking dragon in Mulan, many Chinese fans were less forgiving of the new Mulan being set in southern China. Since the story of Hua Mulan is set in the Northern Wei dynasty, Chinese fans noticed that the historical southern architecture in the backdrop was out of place.
The tulou that is seen in the trailer belong to the Fujian province, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were built between the 12th and 20th centuries too—hundreds of years after the story of Hua Mulan was set.
Many felt that this move showed a disregard for understanding the differences across China's diverse geography.
Most people praised the choice of Liu in the starring role. The Chinese-American reportedly beat nearly 1,000 other candidates for the starring role, which required the actor be able to speak English and also have credible martial arts skills.
Directed by Niki Caro, who directed The Zookeeper’s Wife, the new Mulan will open in cinemas on March 27, 2020, and will be the first major Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since Crazy Rich Asians (2018).