Everything Wrong with Disney’s Live-Action Mulan

Erin McCormick, Entertainment Editor

Walt Disney Studios first announced the live-action remake of the 1998 animated movie Mulan in 2019. The original movie was a hit with characters such as the protagonist Mulan, the lovable dragon Mushu and Captain Shang. When it became public that the remake would not include the famous soundtrack, neither Mushu nor Captain Shang, fans became skeptical. The controversy only worsened from there. 

In August 2019, the film’s lead actress Liu Yifei posted on Weibo her support for the Hong Kong police during the pro-democracy protests in China. 

“I support the Hong Kong police,” Yifei posted on Weibo to her 65 million followers. “You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong.” 

The protests began largely as peaceful demonstrations but turned into violent clashes between the police and protestors. Yifei received large amounts of criticism for her outright support of police brutality against Chinese citizens and soon after, #BoycottMulan was trending on Twitter. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY STUDIOS

The live-action featured people of color on the cast, but was further criticized for its predominantly white crew members. According to IMDB, all four of the movie’s screenwriters are white, including the costume designer. Many people felt that those who hold creative leadership roles in the production of a movie like Mulan should be in charge of how their own culture is represented.

At the end credits of the movie, Disney Studios gave thanks to multiple government entities in Xinjiang, a Chinese region. These included the public security bureau in the city of Turpan and the “publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomy Region Committee.” 

According to China expert Adrian Zenz who spoke with the BBC, the public security bureau in Turpan runs China’s “re-education” camps where Uighurs are held in detention. The “publicity department” Disney names produces state propaganda in the region.

It is believed that one million Uighur people are being forcibly detained and put into high-security prison camps. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute captured satellite images of 380 re-education camp detention centers and prisons in Xinjiang. 

The production team of the live-action film told the Architectural Digest magazine in 2017, that they spent months in Xinjiang to research filming locations for the movie. A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist spoke out about this in a tweet in September. 

“It just keeps getting worse,” Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, Joshua Wong tweeted. “Now, when you watch Mulan, not only are you turning a blind eye to police brutality and racial injustice (due to what the lead actors stand for), you’re also potentially complicit in the mass incarceration of Muslim Uyghurs.”

Due to the pandemic, Disney was forced to release the film on September 4, 2020 on Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+. It is available through a “premium subscription,” and viewers must pay $29.99 to play the movie on a streaming service that members already pay $6.99 a month for. The loss of the theater revenue hit Disney hard, forcing them to lose almost $5 billion. The movie was released in China, and areas where theaters were open, but it had a low turnout.