This is Huge
Easing the decision for Disney was the fact that in China — where Disney+ is not available — many theaters have reopened. The movie launches on big screens there next week.
Based on a 1,500-year-old Chinese ballad about a young girl who takes her ailing father’s place in the imperial army, “Mulan” was already expected to be one of Disney’s biggest films ever in that marketplace.
“Mulan” is groundbreaking in other ways, too.
The entire cast is Asian or Asian-American — a demographic serially underrepresented in Hollywood, particularly among mega-budget blockbusters. Eddie Murphy’s wise-cracking dragon Mushu from the 1998 animation is nowhere to be seen.
“This is huge, that a major studio has the confidence in an all-Asian, Asian-American cast, to put their weight and financial support behind it,” said Ma. “It should be a benchmark. It should be something the world can see, that this is viable.”
Gone too are the musical numbers and romantic sub-plots. New Zealand director Niki Caro (“Whale Rider”) chose a more mature tone, with beautifully choreographed fight scenes and landscapes reminiscent of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
The theme of women’s empowerment also comes to the fore, both in star Yifei Liu’s physical performance, and the introduction of a mysterious new female foe (Gong Li.)
“I don’t think Niki wanted to do a remake,” said Ma. “That’s not what we’re trying to do. We really want to connect to the original ballad as our focal point.
“I loved the songs… but it is not our mission here.”