ByTom Bacon, writer at Creators.co
I'm a British guy who has a particular love of superhero movies - and I'm having a great time writing for Movie Pilot! Feel free to foll...
Tom Bacon

Inspired by the legends and ballads of China, Mulan has always been one of the most fascinating Disney animated movies. It tells the story of Fa Mulan, a girl who — for the sake of her family's honor — dresses as a man and joins the war against the Huns. The original Disney animated movie was a tremendous success, and now it seems we're about to get a fresh re-imagining of the legend. The live-action remake of Mulan just got a release date — November 2, 2018!

What Are Disney's Plans?

Disney is definitely proving that live-action remakes of animated classics can be real hits. Recent successes have included Maleficent and Jungle Book, while next year's Beauty and the Beast — starring Emma Watson as Belle — looks simply gorgeous. It's no surprise that Disney has cast their eye to 1998's Mulan, a film that dived deep into Chinese legend.

Disney first purchased a script for the remake from Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek back in March 2015, but it's since been rewritten by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (more on those rewrites later). The studio plans to launch a global casting search to find a Chinese actress to star in Mulan. Jason Reed, Chris Bender, and Jake Weiner have been announced as the film's producers, and Disney has set a release date of November 2, 2018.

Why Mulan is a Smart Move

One brilliant film. Image: Disney
One brilliant film. Image: Disney

The original Mulan was made against a fascinating geopolitical backdrop; Disney had recently made Kundun, a biography of the Dalai Lama. Incensed, the Chinese government — who view the current Dalai Lama as an enemy of the state — actually threatened to ban Disney films from the country. Disney had hoped Mulan would help repair that difficult relationship, but instead the Chinese government only allowed a limited release a year later, and insisted on Mulan being released at a time when it would have maximum local competition.

Since 1998, Disney's relationship with China has improved dramatically. June this year saw Disney open the Shanghai Disney Resort, a project that had taken over a decade of negotiations. But it was opened at a cost; Disney had to agree to an unprecedented number of limitations, with the Chinese government essentially acting as partners in running the park. The Chinese government remains assertive and nationalistic, and Disney must always tread with care on Chinese matters. That's particularly the case given that, by 2020, the Chinese box office is expected to have overtaken the US in terms of market size and share.

The remake of Mulan should be set against this backdrop. Chinese viewers were unimpressed by the "foreign-looking" Mulan of 1998 (the character was mocked as 'Yang Mulan', or 'Foreign Mulan'). Worse still, Disney's rewriting of the legend was seen as too individualistic and too 'Americanized'. This new version will be pitched straight at the Chinese audience; those rewrites have adapted the script, ensuring it aligns more closely to the original legends. Even from the little we know, the Mulan remake already seems to be a serious attempt at courting the Chinese box office.

A Rare Opportunity for Diversity

Mulan became a warrior. Image: Disney
Mulan became a warrior. Image: Disney

Mulan presents Disney with a rare opportunity in Western markets, too. The House of Mouse is often criticized for whitewashing its Disney Princess range, and Mulan gives Disney a perfect chance to demonstrate diversity. It's telling that, within days of the remake being announced last year, a petition had been set up challenging Disney to cast a Chinese actress. That petition is still open, and is getting renewed attention after these latest announcements; at time of writing, it has nearly 105,000 signatures.

Pleasingly, Disney seem to have recognized the importance of casting in this case. As I mentioned earlier, Disney is planning to launch a global casting search for a Chinese actress to fill the role, and personally I'm hoping that a similar approach will be taken with the rest of the cast. This year's Gods of Egypt demonstrated just how tone-deaf Hollywood can be when it comes to representing the racial and cultural characteristics of another nation, but it looks as though Disney is working hard to avoid that same mistake with Mulan.

See also:

Personally, I admit that the original Mulan is one of my favorite Disney movies. So I'm eager to see a new version of the film, one that more accurately represents the Chinese legends and ballads of Fa Mulan. Although we haven't had much information yet, the little we've been told suggests that the Mulan remake is a smart one from both creative and business perspectives, and will give us a much stronger taste of Chinese culture. I can't wait.

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