Alright, I can already sense the flack I'm going to get for even saying such a blasphemous thing but, here it goes: I don't think Disney should include Mushu in the live-action version of Mulan.
Before you go running down to the comments section to yell at me, please hear me out!
Mushu is by far my favorite and, in my opinion, the best character in Disney's 1998 animated classic. Sure, Mulan is great, Shang is also a pretty neat guy, Po and the gang are a blast, but no one can hold a candle to comic relief in the form of Eddie Murphy voicing a tiny talking dragon. Objectively hilarious.
So why would I argue that Disney should cut the beloved Mushu from Mulan? Here are just a few reasons:
He wasn't in the original story
This probably won't come as a shock to anyone, but the original legend of Mulan didn't feature a talking dragon who was sent by her ancestors to help her on her journey.
In the same vein as Maleficent, I think it would be nice to see a fresh angle on the story, rather than just retelling the animated version. In this case, the story could just follow more closely to the source material, the Ballad of Hua Mulan and the earlier works it inspired.
Not only would this be a good way to make the story a bit grittier - I'm picturing a Pirates of the Caribbean vibe - but it would also be a chance for Mulan shed the squeaky clean Disney Princess persona and act more like the badass she really was.
Mulan doesn't need a mythological sidekick to get her through the day, the chick was totally hardcore all on her own!
It would be hard to pull off
I know that Mushu is supposed to be funny, but the rules of live-action movies are totally different from animation, and you don't want to risk him being funny for the wrong reasons. Or even worse, he could come off as creepy and off-putting.
With animation people are willing and able to completely suspend their disbelief, the minute you introduce anything realistic into the mix, things become complicated. Even in recent live-action adaptations Disney has been shying away from highlighting some of their best anthropomorphic animals.
In both [Cinderella](movie:373064) and [Maleficent](movie:39352), there were anthropomorphized animals, but the only ones who could actually talk had to be turned into humans first. Gus Gus is clearly a fan favorite in the original Cinderella, but it would have been weird to have him actually exchange words with "Cinderelly."
With stories like Alice in Wonderland, it's easier to have reality and imagination collide since it's a large portion of the premise. But since the original tale of Mulan doesn't involve myth or magic of any kind. With Mulan being so much less magical than Cinderella or Maleficent, a CGI dragon would seem pretty out of place during China's Northern Wei dynasty.
Without Eddie Murphy, would it be worth it?
I'd say 90% of what made Mushu great was the fact that he was voiced by Eddie Murphy. Yes, the writing was fantastic, the animation was great, but in my eyes most of the credit goes to Eddie Murphy's voice acting.
Unforuntately, Disney was unable to bring Murphy back to voice Mushu in the direct-to-video sequel Mulan II in 2005. The issues that kept Murphy from playing Mushu were likely that he was still contractually tied to DreamWorks' Shrek 2 which was filming around the same time as Mulan 2.
Mark Moseley, who acted as Mushu's singing voice and Eddie Murphy's voice double in Mulan II, did a great job imitating the actor in the sequel. Still, there's no denying that his work was based entirely on the character Eddie Murphy fleshed out so fully. I think most people who saw Mulan II can agree that something seemed...not quite right with Mushu.
While Murphy's schedule seems to have quieted down in recent years, who's to say that he would want to play the same role over again in a different format? It also makes me wonder if Murphy is getting tired of regurgitating the same sassy sidekick role. I'm not complaining, but as an artist, jumping from Mushu to Donkey and back again is probably a bit tiring.
If they do get Murphy back, then just disregard everything you read above because I'm 100% in and a happy camper. All I'm saying is that maybe we shouldn't get our hopes up too soon.
I'm not a professional screenwriter, storyteller, director, or even a Disney employee, so bear in mind that this is just my humble opinion. I mean, it would seem pretty unfair for me to point out all of the potential problems of Mushu being in the new Mulan and then not provide a solution, right?
So this is just my humble proposition of one of the (probably) many solutions of how to fill the massive hole that would be left by Mushu's absence.
Mushu is integral to Mulan's story for a lot of reasons. He helps move her story along in a timely manner, he acts as comic relief for what could have been a pretty serious war-centered movie, and mostly he acted as a sounding board for Mulan.
Mulan's story is a little tricky to tell from the inside. She was fighting and living with this group of men under complete secrecy. She couldn't talk to any of the men around her, and it would be exhausting to constantly hear her inner monologue. That's where Mushu was important.
Mushu was a means for Mulan to express herself freely as herself, while still living as Ping. Had Mushu not been in the animated movie, there would have been important plot points and character development that we would have never known about.
To remedy the lack of live-action Mushu, I see a couple of options. The first being the anthropomorphic animals. They could easily use her cow *cough*...horse, and her lucky cricket, especially since they didn't talk to begin with, to help Mulan out. She could use them to vent her problems, and they could react appropriately. Although, this would be hardly innovative for Disney.
The second solution would be if Disney wants to keep a magical or otherworldly element in the film. If that's the case, I suggest relying more heavily on the Mulan's ancestral peanut gallery. Remember these guys?
Even though her ancestors weren't in the original story, the fact that they're human - or used to be human - lends itself much better to the live-acton format.
I'm imagining that they could send one of the ancestors in place of Mushu to follow Mulan. Then her ancestor could follow her around from the heavens - or some other plane of existence - helping keep her safe and pointing her in the right direction. Picture them blowing a gust of wind or sending a butterfly to guide her to where she needs to be. It'd be nice!
I don't imagine there would be any interaction between the two, or that Mulan would know that there was anyone there, but she could speak openly to her ancestors in general. Plus, the potential for some hilarious family arguments is always a plus.
I know that this isn't the most popular opinion - trust me, I want Mushu to come back as much as anyone else - but I don't know if it's in the cards for Disney's upcoming live-action Mulan. As I've said before, these ideas are by no means the best or even possible, just a bit of speculation and a few opinions thrown in.