It’s been a long, strange trip for Mulan, but lingering movie theater closures (and audience reticence to visit reopened theaters) finally pushed Disney to give up on theatrical exhibition. The remake of the 1998 animated film is headed to Disney+ where anyone with $30 to spare can watch it, a delayed but correct decision.
Now, ten days before audiences finally get to stream it, a new promotional featurette details how Disney made a much earlier, even more important decision: casting the actress who would play Mulan.
“We spent an extraordinary amount of time looking for Mulan all over the world. We searched every village, and once I was in the room with Yifei I realized that I’d found my warrior,” director Niki Caro explained, using language that sounds it could have been cribbed from the screenplay.
Liu Yifei, a Wuhan native who split her childhood between Queens and China, won the role. She’s had a long career in China, but Mulan is her first foray into American cinema. She says in the featurette that she feels a “strong connection” to the character because Mulan is “present and focused.”
Two of her co-stars chime in to say that she’s “perfect” for the role and that she brings “a sense of innocence yet maturity” to Mulan, arguably the character’s defining traits.
More practically, Yifei was capable of doing all the non-acting stuff that the role required. “She is an accomplished martial artist. She can wield a sword. She can ride a horse,” Caro points out.
“Nobody else could have played the role of Mulan.”
Mulan comes to Disney+ Premier Access on September 4.