Like seemingly every other movie in the Disney animated canon, Mulan is getting the live-action remake treatment. And like those previous efforts, Disney is finding the advantages of relying on familiar stories are counterbalanced by people getting mad about how movies they love are reimagined.
The first trailer for the new movie, which (re)tells the story of the high-born girl joining the Imperial Army, premiered during yesterday’s Women’s World Cup Final. It looks epic, with wide shots of scenic vistas and slow-motion aerial swordplay aplenty. But the absence of musical numbers and, more importantly, Mushu the dragon, has fans up in arms.
It’s not the first time this has happened. Who can forget how much ridicule the look of Will Smith’s genie attracted? The key difference in this situation is that people are steamed about a conscious choice to go in a different direction than the original instead of a misguided attempt to replicate it.
Eddie Murphy’s Mushu was undoubtedly one of the best parts of the original film. The character provided comic relief throughout and plays a pivotal role in the climax of the plot.
Mushu was also, unfortunately, one of the more divisive parts of the original Mulan. He’s a kid-favorite character precisely because he was dreamed up by someone at Disney, not because he’s part of the legend of Hua Mulan, a story that dates to at least the sixth century. By ditching the artifice of a talking dragon and big musical numbers, Disney seems eager to make a movie with more fidelity to the ancient tale.
Given the complicated history of the company, this is a good thing! But when you change things people feel intense nostalgia over, you can expect some people to react negatively.
If there's no mushu you don't need to release it
— Giulia Carvalho (@GiuliaCa_) July 7, 2019
— Willam Kelly (@WillamKelley) July 7, 2019
So while it’s fair to criticize Disney for telling the same stories over and over again, it’s difficult for us to be too mad about this particular case, a rare moment when it’s at least trying to do so in an original, more culturally accurate way.
Hua Mulan’s story dates to as early as 386 AD frm a folk song & later a transcription in the 6th century. Disney’s live action film is attempting to honor the OG version for Western & Eastern (China) audiences. There is no Mushu or Li Shang in the original so please, shut up! https://t.co/IA4D0uudpJ
— Cindy PikaPika Chu (@iamcindychu) July 7, 2019