Disney’s take on Mulan is due out in theaters Stateside on March 27th, telling a tale inspired by the narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.” The story, previously adapted by Disney in animated form to much acclaim back in 1998, centers on the title character, a young woman who masquerades as a male soldier in order to defend her family and her country while fulfilling the emperor’s military decree. And while that story is certainly a classic, the one that’s unfolding behind the scenes of Disney’s live-action adaptation is much more pressing.
For background, Hong Kong has been the site of political protests for some time now; to go into the history of those protests is beyond the scope of this article, but it suffices to say that Mulan managed to find itself in the crosshairs. Last summer, lead actor Liu Yifei, Mulan herself, shared a state-sponsored post with the message: “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now.” Those words, which have become a rallying cry for the Chinese government and those who support it, were originally from Fu Guohao, a reporter for a separate state-run Chinese newspaper who was tied up and attacked by protestors at the Hong Kong airport. Liu Yifei’s post also read, “I also support the Hong Kong police,” in Chinese. As you might imagine, that further stoked the fires of the protest online and led to the emergence of a #BoycottMulan movement.
Months later, it’s clear this wasn’t just a flash in the pan or knee-jerk reaction. A new TV spot for Mulan has the unappealing ratio of being down-voted by more than 3-to-1 on YouTube. That’s a yikes for Disney as they made strides forward in overcoming “whitewashing” roles with Liu Yifei’s casting, only to step into the political minefield of the Hong Kong protests. Complicating matters is the current unrest in China (and around the world) regarding the coronavirus, which precipitated the world’s second largest box office into closing all of its theaters. The PG-13 flick that also stars Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Cheng Honghui; with Gong Li as Xianniang and Jet Li as the Emperor arrives in U.S. theaters next month; stay tuned for much more on this one.
Check out the new TV spot for Mulan below, if you’re so inclined:
When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.
“Mulan” features a celebrated international cast that includes: Yifei Liu as Mulan; Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Cheng Honghui; with Gong Li as Xianniang and Jet Li as the Emperor. The film is directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Elizabeth Martin & Lauren Hynek based on the narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.”