#BoycottMulan Trend

After Disney’s initial announcement of the “Mulan” remake, fans of the 1998 animation have eagerly anticipated the film’s release. In the past few years, the company has released numerous live-action remakes of the Disney Renaissance animations, igniting a strong sense of nostalgia in Disney enthusiasts. However, since the “Mulan” remake was released, the film has garnered extensive criticism. Viewers familiar with Chinese history and culture have criticized the film for falling short of their goal to create a more accurate depiction of the original Ballad of Mulan. Audiences were also disappointed with the plot changes Disney made to the 1998 animation’s story. 

Asian Studies teacher Ms. Nina Zhou was particularly disappointed with Disney’s attempt to make a more historically accurate depiction of ancient China. While Ms. Zhou acknowledged Disney’s effort to include more culturally accurate details in architecture, costuming, and makeup, she notes that several aspects still reflect a westernized view of East Asian history and culture that Disney was trying to correct from the animation. Ms. Zhou found issues with Disney’s depiction of Chinese values explaining, “The entire theme of brave, loyal, true, those three core values of the film, felt like something someone with a western perspective looked through a [list] of Chinese characters and picked the top three that they liked and [they] have really no place in Confucian value or in Chinese culture. It was definitely a western perception of Chinese culture.” Several viewers were upset with Disney’s choice to remove Mushu and Li Shang from the live-action in order to be more respectful to the Chinese audience. However, the movie was still unsuccessful in China. In response to the box office failure, Ms. Zhou adds, “In China, there are [many] movies and films about ancient China and so the audience is going to have a higher expectation and inevitably you’re going to see ‘that’s not true, that’s not accurate.” All that added together leads to the conclusion that Disney and Hollywood are not respectful of our culture and that is the narrative that’s been circulated in mainland China right now.” Ms. Zhou explained that the remake was a failure because Disney wanted to appeal to both American and Chinese audiences, but each audience had different expectations and they could not satisfy both. 

In addition to Disney’s failure to present a more historically and culturally accurate portrayal of the ancient Chinese ballad, audiences were disappointed by the storytelling aspect of the remake. Both Ms. Zhou and Chinese language teacher Ms. Ngan-Ha Ta believe the “Mulan” remake weakened the central themes that attracted audiences to the 1998 animation. Like many other Asian Americans, Ms. Ta grew up watching the “Mulan” animation and was deeply inspired by the story. A large reason for why the story of Mulan resonates with people is Mulan’s hard work, but the remake undermines that aspect of the story, by giving her this power called chi. Ms. Ta explains, “She didn’t come with these Jedi skills, the chi. She worked her butt off in the animated version to be a man.” Because we don’t see Mulan’s struggle and training in the live-action, her success at the end of the movie is less rewarding.

The remake was an opportunity to feature an Asian cast, correct the historical and cultural inaccuracies from the animation, and to retell the inspiring story of female empowerment that resonates with women of all ages. Ultimately, Disney fell short of its goals to present a historically accurate story, tell a meaningful and resonate story, and appeal to both American and Chinese audiences.