Disney’s live-action Mulan trailer lights up Chinese social media

Anticipation over Disney’s live-action movie Mulan is running high in China, with more than one billion views of the subject on Chinese social media in the hours after a teaser trailer was unveiled during Sunday’s final game of the Women’s World Cup.

While some online commenters had their doubts over technical details, most internet users appeared exhilarated at the prospect of Disney’s first Chinese princess, played by Chinese-American actress Crystal Liu Yifei.

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By Monday afternoon, the hashtag Hua Mulan had been viewed more than one billion times on the Twitter-like Weibo service and nearly 770,000 comments had been made on the topic. Some 450 million views had been recorded for the topics “Mushu no longer in the movie Mulan” – a reference to the heroine’s fast-talking dragon companion in the 1998 animation – and “the look of Liu Yifei”.

“I got carried away by the fighting scenes. Mulan is courageous and strong. I look forward to seeing the eastern heroine Hua Mulan going global,” said one Weibo user.

“This is the first Chinese Disney princess. It’s so great and we feel so proud,” said another.

The movie, scheduled for release on March 27 next year, casts renowned action star Jet Li as the emperor who ordered the military draft to fight a northern invasion, and internationally-acclaimed actress Gong Li as a powerful witch. Donnie Yen Ji-dan, star of ?Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the ?Ip Man movies, plays Mulan’s martial arts mentor Commander Tung.

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Mulan tells the story of a fabled Chinese heroine who posed as a man and became one of the greatest warriors of her time, arguably in the Northern Wei period, or about AD400 to 600. She is one China’s best known fictional characters, with numerous theatrical references and poems which many Chinese know by heart.

The familiarity of the tale has presented a challenge for the production, with many Chinese online commenters questioning the historical details which can be discerned from the sketchy details provided by the trailer.

Many took exception to the opening scene of Mulan riding a horse to her home, built in the architectural style of ?tulou, common in the southern province of Fujian, when the legend places the heroine in the north.

“The poem said Mulan bade farewell to her parents in the morning and slept near the Yellow River at night. How can she live in a tulou in Fujian? Did she take a fast-rail train?” one internet user teased.

Another used the example to call for Disney to pay more attention to technical details when telling Chinese stories. “Please don’t be arrogant about Chinese stories.”

Also questioned in China was the message from the trailer that Mulan had become a warrior to escape a forced marriage, rather than the well known detail that she was saving her father from being drafted into the military in an act of filial piety.

But the overwhelming response was that fans should put aside their own perceptions of Mulan and celebrate the new edition as one of the few fully-Asian cast international movies, as well as its depiction of a powerful woman and Chinese values as “the only Disney princess who was not saved by a prince but instead became a fighting warrior”.

“Can our domestically produced period dramas meet the standard if we are here to be picky about looks and architecture? Even domestic directors can’t be perfect in restoring ancient costumes, make-up or architecture. Why should we ask so much from a foreign one? We should celebrate the cultural exchange rather than splitting hairs to find faults,” said one Weibo user.

“Mulan in the battlefield has outperformed men and showcased the traditional values of courage and protecting the country when needed. Chinese values, presented to the world by Chinese actors, is worth looking forward to. Please throw away the technical faults such as architecture,” said another.

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