Disney’s Mulan follows the main character Fa Mulan as she disguises herself as a man, Ping, to take her father’s place in the Chinese Imperial Army. The movie is historically based off of the legend of Hua Mulan.
Mulan became the eighth Disney Princess in the franchise lineup. Unlike the traditional princesses, such as Snow White and Cinderella, Mulan is best known as the warrior, heroine princess. This characterization differentiates her from the other princesses because she has a specific goal of protecting her father from a dangerous war throughout the movie.
As a Disney Princess, Mulan has greatly challenged gender stereotypes. For instance, she does not allow beauty to be her defining factor. She rids herself of her feminine attributes in order to disguise herself as a man. She also does not need a man and/or husband for self-validation. This is seen at the end of Mulan (1998) as she does not marry her love-interest Li Shang.
It was recently announced that in the 2020 live-action remake of Mulan, Li Shang’s character would not appear in the film at all. The producers made this decision based off influence of the #MeToo movement, which is a campaign that supports young women, especially those of colour, who were victim to sexual violence specifically in the entertainment industry.
In an interview with Collider, one of the producers of the remake, Jason Reed, stated, “I think particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate.”
By keeping up with modern, societal times, the #MeToo movement shines a light on the uncomfortable and terrible abuse of power which occurs every day.
Rather than removing Li Shang’s character completely from the live-action remake, the producers decided to split his character into two people. The live-action remake will introduce two new characters: Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) as Mulan’s surrogate father and commander, and Honghui (Yoson An) as Mulan’s equal in the Chinese army.
In an interview with Collider, Yoson An, the actor of Honghui, explained, “I see this film as a different variation from the animated version and the original story of The Ballad of Mulan. I kind of took a different angle from Li Shang’s character. I can’t really say to a lot of how that will come across but there is a multi-dimensional layer to him and the audience will be able to see that when they watch the movie.”
Although most of us love remakes that stick to the original plotline, it’s entertaining when the movie makes changes. These changes provoke excitement while watching because, as an audience, we won’t receive the same, predictable movie. As remakes occur, keeping an element of surprise is a good tactic for viewer engagement.
Not only does the Mulan remake not include Li Shang, they project a new angle of womanhood by being conscious of the message they send out. Mulan is the first live-action Disney remake to have a rating of PG-13, whereas the live-action remakes of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella were PG.
The 2020 Mulan remake was set for release on March 27, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the premiere has been postponed to an unannounced date.