Mulan is a 2020 American action drama film based on the Chinese folklore “The Ballad of Mulan” and is a live-action nadaptation of Disney’s 1998 animation film of the same name. Directed by Niki Caro, with the screenplay by Rick Jaffar,-Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek, and Elizabeth Martin, it is produced by Walt Disney Pictures, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film stars Liu Yifei in the title role, alongside Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee,Yoson An, Gong Li, and Jet Li in supporting roles.
Plans for a live-action remake began in 2010, but the project never came to fruition. In March 2015, a new attempt was announced and Caro was hired to direct in February 2017. Liu was cast in the title role in November 2017, following a casting call of 1,000 actresses, and the rest of the cast joined over the following year. Filming began in August 2018 and lasted through November, taking place in New Zealand and China. With a production budget of $200 million, it is the most expensive film ever made by a female director.
Mulan‘s Hollywood premiere was held on March 9, 2020. Originally scheduled to be a theatrical release, it was delayed multiple times due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Disney eventually announced that it would instead be released on September 4, 2020 on Disney for a premium fee in countries where the service had launched. It will have a traditional theatrical release in countries without Disney+ and where theatres have re-opened.
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.
- Liu Yifei as Mulan, the eldest daughter of Hua Zhou who defies both tradition and the law by disguising herself as a man by the name of Hua Jun in order to enlist herself in the Imperial Army in place of her ailing father.
- Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, the high ranking leader of the Imperial Army and mentor to Mulan. Both Tung and Chen are based on Li Shang from the animated film.
- Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan, a Rouran warrior leader intent on avenging his father’s death. Khan is based on Shan Yu from the animated film.
- Yoson An as Chen Houghui, a confident and ambitious recruit who joins Commander Tung’s unit, and becomes Mulan’s ally and love interest. Both Chen and Tung are based on Li Shang from the animated film.
- Gong Li as Xian Lang, a powerful witch with shapeshifting abilities and an ally of Bori Khan.
- Jet Li as The Emperor of China, a wise benevolent ruler of China who orders the mobilization of troops via the conscription of one man from each household to fight the invading Rouran army.
- Tzi as Hua Zhou Mulan’s father and a famed war veteran, who is now recalled to the Imperial Army despite his frail health.
- Rosalind Chao as Hua Li, Mulan’s mother and Zhou’s wife.
- Xana Tang as Hua Xiu, Mulan’s younger sister. The character was added to the film’s plot because the filmmakers felt that “this added a broader emotional context and added more motivation for [Mulan’s] character”.
- Ron Yuan as Sergeant Qiang, the fiercely loyal second in command of the Imperial Regiment.
- Jimmy Wong as Ling, a recruit who joins Commander Tung’s unit.
- Doua Moua as Chien- Po, a recruit who joins Commander Tung’s unit.
- Chen Tang as Yao, a recruit who joins Commander Tung’s unit.
- Nelson Lee as The Chancellor, a member of the Emperor’s council in charge of conscripting new recruits to join the Imperial army. The Chancellor is based on Chi-Fu from the animated film.
- Cheng Pie- pie as The Matchmaker
- Utkarsh Ambudkar as Skatch, a con artist and friend of Ramtish.
- Chum Ehelepola as Ramtish, a con artist and friend of Skatch.
- Arka Das as Red Fez
- Jun Yu as Cricket, an archer.
Walt Disney Pictures expressed interest in a live-action adaptation of the 1998 animated film Mulan starring international star Zhang Ziyi, with Chuck Russell chosen as the director. Plans for a live-action Mulan remake began in 2010, but the project never came to fruition.
On March 30, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Disney had restarted development of the live-action adaptation with Chris Bender and J.C.Spink producing, while Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek would be writing the screenplay. On October 4, 2016, it was announced that Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver would rewrite the script, combining the Chinese ballad and the 1998 animated film, while Jason T. Reed would be producing the film along with Chris Bender and Jake Weiner. On February 27, 2020, Reed revealed that Mulan’s sidekick from the original film, Mushu, was removed due to the character’s negative reception in China. Redd also said, aside from both the original ballad and the animated film, the filmmakers drew inspiration from different Chinese adaptations of the ballad while writing the film, stating that, since “[t]he traditional Disney audience and the diaspora Asian audience viewed the movie in one way, and the traditional Chinese in China audience viewed a slightly different way”, the filmmakers “dug in to try and make sure that [they are] addressing both of those audiences in a thoughtful way”.
Since several recent Hollywood films were accused of whitewashing, Mulan has been under intense scrutiny since The Hollywood Reporter reported that Disney was making a live-action adaptation of Mulan. An online petition titled “Tell Disney You Don’t Want A Whitewashed Mulan!” received more than 100,000 signatures. On October 4, 2016, Disney announced that a global search for a Chinese actress to portray the title role was underway. A team of casting directors visited five continents and saw nearly 1,000 candidates for the role with criteria that required credible martial arts skills, the ability to speak clear English, and star quality.
On November 29, 2017, Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei was cast in the film to portray the titular role of Mulan. Many celebrated this as a win for diversity in Disney films. Further cast announcements for Donnie Yen, Gong Li, Jet Li, and Xana Tang were made in April 2018,Utkarsh Ambudkar and Ron Yuan in May, Yoson An and Chum Ehelepola in June, Jason Scott Lee in July, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, Cheng Pei-Pei, Nelson Lee, Jimmy- Wong and Doua Moua in August, and Chen Tang in September.
Disney originally sought an Asian director. Disney first considered Ang Lee, Taiwanese film director and two-time Academy Award winner for Best Director. The Hollywood Reporter mentioned that Lee was approached but declined on October 12, 2016. According to the report, published on November 22, 2016, he said that he would like to see an Asian director leading the film, but he himself had to decline because he was still obliged to promote his film Billy Lynn Long Halftime Walk. Next, Disney met with Jiang Wen for the position; finally on February 14, 2017, Niki Caro was hired as the director of the film, which made Mulan the second Disney film with a female director and a budget above $100 million following A Wrinkle in Time.
Principal photography began on August 13, 2018, at different locations in New Zealand and China and wrapped on November 25, 2018. According to actress Gong Li, the film’s production budget was $290–300 million due to the “massive and…unprecedented scale” of the sets, although the actual figure was later reported to be $200 million. The budget makes Mulan the most expensive film ever directed by a woman.
The visual effects are provided by Sony Pictures Imageeorks, Weta Digital, Framestore, and Image Engine, with Seth Maury and Andres Langlands serving as visual effects supervisors and Sean Andrew Faden serving as production supervisor.
Director Niki Caro revealed that the remake won’t feature any songs from the original film; the film instead will feature instrumental versions of the original film’s songs.Caro later explained that the songs were deleted because she felt it didn’t fit with her realistic vision of the film; she believes that since people do not break out into song as they enter war, the film should not either. Though she still tried to “honour the music from the animation in a very significant way”, she did not want to disrespect the original film in any way; however, she claimed she could not find a place to squeeze in the original music. Producer Jason T. Reed clarified Caro’s previous statement by saying that the songs will be featured “in a slightly different way” in the remake.