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Chinese Netizens React to First Look at Disney’s Live-Action “Mulan”

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The first official teaser for Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan is here.

It opens with a quick geographical skip from northern-looking grasslands to distinctly southern Hakka roundhouses (tulou 土楼) — Mulan is traditionally seen as hailing from the north of China. But overall it looks… pretty good! Of course, it’s a trailer so it ought to. Check it out:

Liu Yifei takes the title role of the legendary Chinese warrior, with the likes of Gong Li, Donnie Yen and Jet Li in support. The release of the teaser was joined by the unveiling of a new poster, a tribute to the 1998 animated version and shot by famed Chinese photographer Chen Man:

In case you’re somehow unfamiliar with the story, here’s a quick refresher, courtesy of the official Disney blurb:

“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.”

But how much respect is this trailer earning among the social media hordes of this “grateful nation”?

Related:

Click-through: Reflections on “Mulan” at 20

Mulan-related topics quickly rose to the top of microblogging site Sina Weibo’s “hot searches”, with “There’s no Mushu the Dragon in the new Mulan” among them — a concern which we guess led to this:

mulan mushu will smith

Amid plenty of celebration on Weibo of Liu as “our first Disney princess”, there are still some dissenting voices regarding the choice of her as the lead. When the casting decision was initially announced, it left some Chinese moviegoers “baffled“, with many quick to bemoan her acting skills.

The inclusion of footage of Liu in heavy make-up has stirred up comments about her looks too.

mulan disney make-updisney live-action mulan

Although many are critical, one highly-upvoted comment argues, “That’s how the make-up of that era was — this shows that the production team have really paid attention to detail. If they’d used modern make-up, you’d all be complaining about that. ‘Fairy Sister’ [Liu Yifei] looks good in anything.”

Another commenter dryly observes, “I wish I was as ‘ugly’ as Liu Yifei.”

While there are still plenty of comments questioning her suitability, others are making a concerted effort to get behind her and make the film a success.

mulan comment chinese cultural export

“The greater significance of this film lies in its value as a cultural export, Disney’s first Asian princess. The comments on the official release have generally been positive. Many people in other Asian countries say that as an ‘Asian’, they’re looking forward to this film very much. Yet, oddly, some domestic audiences are not confident about this cultural export. Liu Yifei’s acting skills aren’t great, but she is the most appropriate choice when you consider all factors, and Disney princesses have always been positioned in this way.

“This is a Chinese cultural export. Why is it the Chinese who are mocking it?”

Overall however, it seems like Disney can expect some strong box office returns on the film upon its (expected) release in China next spring. A poll from Weibo’s movie account had over 60% of 140,000 respondents describing themselves as “satisfied” with the new trailer, at time of writing. “Not satisfied” and “Not interested” took 7% and 5% of the vote respectively, with the rest preferring to “Wait and see”.

No word yet however on whether the McDonald’s “Szechuan” sauce will be making a comeback to accompany this new live-action version.

RADII China
China from all angles.