How Disney's Live-Action Mulan Plans To Avoid A Major Controversy


Disney's Mulan is one of the studios more loved films because it does something truly different with the traditional Disney princess, making her the one who saves the day. This makes reports that Mulan isn't the hero of her own story all the more disconcerting. However, somebody from Disney is now saying that the leaked script, which focuses on a "30-something European trader" was never meant to be the shooting script. According to an anonymous source...

The spec script was a jumping-off point for a new take on the story that draws from both the literary ballad of Mulan and Disney's 1998 animated film. Mulan is and will always be the lead character in the story, and all of the primary roles, including the love interest, are Chinese.

Things went slightly haywire yesterday when a blogger who had apparently gotten his hands on the script that Disney purchased to make their live-action Mulan and shared some details about it. In the script, titled The Legend of Mulan, the lead character was actually a white male who joins the Chinese Imperial Army because he has fallen in love with Mulan. Needless to say, this did not sit well with people. It would have completely destroyed everything that made Mulan strong and independent. However, if the anonymous source that spoke to Vulture is to be believed, the plan was to take this initial script, and then make changes to it to better reflect the movie Disney wanted to make.

Disney is also promising a global casting search to find the new Mulan. If the script's plan for the character still holds up, it means that they'll be looking for a 16-17-year-old girl, which is a lot younger than we were aiming with our suggestions, but fits well with the age that Mulan is viewed as in the original Chinese story.

The original spec script does appear to be a traditional telling of the Mulan story, without any of the elements that Disney introduced in the 1998 animated film. This is probably the single strongest signal that this information is correct and Disney always planned to make changes. It's highly unlikely that Disney was looking to do a straight, traditional retelling of the story. Instead, the movie will almost certainly have a comedic dragon sidekick and a trio of misfit soldiers. Disney isn't simply making live-action versions of fairy tales, they're making live-action versions of their fairy tales. This means there's also a decent chance it will have music too.

Several films in recent months, including Ghost in the Shell, have been dealing with recent "whitewashing" controversies, as Scarlett Johanssen has been cast in the lead role, which is traditionally Japanese. It's far from surprising that people came down on Disney pretty hard when it was intimated that a white male would be taking over the lead in Mulan. It's also unsurprising Disney would want to kill any idea that they're trying to whitewash Mulan.

Even if Mulan will be the lead character, and even if all the other characters are Chinese, this quote still makes it look like there will be one significant change to the live-action version of the film. The animated feature didn't really have a love interest at all. Of all the things that Disney did differently with Mulan, perhaps the biggest thing is the fact that romance was not a driving part of the plot for either the lead male or female character. While Mulan certainly has feelings for Li Shang, and he returns them once he discovers the truth about her, nobody takes action specifically in an attempt to build a relationship. We really wouldn't describe Li Shang as a love interest, so if the new film has a more traditional one, that's a significant difference.

Does this news put you more at ease with a live-action Mulan? The new film is currently scheduled for a November 2018 release.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.