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Disney's live-action remakes have run the gamut from stories that were basically carbon copies of the animated originals, to those that have taken significant liberties. Mulan, the next Disney remake to take the stage, is setting itself up to be one of the latter, as a great deal will be different this time around when compared to the animated version.These changes extend to some popular character from the previous film, like the dragon character Mushu.
While there have been conflicting reports over the course of Mulan's production over whether or not Mushu, the talking dragon voiced by Eddie Murphy in the animated film, would appear in the new movie in some form, it's now clear that Mushu won't be a character in the movie. I got to visit the set of Mulan several months ago and while there Producer Jason Reed was asked why the comic relief sidekick was being left out. Perhaps not surprisingly, the reason has everything to do with Mulan's international box office possibilities. According to Reed...
Obviously, Mushu is a beloved character and one of the most memorable of the animated film. It turns out that the traditional Chinese audience did not particularly think that was the best interpretation of the dragon in their culture. That the dragon is a sign of respect and of strength and power and sort of using it as a silly sidekick did not play well with a traditional Chinese audience.
While most of us in the west might only be familiar with Mulan because of the animated Disney movie, in China, the story is centuries old and has been told and retold countless times in every conceivable medium. It turns out that, of all the versions out there, the Disney Classic isn't the most popular version in China, in part because of the way the Chinese cultural symbol of the dragon is depicted through Mushu.
When the animated film was released more than 20 years ago, how China might have felt about it was not high on anybody's priority list. Most western movies were never seen in China, there was no distribution method at the time.
Now, however, things have drastically changed. China is the second largest box office in the world for Hollywood films, so how China is going to react to any given movie is very much on the mind of any major studio.
Instead of Mushu, trailers for Mulan have shown us a phoenix that will fit into the story somehow, so there will be a slightly different mythical flying creature in this film. Whether the film will include a more direct nod to Mushu is unclear, but it's certainly not unlikely as easter egg style references have certainly been all over these remakes.
Tickets for Mulan, which opens on March 27, are available for purchase now.