We’re now only a month away from the release of Mulan, which looks set to be another massive hit in Disney’s incredibly lucrative series of live-action remakes based on their classic animated features. Many of these movies have come under criticism for simply being lazy, beat-for-beat retreads of the originals that fail to put their own stamp on the material, instead relying on star power and visually-dazzling CGI in order to create a blockbuster that both appeals to younger audiences and taps into the nostalgia market.
However, Mulan stands out from the pack for being the first of these remakes to land a PG-13 rating, which indicates that the battle sequences could be a lot more hard-hitting than we’ve come to expect from the Mouse House, and for standing firm in the decision to not incorporate any songs from the 1998 fan-favorite. Not only that, but wisecracking dragon sidekick Mushu is also a notable absentee, a decision that many fans are not happy with.
Of course, there’s already been speculation that Mulan could end up disappointing at the increasingly-important Chinese box office following wide-scale plans to boycott the movie after star Liu Yifei’s public and hugely controversial support of the Hong Kong police, which likely won’t sit well with Disney given their desire to conquer every aspect of popular culture on the planet.
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Director Niki Caro has also revealed that a kissing scene was cut following objections from the notoriously strict Chinese censors. And now it turns out that the desire to secure as many box office dollars as possible in the country is the reason why Mushu was omitted from the project, as producer Jason Reed explained in a recent interview.
“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.”
Reed’s comments make it sound as though Mushu was originally intended to be a part of the new Mulan, before the studio decided that they didn’t want to harm their chances of making a big impact at the Chinese box office and took him out. Virtually every live-action Disney remake so far has retained the talking animal sidekicks found in the originals, so it definitely seems like a purely financially-motivated decision to omit Mushu in order to placate Chinese censors, rather than a creative one. But we’ll have to wait and see how it ultimately impacts the film’s performance when it releases next month.