The Legend Behind the Classic “Mulan”

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Roar writer Scarlett Yu on the recent release of the live adaptation of Mulan and the legend behind it.

Disney has recently made an announcement about the release of a live adaptation movie, which is based on the legend of “Hua Mulan” in Chinese mythology. The film was released on Disney’s massive joint platform, Disney+, on 4 September 2020, with an additional charge of $30 for premier viewing for subscribers. No clear information has been shared regarding the date in which subscribers could watch without charge, but Disney will be launching the movie in open theatres across countries where Disney+ isn’t available.

This live adaptation will be slightly different from the Disney animated version that most audiences are familiar with. Mulan’s dragon sidekick, Mushu, has been removed from the movie due to cultural reasons along with most of the songs that appeared in the cartoon. The filmmakers made the decisions for a significant purpose, as this new live version of Mulan will take a more realistic approach to the story and arouse emotional appeals.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the most well known Chinese folklore? The classic romance, The Cowherd and the Weaving Girl, may be highlighted since it’s the origin of Chinese Valentine’s Day. Yet in terms of acknowledgment levels of a wider audience, who couldn’t have recalled the animation? Based on the legendary story of Chinese folklore The Ballad of Mulan, the film features the tumbling growth of an honoured warrior’s daughter as she undergoes several trials and hardships along the way, all presented in the form of testing of her loyalty, bravery, and authenticity. Mulan has been highly acclaimed among the masses due to its exquisite portrayal of a woman showing quite a different side of traditional feminine roles, especially in China. Her choice of bravery to be voluntarily enlisted to the army and receive arduous training is, astonishingly, a total subversion of what women were conventionally expected to be in traditional China: vulnerable, quiet, and reserved.

There has been ongoing controversy over whether Mulan ever existed in real life, or was merely a fictional heroine from Chinese myths. Yet, despite the uncertainty of her existence, Mulan is indeed one of the most legendary female figures in China folklore. An honourable representation of feminine power and strength which has been long denied and condemned in the rigid roots of early Chinese society.

Now, as the live adaptation of a Chinese legend has been produced and released for the global audience, it’s important to refresh one’s memory of its primary storyline. Set in the Northern and Southern dynasties of China, the movie tells the story of an alarmed country being on the verge of war due to the imminent dangers of a threatening enemy from the North. The Emperor immediately issued a decree ordering one male from every household to join the Imperial Army to defend the Northern invaders. Being the eldest daughter of the family while having an ailing father, Mulan perceives the enlistment as a duty of hers to bring honour to the family. Thus, she disguises herself as a man and secretly joins the army to fight against the opposing Huns. As a result, the journey of Mulan’s road to being the legendary heroine begins with a series of intense training and thrilling adventures. The thorny process is meant to bring out her innate strength and uplift her hidden potential as a legendary fighter.

This is the legendary story known among the audiences worldwide. Mulan’s massive production was recorded with a $200 million budget, making it the most expensive Disney live action film ever produced. It was filmed in New Zealand and China, with a full Asian cast. Among them, Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei took on the role of Mulan, followed by a supporting group of respected martial-artist actors, such as Donnie Yen and Jet Li.

Having gone through years of deliberate planning and repetitive delays in movie release, Mulan has finally been created, this version being an emotionally stronger portrayal of the development of the protagonist and the world around her. Those who have been waiting for this moment are yet to be once again overwhelmed by the legendary tale of Mulan.

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