The upcoming fantasy epic Mulan is the latest in the long line of Disney live-action remakes that have been lighting up the big screen over the last few years. Though, where some of these remakes have stuck very closely to their animated predecessor, Mulan is looking to do something different. Mulan producer Jason Reed has discussed recently the decision to split Li Shang into two different characters, and how this was influenced by both the passage of time and the #MeToo movement.
"I think particularly in the time of the Me Too movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn't think it was appropriate. And we thought that in a lot of ways that it was sort of justifying behavior that we're doing everything we can to get out of our industry."
In the original animated movie, Li Shang is Mulan's commanding officer, who puts the new recruits through their paces all whilst singing the motivational ditty "I'll make a man out of you", before eventually becoming the love-interest. To Reed and his team, the idea of seeing Mulan in a personal relationship with a superior officer was especially uncomfortable in a modern context, and so the decision was made not to endorse such a relationship.
While the story that the original Mulan is based, Ballad of Mulan, is an ancient tale, the romance is a modern addition to it, so there really is no pressure for the makers of the new movie to adhere to it. The central focus, purpose, and themes of the Mulan story remain intact without it, so changing certain elements should not be much of an issue.
The character of Li Shang, however, is rather important to the Disney version of the story, as well as the fact that Li Shang has become something of an LGBT icon over the years. Clearly, the new Mulan did not want to lose that, and so the decision was made to split the character in two.
"So we split Li Shang into two characters. One became Commander Tung who serves as her surrogate father and her mentor in the course of the movie and the other is Honghui who is her equal in the squad and there is no power dynamic between them but there is the same dynamic that was in the original movie with Li Shang which is like 'Hey, I really respect you, and why do I like this dude so much and what does this say about me?' And we have that same dynamic. And I think in this movie I actually think it plays in a little more sophisticated way."
Martial arts icon Donnie Yen will play Commander Tung, Mulan's leader and trainer, while Yosan An will play Cheng Honghui, another soldier in Mulan's regiment who builds a personal relationship with the warrior woman disguised as a man.
Mulan is scheduled to hit theaters on March 27, 2020. This comes to us from Cinemablend.