When details of the recently-released live-action remake of Disney's animated classic Mulan were first revealed, fans were upset to find out that the reboot will not feature the character of the dragon Mushu, voiced by Eddie Murphy, that was a part of the original movie. In an interview with USA Today, director Niki Caro explained why the film's creative team made the decision to leave Mushu out of their live-action adaptation.
"We were very inspired by what Mushu brought to the animation, which was the humor and the levity, and the challenge was to bring that to Mulan's real relationships with her fellow soldiers. Mushu, beloved as that character is in the animation, was Mulan's confidante, and part of bringing it into the live-action is to commit to the realism of her journey, and she had to make those relationships with her fellow soldiers. So there was certainly a lot to work with in that department."
While it would seem like a no-brainer that a live-action movie would not feature a wise-cracking dragon, Disney's live-action remakes are famous for sticking closely to the original animations, even if it means showing live-action versions of talking candelabras in Beauty and the Beast or singing and dancing animals in The Lion King. So it's not like it would have been impossible to add Mushi to the live-action Mulan.
There may have been another reason why the dragon was cut from the remake. While the original Mulan is considered a classic in the west, it had a less enthusiastic reception in China, whose culture the movie draws from, for depicting an inaccurate and stereotypical version of ancient Chinese culture. Jason Reed, the producer of the live-action Mulan, had previously spoken about making the remake more respectful of Chinese culture, even if it meant getting rid of Mushu.
"The dragon is a sign of respect and it's a sign of strength and power, and that sort of using it as a silly sidekick didn't play very well with the traditional Chinese audience. The traditional Disney audience and the diaspora Asian audience viewed the [animated Mulan] in one way, and the traditional Chinese in China audience viewed a slightly different way. So we really dug in to try and make sure that we were addressing both of those audiences in a thoughtful way. And I think that we-I hope, knock on wood-I think we found a way to tie the way they look at the movie together."
Despite the absence of a talking dragon, the initial reviews for the live-action Mulan have been highly positive, with some critics calling it the best live-action Disney remake to date and the type of war epic that deserved a theatrical release. Featuring a lead cast comprising of Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li, Yoson An, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao and Jet Li, Mulan is available Friday, Sept. 4 via Disney+ Premier Access. This news comes from USA Today.