Disney’s ‘Mulan’ controversy at China box office

Disney was putting its hopes on a $ 200 million live-action remake of “Mulan” as a way to deliver a blockbuster culturally resonating with filmmakers in China in the world’s No. 2 film market.

But when it came, Chinese filmmakers had a litany of complaints.

The filmmakers were trying hard to move around in China, but did not try hard enough to get their historical facts right. He also made Mulan western, yet he succumbed to Orientalist stereotypes. He cast popular Chinese actors, yet gave them lines in English that sounded strange in the Chinese setting.

“The film is a waste of Mulan’s innocent name; It is truly heart-wrenching, ” 30-year-old Beijing University psychology teacher Qiu Tian said in an interview after watching a recent film. “The director completely misunderstood Moolan and transformed her character into an extreme feminist and her character as a hero.”

It showed ticket sales, grossing $ 23 million in its opening weekend. It was enough to lead the country’s box office – it was the only major release – but far from the home run demanded by company executives.

Other recent films have fared better so far. According to Maoyan, which monitors ticket sales in China, the Christopher Nolan thriller “Tenit” collected $ 29.6 million in its opening weekend earlier this month. And a Chinese war epic, “The Eat Hundred”, which brought in $ 75.7 million in its opening weekend, has grossed $ 391 million since its release on August 21.

The mixed reception for “Mulan” in China underscores the daunting challenge that Hollywood is trying to make films about Chinese stories that have broad appeal and the ability to woo filmmakers in China, its most important overseas market. is. Killing that sweet spot has become even more difficult in recent years, as Chinese filmmakers like “Wolf Warrior 2” (2017) and “The Wandering Earth” (2019), more than two of the top three highest for patriotism Show increased appetite. – Making movies in China.

Most of China’s cinemas are operating at only 50 percent capacity to help prevent the spread of coronovirus, but “Mulan” faced many additional hurdles. Analysts in the sugar industry said the recent re-opening of piracy and school did not help in ticket sales. Authorities also ordered media outlets to limit coverage of the film when word began to circulate that some scenes were shot in Xinjiang, a western Chinese region where Muslim minorities live under severe repression. That news, which set a global vicissitude, dimmed the spotlight on the film at a moment when it was most needed to generate buzz.

But the weekend’s ups and downs in China could carry a special sting for Disney, given how far the film went in trying to make a hit with Chinese audiences.

The studio hired a team of consultants and historians. A Chinese trial audience of filmmakers cut a kiss between Mulan and his love interest after objections to the scene. He shot scenes at 20 locations across China.

Walt Disney Studios co-president Alan F. “We have a problem if the ‘Mallan’ doesn’t work in China last year,” Horn said.

But in an attempt to make a culturally authentic film for China, Disney would be setting itself up for criticism. Unlike the DreamWorks animation series “Kung Fu Panda”, an origin story about the adventures of a playful panda named Po who has been an escape success in China, Mulan is a celebrity to many Chinese. Filmgoers must have known in school about the legendary heroine who had secretly volunteered to replace her ailing father in the military.

Even the original 1,500-year-old poem, “Muldan’s”, has been reinterpreted for centuries, originating as a human incarnation as a feminist hero for China’s early nationalists in the Chinese cultural imagination is. As loyalty to the state, and in more recent times,

Lu Hang, a Chinese film critic and producer, said that familiarity with the character was partly why Disney’s live-action “Mulan” did not take place as a rant with Chinese audiences, even though the company’s other films – particularly From its Marco Super Hero Chashma – historically has performed well in the country.

“As soon as you make a film that has a hint of catering in the Chinese market, when you see some problems start to emerge,” Mr. Lu said. “The film portrays a fictionalized version of China, and many Chinese viewers may not accept it.”

As of Monday, “Mulan” had 4.9 out of 10 stars from Dublin, a popular Chinese review website.

Chinese filmmakers made the point that they criticized many historical and historical anomalies. Many said that the “real” Mulan, which is in the original poem that was instigated from the northern steppe of China, is not in a tullu, round, earthen buildings as traditional houses for ethnic Hakka people in the far south Used to live

Viewers found the film’s portrayal of “Q” bizarre as having some special magic power found especially in boys. In traditional Chinese philosophy, “qi” is the vital life force that creates all things in the universe. Others found that the film lacked comic relief, with some even stating that they missed Mushu in Disney’s 1998 animated version of the story.

The Global Times, a popular tabloid controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, called it a “self-righteous portrayal” of the film to the film’s grand reception.

The newspaper said, “The film is just a mixture of oriental elements and symbols in the eyes of Western countries.”

After attending a screening of the film, 35-year-old Sylvia Zhang, an activist from Beijing, said the film had a lot of perspectives that were quite different from the usual Chinese viewpoint. He cited the inclusion of the film in the Song Dynasty style architecture of the Tullu buildings and the royal palace. According to the original poem, during the Northern Wei Dynasty, the Moolan must have lived before four centuries.

“It reminds me of an ABC,” Ms. Zhang said, using a generic term for American citizens of Chinese descent. “Or a Chinese person who has spent a lot of time abroad.”

Outside China, historians and commentators have criticized the film, saying that it promotes nationalism and ethnic Han Chinese Judaism, the policies of the ruling Communist Party.

In the film, Moolan is portrayed as a Han heroine who fights the raiding Rauron, the dark-skinned villain who wears black clothes – a problematic stereotype – in an attempt to save the emperor, Joe Jet Li Is played by But historians have noted that the people of northern China were originally more of Shi’an origin than the Han originally, and that it was not ruled by an emperor but by a Khan.

“The way villains are discussed, the serene-ness of the West of China, the fullness and perfection of the imperial city – there’s this rewriting to fit a very specific royal tale,” Hollywood writer Aeon Kokas Made in China , ”Said in a telephone interview. “Hollywood has a terrific history of making faceless, Ottoman villains, so it’s almost a full collaboration.”

Nevertheless, even with criticism, “Mulan” has found some fans in China, who he said have welcomed various interpretations of the centuries-old story.

Film blogger Zhao Wen, 26, said she loved her strong feminist scenes and “spectacular” scenes. He said that it was unfair for viewers to hold the film to the standards of a Chinese historical documentary.

“Many feel that the film presents a conservative version of our culture,” Ms. Zhao said in an interview at a cinema in Beijing. “But they forget that this is just to be a comedy and magic princess film.”

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting. Claire Fu contributed to the research.

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