Disney’s Live-Action ‘Mulan’ Trailer Criticized in China for Historical Inaccuracies

"Whale Rider" filmmaker Niki Caro directs the live-action adaptation of Disney's 1998 animated classic.

Walt Disney Studios dropped the teaser trailer for its live-action “Mulan” adaptation on July 7 to much fanfare around the world. The clip has earned over 20 million views on YouTube alone, but not everyone has been satisfied by the one-and-a-half minutes of footage on display. Variety reports the trailer has been widely criticized in China for featuring historical inaccuracies. Even though anticipation for the 2020 tentpole is high in China, moviegoers have been using the social media platform Weibo to call out the first trailer.

Just like the 1998 animated movie, the live-action “Mulan” is based on the Chinese legend of warrior Hua Mulan. The girl is born in northern China around the 5th century A.D. when the country was split between the Northern and Southern dynasties. The plot kicks in when Mulan stands up to fight against southern invaders and protect the northern border.

As Variety explains, Disney’s “Mulan” trailer shows the main character and her family living in a round “tulou” house, described as a “traditional communal living structure of the Hakka people unique to coastal, southern Fujian.” Since Mulan is from northern China, it’s unlikely her family would be living in a home associated with the Hakka people. Additionally, the tulou house was seen largely during the Ming dynasty, more than a thousand years after the time period in which “Mulan” is set.

“Disney shouldn’t be so careless and just think that because tulou are beautiful, they can make Mulan live in one,” one critic wrote on Weibo. “She’s not Fujianese! I guess this Mulan has to take the subway out to join the army?”

A video posted online calling out the “Mulan” trailer has gone viral with over 8 million views in two days. As the video states, “This film is just trying to ingratiate itself to Western audiences. It’s like they thought, oh, this element is really Chinese, it’s very Oriental, so I’m going to shove it into the film to make everyone feel this is a very ‘Chinese’ film.”

“This mess of mixing unrelated Oriental elements is really disrespectful of non-Western cultures and audiences,” the viral video continues. “This is not about [the producers] truly appreciating elements of a culture that is different from Hollywood’s, but using them to create something that [Americans] find comfortable and appealing.”

Disney is opening its live-action “Mulan” adaptation in March 2020. The film is directed by “Whale Rider” filmmaker Niki Caro and stars Chinese actress Liu Yifei in the title role. Watch the trailer below.

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