1998 was the year the beloved Disney Classic, Mulan was released. The heroic story, about a young woman who disguises herself as a man so she can fight in a war to save China, her village, and her father entered theaters in 1998, and stayed in our hearts forever. To this day, she is known as one of the fiercest Disney princesses out there. But the story of Mulan didn’t begin in 1998. In fact, it goes back to over one thousand years ago.
By Desiree Nestor
The original story of Mulan is believed to go back all the way to the 5th or 6th century. This is when the Chinese folktale, the Ballad of Mulan was written. This story tells the tale of a girl living in China during the Late Northern Wei Dynasty, who dresses up as a man in order to fight in a war. Historical research suggests there were wars going on during this time. So it is possible that Mulan was in fact, a real person.
Since the original Chinese folktale, the story has been told for hundreds of years. And throughout all this time, the story was delivered through plays, songs, literature, and films in different genres like romance, comedy and drama.
The very first time the story entered movie theaters was actually in 1927. This was when the silent film Hua Mulan Joins the Army was released in China. The story of Mulan doesn’t reach the United States until later. Other versions of the tale include a play from the 1500’s called Female Mulan Joins the Army Taking Her Father’s Place, and a novel from the 1800’s called Historical Romance of the Sui and Tan Dynasties.
However, it was the 1998 animated Disney classic that helped bring Mulan’s story to the other parts of the world. According to the new movie’s director, Niki Caro, this new film will be based off of the original Ballad of Mulan, and Disney’s classic 1998. Niki Caro’s main goal is to make this film as culturally and historically accurate as possible.
Unlike past live action remakes of popular films, the new live action movie has not been accused of white washing. The live action Mulan features all Asian actors, unlike the 1998 animated version which included white actors voicing or singing for Chinese characters.
In the 1998 movie, the character Li Shang was voiced by Asian actor, BD Wong. However, the singing voice was that of Donny Osmond, who is white. Other white actors voicing Chinese characters in this version were Miguel Ferrer and Harvey Fierstein. This has been an issue for Hollywood animation in the past, where white actors voice characters of color.
The original story of Mulan is believed to go back all the way to the 5th or 6th century.
Fortunately, the new live-action movie will have actors who properly represent all the characters of this legendary story. This is a big step for representation and diversity in Hollywood films. The Live-action Mulan will finally be available for us to watch on September 4th on Disney Plus!