Mulan is the latest in a growing line of Disney live-action remakes. Based on the 1998 animated feature film of the same name, as well as The Ballad of Mulan, a young woman (Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a man to take her ailing father’s place in the Imperial Army, to protect the country from Northern invaders. Along the way, she comes to terms with realizing her full potential and to not hold back on who she is.
This episode of Southern Fried Asian was recorded in February before the coronavirus shut down everything. While Disney may have taken Mulan off its release schedule, we’re filling the void by releasing Keith’s conversation with one of the film’s stars, Chen Tang!
Jason Scott Lee has been part of Hollywood for a long time breaking many barriers than Asian Americans had sought for so long. In 1993, Lee played the iconic role of Bruce Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, one of the only Bruce Lee biopics approved by the Lee Family. The following year, he went on to star in the first live-action Disney film, The Jungle Book, as Mowgli, marking the first time an Asian American took on a lead role in a Disney film.
Noted for playing the good guy in his films like The Jungle Book and Lilo & Stitch, Lee was ready to take on a different role — Disney villain. In the new Disney live-action film Mulan, Lee plays Bori Khan aka “Shan Yu” of the Rouran tribes. As the main antagonist to Yifei Liu’s Mulan, Bori Khan is determined to overpower the Emperor (Jet Li) and the people of China.
Over a year ago, in October 2018, I was fortunate the attend the set visit to the live-action version of Disney’s Mulan. Many fans, including myself, have waited over 22 years for the animated version to come to life. It was really surreal to see it play out in person on the set in New Zealand.
When plans of the live-action film were announced in 2015, fans immediately were excited with the idea of seeing their favorite characters come to life — from the Hua family guardian, Mushu, to Mulan’s good luck charm, Cri-Kee, and the bisexual icon, Li Shang.
The second day of D23 Expo kicked off with the Disney Studios presentation with new films coming from the studios of Disney, Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. Alan Horn, chief creative officer and co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios hosted the showcase and brought on Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige, Disney live action’s Sean Bailey, Pixar’s Pete Docter, and Disney Animation’s Jennifer Lee.
The “Disney Princess” mythos is a genre as restrictive as it is globally-superpowered, but in terms of the Official Princess Movie with the most patriarchy-subverting politics, I think it’s no contest: Mulan is by far the most progressive-minded cel-animated Disney Princess film, while also performing its essential sedative-hypnotic function on your child’s developing emotional vocabulary. (Pocahontas has an argument too, but for my taste, the underlying colonization-conquest story is so far outside of Classic Disney’s natural lane, you kinda wonder what they’re even trying to say, and also the songs in Pocahontas are not my jam.)
When a leaked script revealed that Disney planned to center its live-action Legend of Mulan film around a white merchant who comes to “white knight” the hero of China, the outrage was swift and fierce. After thousands signed 18MillionRising’s petition, Disney quickly responded to assure fans that all major characters would be cast as Chinese. “Don’t worry,” one patronizing headline went so far as to say, everything’s going to be fine. And by and large, the once-raging fire of #MakeMulanRight has cooled to a few glowing embers. Asian America seems to be satisfied to know that Disney won’t turn Mulan into yet another white savior film.
It’s a win, but not exactly the sort of victory you can feel great about. We’ve been through this too many times, haven’t we?
Amongst my friends and family, it is no secret that the only holiday I care about is Halloween. No, it isn’t just because the candy is free and flowing — although this is a huge bonus. What I love the most about he holiday is that there is this unbridled demonstration of ingenuity, creativity, and imagination. People get to step a little outside of their mundane lives and step into the realm of the fantastic.
Another thing I love are the costumes. I don’t think I’m alone in this, especially amongst my fellow NOC. While many of us were too busy to dress up, we made sure that our children did.
I would like to present to you the NOC Parade of Costumes: Our Children’s Addition.
[Ed. note: In the 24 hours since this open letter was posted on AAM, Disney has released a statement that their live action adaptation of Mulan will not feature a white love interest. We are still posting the original letter because we can confirm that the spec script discussed below does indeed exist and is still indicative of how Hollywood views Asians.]
A white merchant’s business brings him to the heart of a legendary Asian conflict — he unwittingly helps save the day while winning the heart of the Asian female. Am I describing the plotline of the Netflix series Marco Polo? No. I’m describing the spec script that Disney bought for its live-action feature film, The Legend of Mulan, which is projected for release in 2018.
Vanity Fair has an exclusive first look at Ming-Na in The Mandalorian! She has the Disney Triple Crown, y’all!!
Earlier this week, Lucasfilm announced the addition of two more actors to the cast of Star Wars Episode VII. We do not yet know who the two relatively unknown actors — Pip Anderson, who’s British, and Crystal Clarke, who’s African American — will play in the movie, but I’m guessing their roles must be substantial enough to warrant a press release about their casting. If their characters are indeed prominent, Clarke will join John Boyega and Lupita Nyong’o in making this “the blackest Star Wars ever.”
Still, every time breaking Star Wars casting news comes across my feed, there’s always one name that I hope to see in the headlines: Ming-Na Wen.
In late 2013, I heard that director Jeffrey Gee Chin (Lil Tokyo Reporter) and composer George Shaw (TableTop, Keye Luke, Hang Loose) were making a Star Wars musical fan film set in style to Disney musicals.
After many months of production, the short film Star Wars the Musical (Disney Parody) has now been released on YouTube and is sure to garner many views. In fact, our very own Junko was a production assistant for the film too!