Did you see Mushu in the trailer for Disney’s new live action Mulan? No? Well, you’re not the only one. For a whole assembly of Disney fans have noticed this one glaring issue with the upcoming remake – and they’re not happy about it. 

Disney’s Mulan is a classic film, one that has warmed the hearts of audiences for over two decades. Part of the film’s success can be attributed to fan favourite character, Mushu, the brash eastern dragon voiced by Eddie Murphy.

When Disney announced their plans for a live action Mulan movie, it seemed a given that Mushu would make a reappearance. However, it seems Disney had other plans, with early press for the film only confirming the dragon’s absence.

Fans immediately took to social media to voice their concerns over the character’s removal. many believed that the film would be unable to capture the spirit of the original. While others were left questioning the decision — why would Disney cut out one of their most popular characters?

Well, there is no clear answer to that question, but let’s take a look at the various elements that may have influenced the decision. This way, fans can truly understand why Mushu won’t work for Disney’s live-action Mulan, and how his erasure could actually benefit the studio.

Why Mushu Won’t Work in China

The original animated movie was an instant success among traditional western audiences, but the film did not receive the same reception in China.

Disney’s relationship with the Chinese government was a turbulent one and this saw the film’s release date being delayed by a whole year! Effectively killing any public interest the film may have garnered, and even then Chinese audiences found the film culturally inaccurate and unoriginal.

Times have changed, and Disney’s relationship with China has reached a more professional level. Disney’s recent successes often stemming from the studio’s ability to consistently break the Chinese Box office.

These days it could be said that Disney carefully constructs its movies to appeal to the larger Asian market, and it appears that their new Mulan movie is no different.

Not only is the film inspired by a Chinese legend, but it also stars Chinese actress, Liu Yifei in the title role. Although Yifei is a newcomer to Hollywood, in China she is already a household name, having established her acting career at the age of eight.

Casting Yifei demonstrates Disney’s strategic approach to the production of the film. They want to make a movie that will not only appeal to fans of the original, but that will also perform well with Chinese audiences.

But wait, there’s more! This could also be the reason why Mushu was inevitably dropped from the new movie! The character did not test well in China. Creating a new movie with its own unique cultural identity could prove more lucrative within the Asian Box Office.

But that’s not to say that Disney made the decision alone.

Live Action Mulan Director Talks About Mushu

Niki Caro is the director who was hired by Disney to bring Mulan’s story to live action. And it seems she has taken a unique and creative approach to the project.

In an interview with Digital Spy, Caro addressed Mushu’s removal from the film:

“I think we can all appreciate that Mushu is irreplaceable…the animated classic stands on its own in that regard.”

It seems that once again we are seeing this new movie trying to create its own unique identity, one almost completely detached from the original animated film.

But there’s more! Caro seems to be taking a more realistic approach with the remake, even going so far as to remove any musical numbers from the original classic.

In another conversation, Caro had this to say in regard to the removal of the original songs:

“I mean, back to the realism question — we don’t tend to burst into song when we go to war […] I guess that’s the biggest thing for me about making — remaking — an iconic title like Mulan in live-action. It’s the fact it can be real and it’s the real story of a girl going to war.”

But even with all this freshly added realism, it appears that the movie will still include some supernatural elements.

Mushu to be Replaced by Phoenix?

Even though we will not be seeing Mushu in the new movie, that does not mean the film will be completely devoid of the fantastical.

During the release of the film’s trailer, we saw the addition of a new villain in the form of Xian Lang. A shape-shifting witch who allies herself with the film’s primary antagonist. We also saw that Mulan would now be accompanied on her journey by a phoenix — a mythical firebird associated with femininity and empowerment.

When questioned about the addition of the phoenix, Caro had this to say:

“So, on the left and right hand of the emperor is a dragon…the dragon is representative of the masculine, and the phoenix is representative of the feminine. In a movie…that so much explores gender fluidity, I thought that that was a really nice and appropriate way to go.”

Caro was also adamant that the phoenix was not Mushu’s replacement, stating that the creature was: “a spiritual representation of the ancestors […] but an update of Mushu? No.”

So there are various elements and choices that have led to Mushu’s removal from the film. And these reasons could help the film become another blockbuster success for the studio, especially if their more authentic take is received well by Asian audiences.

However, you may still have to wait a while before Mulan comes to your local cinema!

Live-Action Mulan: Delayed, Yet Again

Mulan had its glitzy premiere in early March, but sadly the film saw its global release date delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis. The decision being made so as to not hinder the film’s performance in China, where the virus was at its most prevalent.

Since the delay, the film’s release has been altered several times. Disney now hopes to release the film in the US on August 21, 2020.

But for now, we can still enjoy the original classic from the comfort of our own homes, with the film currently being available on Disney+.