Disney’s Mulan live-action remake release date – cast, plot and new trailer

We can't be tranquil as a forest when there's a new trailer for the Mulan remake - here's everything you need to know from cast to plot and the changes

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Mulan, the Chinese legend about a young woman who masquerades as a man to go to war, is getting the live-action remake treatment at Disney.

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The 1998 animation has had a full overhaul, top to bottom, from story to songs (or lack of). The remake joins a long list of classic films Disney is giving the live-action treatment to, joining Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Aladdin, The Lion King and Jungle Book.

Disney has now (finally!) released a trailer for the film showing Mulan being told she must be a “good wife” only for epic battle sequences to kick off. She simply says: “It’s my duty to fight.”

We’ve taken a look at who is playing the warrior, the controversy surrounding the rest of the cast and whether there will actually be any songs in the new version.

So let’s get down to business.

When is Mulan released in cinemas?

Mulan is slated for release in the UK and USA on 27th March 2020. The film was originally set for a November 2018 release, but it was pushed back to March after it took longer than expected to find an actress to play Mulan.

Is there a trailer for Mulan? 

A new trailer was released on 5th December. “Loyal, brave and true. It is my duty to protect my family,” Mulan says.

A teaser was released on 8th July showing Mulan wielding a sword, fighting an army and scaling rooftops.

Mulan 2020 music: Are there any songs?

Well, this has caused quite a bit of confusion…

In an interview with Moviefone in March 2017, Caro said there would not be any songs. “From what I understand, no songs right now, much to the horror of my children,” she said.

However, later that month, Caro seemed to have changed her mind as she told The LA Times: “I don’t know where that’s come from. We’ve never talked about songs, and no decision has been made.”

Then in April 2017, Caro told The Hollywood Reporter: “We’re still exploring the role that music’s going to play in it, but for sure there will be music.”

Fans were understandably upset at the idea of not having hits like I’ll Make a Man Out of You, Reflection, A Girl Worth Fighting For, and many more.

Harry Gregson-Williams is set to score the film.

Deep breath! Now Dis-Insider reports that while there will be the original music it will only be instrumental. Cue upset fans again…

Mulan 2020 cast 

Chinese actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu (The Forbidden Kingdom, Outcast) will play Mulan. The casting call asked for someone with “credible martial arts skill” and English language skills so Liu Yifei fits the bill.

Here she is looking fierce and wielding a sword.

  • Donnie Yen (Rogue One) will play Mulan’s mentor Commander Tung
  • Jet Li (Lethal Weapon 4) will star as The Emperor
  • Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha) as villain Xian Lang, a powerful witch
  • Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect) as con artist Skath
  • Jason Scott Lee (The Jungle Book) as vengeful warrior leader Bori Khan
  • Marco Polo’s Ron Yuan has been cast as the “fiercely loyal” second in command
  • Chum Ehelepola has been cast as Ramtish, another con-artist
  • Actor Yoson An will play Mulan’s love interest
  • Chinese-Vietnamese star Xana Tang will play Mulan’s sister, another new addition to the story, but similar to the ballad where Mulan had a brother.
  • Li Gong as Xian Lang
  • Rosalind Chao as Hua Lia
  • Utkarsh Ambudkar as Skatch
  • Tzi Ma as Hua Zhou
  • Jimmy Wong as Ling
  • Yoson An as Chen Honghui
  • Doua Moua as Po
  • Roger Yuan as Duba Tegin
  • Chen Tang as Yao

Is Mushu in Mulan 2020?

Apparently not, the first initial cast list left off the wisecracking, fast talking dragon sidekick. Then Dis-Insider reported that Mushu was going to be in the film, but as a Phoenix. Kevin Hart’s name was rumoured to be linked to the role, but this seems to have been just that, a rumour.

The cast are also sporting sweatshirts with the fire bird symbol, which has added credence to the rumours.

Why there’s no Li Shang in the Mulan remake

No, Li Shang is not in the Mulan remake! This caused a lot of controversy when it emerged in 2017. A casting call notice listed the characters in the new movie, but left of Mulan’s love interest, instead listing Chen Honghui. Disney has since confirmed he will replace Li Shang as the main love interest for our heroine.

What is Mulan about?

Much like the original 1998 animated version starring Eddie Murphy, the remake is expected to follow the popular Chinese folktale about a young warrior woman, Mulan, who masquerades as a man. In the original movie, when Mulan learns that her injured father is to be called up into the army to fight the invading Huns, a mission he would not survive, she decides to disguise herself as a man and go to battle in his place.

But what Mulan doesn’t realise is that her ancestors are aware of her plan and, in order to stop it, order a tiny dragon, Mushu, to dissuade her.

Mushu agrees, but when he meets Mulan it soon becomes clear that she will not abandon her plan, so in the end the little dragon decides to support her on her dangerous journey.

If you want to watch the 1998 animation before the remake is out the DVD/Blu-Ray for Mulan and Mulan 2 is available here. 

Mulan (Sky)
Mulan and Mushu in the original movie (Sky)

Details of the remake have been kept largely under wraps, but director Niki Caro has said the new film will be “a big, girly martial arts epic. It will be extremely muscular and thrilling and entertaining and moving.”

The synopsis reads: “Mulan is the epic adventure of a fearless young woman who masquerades as a man in order to fight Northern Invaders attacking China. The eldest daughter of an honored warrior, Hua Mulan is spirited, determined and quick on her feet. When the Emperor issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army, she steps in to take the place of her ailing father as Hua Jun, becoming one of China’s greatest warriors ever.”

Who will direct Mulan?

Niki Caro has directed the remake with Crouching Tiger producer Bill Kong as executive producer, as first reported by Hollywood Reporter.

Disney had considered Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins and Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones) as well as Asian director Ang Lee.

Who wrote Mulan 2020’s script?

Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Jurassic World) were brought in to rewrite the original 2015 script – they’re also working on the Avatar sequel films.

The original writer’s spec was by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin and was based on the legendary Chinese ballad and the 1998 film – the result was a story that fell somewhere in between according to Disney. Controversy arose when reports surfaced that the original spec had non-Chinese characters and a white male lead as a “30-something European trader” who falls in love with Mulan. Sounds more Pocahontas to us.

The anonymous letter that led to the report went so far as to claim that Jennifer Lawrence and Zac Efron had read for parts. Jason Reed will produce alongside Chris Bender and Jake Weiner.

Why are there calls to boycott Mulan?

There are already calls to boycott the movie though they are nothing to do with Mulan itself. Lead actress Liu Yifei expressed support for the Hong Kong police on Chinese social channel Weibo earlier this year sparking controversy. Hong Kong was experiencing a period of unrest triggered by draft legislation that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China.

Protests against the bill were happening in the country, though the bill was shelved for now. The protests grew into a wider pro-democracy, anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong that resulted in clashes between the police and protestors.

Liu posted: “I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now. What a shame for Hong Kong. #Ialsosupporthongkongpolice#,” and added her own post saying: “I also support the Hong Kong police.” Some have said her post supports police brutality and is anti-democratic.

Mulan remake’s record-breaking budget

Mulan’s remake is already on track to become the most expensive movie ever made, according to Pursue News. When the film was in pre-production in New Zealand it had already racked up a hefty budget.

Disney set aside $290m plus for the film, which makes Niki Caro the fourth woman to ever direct a solo live-action film with a budget of more than $100m. She also tops the list as the only female director to have led a project with a budget of $290m plus. Before the higher budget was leaked Caro was the second woman at the studio to direct a movie budgeted at over $100m (Ava DuVernay was the first, if you’re interested, for A Wrinkle in Time).

The sets, built by the same crew who worked on Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, are apparently on an unprecedented scale.

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Mulan is released in cinemas on March 27, 2020.