Here’s Why ‘Mulan’ Fans Won’t See Mushu in the Live-Action Remake

Mulan 2020
Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection.

Disney fans may be wondering why Mushu isn’t in Mulan 2020. When the animated version of Mulan premiered in 1998, Mushu, a miniature Chinese dragon who serves as Mulan’s sidekick, became a breakout star for his scene-stealing moments and hilarious one-liner. However, when Disney released the trailer for the live-action version of Mulan in July 2019, Mushu, who was voiced by Eddie Murphy in the animated movie, was noticeably missing. Why?

Well, in a September 2020 interview with USA Today, director Niki Caro explained that the live-action filmed decided to not include Mushu to flesh out other character relationships. “We were very inspired by what Mushu brought to the animation,” Caro said. “Which was the humor and the levity, and the challenge was to bring that to Mulan’s real relationships with her fellow soldiers.”

She continued, “Mushu, beloved as that character is in the animation, was Mulan’s confidante and part of bringing it into live action is to commit to the realism of her journey and she had to make those relationships with her fellow soldiers. So, there was certainly a lot to work with in that department.”

Caro confirmed to Digital Spy in January 2020 that Mushu would not be in the live-action remake. “I think we can all appreciate that Mushu is irreplaceable,” she said at the time. “You know, the animated classic stands on its own in that regard. In this movie, there is a creature representative—a spiritual representation of the ancestors, and most particularly of Mulan’s relationship with her father…But an update of Mushu? No.”

In a February 2020 report by The Hollywood Reporter, University of Southern California professor explained that another reason the film may have decided to not include Mushu was because of the Chinese public’s reaction to the character. “Mushu was very popular in the U.S., but the Chinese hated it,” he said. “This kind of miniature dragon trivialized their culture.”

The animated version of Mulan premiered in 1998 and was voiced by Lea Salonga and Ming-Na Wen. A live-action version of the film was originally scheduled to premiere in theaters in March 2020, but the release date was pushed back because of the current health crisis. A second release date was planned for July 2020, but that was also delayed. A third release date was revealed for August 2020 until Disney decided to release the live-action Mulan on Disney+ on Friday, September 4. The film is available to stream for Disney+ subscribers for an extra fee of $30, which allows users to access the service’s Premium Access section. Those who don’t want to pay the extra fee can watch the film on Disney+ with no extra charge (other than the $6.99 per-month subscription rate) on December 4.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in September 2020, director Niki Caro talked about why she decided to adapt the animated film. “Mulan is not a superhero, so her physical action needed to be anchored in a strong female body and bounded by the laws of physics,” she said. “What you see of [Yifei] fighting on the ground is purely her. She’s not on wires. We haven’t switched her out with a stunt performer. There are no tricks. It’s just cinema and extraordinary performance in every way.”

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