Disney made the Chinese fable of Mulan almost universally known with its animated film of the same title, released in 1998. At the time of its debut, there were plenty of critics who complained about Disney’s flawed images of Chinese culture. Personally, I was impressed at the cast of mostly Asian actors that Disney assembled for the film (Eddie Murphy and Harvey Fierstein notwithstanding).
I’ve had a soft spot for the story of Mulan, ever since we had a sonogram in 2004 that showed our impending child was going to be a girl. I kept my eyes out for any Chinese cultural items that would be a positive Asian female role model for our daughter-to-be, and that included of course the Disney version of Mulan, and its associated toys. But I was never satisfied with that version and started searching for other versions of Mulan and found there are quite a few animated versions, including The Legend of Mulan and The Secret of Mulan, both of which I acquired for my daughter, but was disappointed in their overall quality.
I was excited to hear the story of Mulan is being told again, and this time from a Chinese filmmaker. Under the direction of Jingle Ma and with Zhao Wei in the leading role, the movie about the female warrior releases to cinemas starting Friday in China.
Although this version is not a children’s animation (it’s a romantic drama – a Chinese war epic), I’m glad to see there’s another version for my daughter, at least for when she’s
much older. In case you’re not familiar with the tale of Mulan, the actual story is traced back to a poem told during the Tang Dynasty, around 600 AD, called The Ballad of Mulan. Mulan takes her aging father’s place in the army, disguising the fact that she is female. She goes on to become a hero in the war. It’ll be interesting to see if this version of the film receives any positive reviews and is worth adding to our Mulan collection when it’s released on DVD.