Mulan Director Niki Caro Explains Why Mushu Was Left Out of the Live Action Remake of the Film
Mulan will premiere on Disney+ on Sept. 4
The director of the live-action remake of Mulan is offering fans a deeper explanation as to why Mushu won't be around to help save the day when audiences watch the new take on the classic Disney film.
Speaking with USAToday, the film's director, Niki Caro, revealed that the tiny dragon character — who was voiced by Eddie Murphy in the original Disney film — was intentionally left out of the new remake for storytelling purposes.
"We were very inspired by what Mushu brought to the animation, which was the humor and the levity, and the challenge was to bring that to Mulan’s real relationships with her fellow soldiers," Caro first explained in the interview, alongside the film's lead star, Yifei Liu.
"Mushu, beloved as that character is in the animation, was Mulan’s confidante, and part of bringing it into the live-action is to commit to the realism of her journey, and she had to make those relationships with her fellow soldiers," she added. "So there was certainly a lot to work within that department."
In the animated feature, Mushu acted as a guardian to Mulan, giving her guidance and protection during her perilous journey after posing as a male soldier in the Chinese army.
Caro first revealed to fans that Mushu would be cut from the updated take on the film during a footage reveal presentation earlier this year.
"I think we can all appreciate that Mushu is irreplaceable," the director told Digital Spy and other press after the presentation.
"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," she added. "But an update of Mushu? No."
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Though the director shared that Mushu was removed to allow Mulan to better enhance her relationships with her fellow soldiers, his absence may have also been more about not offending viewers, who found Mushu to be insensitive in the 1998 animated feature.
University of Southern California professor Stanley Rosen, who specializes in Chinese politics and culture, told The Hollywood Reporter that "Mushu was very popular in the U.S., but the Chinese hated it."
"This kind of miniature dragon trivialized their culture," he added.
During the footage presentation, Caro also addressed fan theories that a phoenix included in the film's trailer might be an updated version of the character, before ruling that out as well.
"So, on the left and right hand of the emperor is a dragon," she shared, according to Digital Spy. "The dragon is representative of the masculine, and the phoenix is representative of the feminine."
She added: "In a movie, in a story that so much explores gender fluidity, I thought that that was a really nice and appropriate way to go."
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Claro also revealed that elements of the original animation continue on in the live-action remake, and there were some parts of the flick that they stayed very faithful to.
"The matchmaker sequence from the animation, we were very, very faithful to that idea," she revealed. "And that's the only time you see Mulan really dressed in a very feminine way, because all of her other costumes for when she's a teenager are the costumes for a girl that likes to ride a horse, and a girl that likes to kick a ball, and are not so girly."
Mulan was originally intended for release in the U.S. in March but Disney postponed the debut as the coronavirus pandemic shut down countries around the world. The company then pushed the date back to July, before it settled on a Sept. 4 release date on Disney+.