Disney is currently obsessed with making live-action remakes of some of its classic animated films. Some of the most popular remakes in recent years have included the newly released Aladdin, Dumbo, and Beauty and the Beast, while upcoming projects include The Lion King, The Little Mermaid (which has instigated large online debates after Ariel's casting), and Mulan, whose first teaser trailer was just released to much fanfare.
There was already a lot of controversy surrounding this film even before the trailer dropped. Apparently, the film will have no Mushu, no singing, no Captain Shang, and the main villain will be a witch, not Shan-Yu and his Hun army. Basically, the film will be very different from the classic 1998 film of our childhood. Which isn't all that surprising, since most of Disney's remakes so far have differed from their respective animated films in more ways than one, but Mulan goes the extra mile by effectively taking the entire animated story and turning it on its head. And you know what, I'm actually ok with it.
I didn't like any of Disney's previous remakes. I didn't like Beauty and the Beast and I didn't even bother watching Aladdin or Dumbo, but Mulan has me excited. And it's a pattern I've noticed on Twitter as well. Most of the people who didn't like the previous remakes are genuinely excited about Mulan, while people who enjoyed the previous remakes are furious about the disparity between the Mulan remake and the original animation. It's an interesting observation, and I think I've figured out why we have these two groups of people with opposing views.
I'm a big fan of animated films and series when it comes to certain genres like the fantasy and superhero genres. While the live-action format does indeed look amazing when done right (the MCU is a great example), there are some stories which are better told as animations rather than as live-action productions. Take Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for example. That was an amazing film thanks in part to the amazing animation. If you were to take that story but tell it in a live-action format, you would lose a huge part of what made that film incredible, the animation. I believe many classic Disney movies are so fondly remembered due to the animations as well. As animations, nothing looked out of place. A blue genie that comes out from a lamp? Looks fine. A flying elephant? Sure, why not. A talking spirit dragon who has a cricket as a friend? Love it! Soldiers singing in a military camp as they train to defend China from an invasion? BEST DISNEY SONG EVER. But as live-action films? Everything just looks weird to me. And I think this is what divides most people when it comes to Disney's live-action remakes.
People who are disappointed by what Mulan could potentially be, i.e., a remake that's so far from the original animation it might as well be a different movie all together, want live-action films that tell the exact same story with the same characters and songs. They want a live-action remake that is faithful to the original animated classic. While I can understand this sentiment and agree with it to a degree, I'm afraid that when you take an animation and translate it to live-action, it won't always work. I'm not confident that a CGI Mushu would look good in this film. And I think having the soldiers singing and harmonising would take away from the severity and seriousness of the situation that they are in. As an animation, this works fine, but I doubt the same could be said of a live-action remake, which is why some people including myself like what we saw in the Mulan trailer.
The core story of Mulan remains the same. A daughter takes her father's place in the army to defend her country and to bring honour to her family. This is the legend of Hua Mulan, whom the original Disney animation is based on. There's no talking spirit dragon or lucky cricket, those characters were added by Disney to serve a purpose - to appeal to young children who were their target audience. This remake still serves the same purpose, but that target audience now includes adults who have already seen the original animation more than 20 years ago. It doesn't need to incorporate everything that made the animation great. It doesn't need to tell the exact same story again. It's not meant to replace the original 1998 animation. It's a retelling of the legend in a different format, and I'm excited to see the story from a different perspective, even without a talking spirit dragon, Captain Shang, or any musical performances.
What do you think? Are you disappointed by the Mulan trailer? Are you excited? When it comes to Disney remakes, would you rather they stay true to the original animations, or would it be better if they were just inspired by the originals, but not a direct translation from animation to live-action?