“Mulan” fans in mainland China on Friday welcomed the news that Disney will postpone the global release of the new live-action blockbuster, happy that they’ll likely now get the chance to see the film in theaters in sync with the rest of the world.
The new “Mulan” was scheduled to release worldwide outside of China, one of Disney’s most crucial overseas markets, on March 27. Chinese cinemas have been closed since late January due to the coronavirus epidemic.
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Disney’s potentially costly decision to move ahead without China came despite the firm’s efforts to specifically cater to mainland audiences in its new retelling of the classic Chinese ballad, particularly in the decision to cast popular China-born starlet Liu Yifei as the titular heroine.
Chinese fans took to social media on Friday to express their relief that the film had been pulled — both for health reasons, and out of fears of piracy and spoilers as the last ones to get a theatrical release.
“Thank god!!!! Now I won’t be spoiled,” said one poster to China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform. Another enthused: “Finally they’ve pulled it! They should’ve done so long ago. Now everyone can watch it at the same time together.”
Most wrote of their support for the decision to prioritize health concerns. “Safety first! We’ll pull out the red carpet for the film at a better time,” wrote one commenter, adding: “Maybe now you can do the premiere in China?” The film had its initial U.S. debut in Hollywood on March 9.
By Friday evening, the Weibo hashtag “Mulan Global Release Cancelled” had been viewed 630 million times.
Disney released all four of its 2019 live action remakes in the mainland last year. China was the highest grossing overseas territory for October’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” ($48.8 million) and July’s “The Lion King” ($120 million), and the second largest foreign market for May’s “Aladdin” ($112 million) and March’s “Dumbo” ($21.9 million).
Directed by New Zealand’s Niki Caro, “Mulan” is most expensive live-action feature to ever be helmed by a woman, with a budget of at least $200 million. It will obviously be seeking to earn big in China, one of the world’s most censorious nations where these days, it’s hard for any cultural phenomenon to sidestep thorny politics.
Earlier, the film had come under fire after Liu publicly expressed support across all her social media channels for the Hong Kong police force accused of excessive violence in attempts to quell pro-democracy protests there, leading for some to call for a boycott of the title.
More recently, she’s come under fire on mainland social media from Chinese nationalist trolls who have criticized local fans for identifying with and taking pride in a star who technically gave up her Chinese nationality to gain a U.S. passport.
“Liu Yifei is too miserable — beyond the Great Firewall [of internet censorship] the pro-Hong Kongers smear her, and within the Great Firewall the nationalists smear her,” joked one Weibo commenter.
Some former detractors gave her credit, however, for openly saying on her promotional tour that she hails from Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic where the disease originated.
“She’s the only one who dares to say in front of the world media that she’s a Wuhan native, so I’m a fan of her. Domestically right now, how many from Wuhan would dare openly admit that’s where they’re from?” read one post. People from Wuhan have been subject to extreme stigma since the start of the virus. Particularly in the early, panic-striken days of the epidemic, many ended up outcasts shunned by their peers and neighbors, kept out of hotels and even specially tracked and registered by the authorities — even in other parts of the country.
Beyond “Mulan,” a growing list of other films have recently canceled their scheduled debuts due to coronavirus concerns, including Disney’s “New Mutants” and “Antlers,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place 2” and “The Love Birds,” and Universal Studios’ “Fast & Furious 9.”
“Mulan” marks the third film starring Chinese superstar Gong Li to be pulled in almost as many months, after Lou Ye’s “Saturday Fiction” — which debuted at Venice — was pulled from its expected Chinese theatrical release in December, presumably for censorship reasons, and Peter Chan’s highly anticipated volleyball film “Leap” cancelled its Chinese new year sortie just as the coronavirus situation was heating up.
But many Chinese fans say that neither the virus nor the delay will dampen their enthusiasm for Mulan. “A good meal won’t spoil just because it’s served a bit late. A good film will always catch the world’s attention, whenever it comes out,” one wrote online.
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