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The Two Versions of Mulan

Mulan: The Changes From Classic Animation to New Live-Action

Mulan: The Changes From Classic Animation to New Live-Action

(Updated 06/26/2020)

Disney has transformed several of its animated classics into stunning live-action movies, like last year’s THE LION KING and ALADDIN. These new versions introduce young movie fans to thrilling, colorful worlds filled with magic and adventure. For grown-ups, these movies offer an exciting new version of beloved favorites from their own childhoods.

Disney’s next big remake is MULAN, which is based on the animated movie from 1998. Unlike the studio’s other recent live-action movies, this one puts the emphasis on the action, and the story might seem a little different from the one you remember. Below, we break down the biggest MULAN changes. Here are the major differences between the animated MULAN and the new live-action movie.

Mulan Puts the Action in Live-Action

[Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures]

The biggest and most obvious change is from animation to live-action. But unlike ALADDIN or DUMBO, this remake is way heavier on the live-action element because none of the primary characters are animals or magical creatures.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be an element of fantasy (more on that in a bit), but the story in MULAN revolves around a human character, the people around her, and the battles they face. This also means we’ll be seeing a lot more action than in other Disney remakes, as we watch the title character, played by Chinese actress Liu Yifei, train for combat and go to war for her people — and that action will feature some high-flying wire stunts, as seen in the featurette embedded above.

Honoring Tradition

Mulan Changes: Adherence to Tradition

Another way this MULAN differs from the animated version is in the storytelling. Disney’s 1998 film was loosely based on a well-known ancient Chinese legend, in which one man from each family is ordered to enlist in the army to defend the country from invading forces. If the family does not have a son, the father must go to war instead. Hua Mulan is the oldest daughter of a famous warrior who is now too old for battle, so Mulan disguises herself as a man and joins the army in his place. Under the name Hua Jun, Mulan proves herself to the male soldiers and becomes an honored warrior in her own right.

The animated movie took several liberties with the original Chinese legend, but the live-action version will be more faithful to the classic story. In paying respect to Chinese history and tradition, the filmmakers made one of the biggest MULAN changes as they decided to do away with the character of Mushu, the talking dragon who served as Mulan’s sidekick in the animated version and was voiced by Eddie Murphy.

Reliving the Magic

Mulan Changes: Magic in the Live-Action Version

Fans of the 1998 animated movie will still find a lot to love in the new MULAN. While Mushu isn’t in this version, Mulan will be given another mythological sidekick of sorts, according to a recent interview with the film’s producer. There will be other fantasy elements, as well, including a villainous, shapeshifting witch named Xian Lang, played by famous Chinese actress Gong Li. She’ll be working alongside the film’s other main villain, Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee), a warrior intent on avenging the death of his father.

Mulan's Men

Mulan Changes: The Love Interest in the Live-Action Version

In the original animated movie, Mulan fell in love with her commander and mentor, Captain Li Shang. For this movie, the filmmakers felt it was important to not have a young woman involved in a romantic relationship with her superior. That led to another big MULAN change: the Li Shang figure was split into two new characters.

One is Commander Tung, the leader of the Imperial Army and a mentor to Mulan. He’s played by Donnie Yen, the action and martial arts icon best known for his roles in the IP MAN movies and who appeared in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. Mulan will still have a love interest, and his name is Chen Honghui. He’s played by Yoson An. Chen is a fellow soldier and becomes a close ally and friend—and eventual romantic interest—to Mulan.

Music and Other Memorable Scenes

Mulan Changes: Music in the Live-Action Version

Another big difference between the animated film and the live-action remake is the music. The 1998 MULAN was an animated musical, but given the more period-accurate setting of the live-action version, the filmmakers decided that full-blown song and dance numbers wouldn't work in this version.

Fans of the iconic songs from MULAN needn’t worry: The music will be incorporated into the live-action version, just in a different way. And since this is not a beat-for-beat remake like THE LION KING, some key scenes will also be different, like the memorable hair-cutting scene. In the animated film, Mulan famously chops off her hair to make herself look more like a boy. But actual Chinese warriors did not cut their hair, so in this version, Mulan will keep her long locks to be more faithful to tradition.

We're sure there will be a few more notable differences between the classic and new versions, but that fans will find just as much to love in the new movie as they always have in the original!

See MULAN in movie theatres August 21!

All images courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

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