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Magnificent Moments: Inside the Making of Disney’s Mulan

Go behind the scenes of a once-in-a-dynasty story in the making!
Yifei Liu as Mulan in Battle

Picture it!

You're driving through the countryside of New Zealand's South Island, past magnificent snow-capped mountains, gushing streams, and idyllic pastures, when you see it all of a sudden: a huge battle scene, packed with hundreds of armoured horses and extras. A young woman, dressed powerfully in red, stands in the middle of all of it. Her hair is down, and she's battle-ready. A camera crew and lighting equipment can be around, and yet you can't help but feel that this moment will be epic. You've just entered the world of the new live-action Disney movie, Mulan.

The story of Mulan was introduced to most of us by the 1998 animated film, a beloved tale for audiences across the globe. In this new live-action retelling (coming to theatres on March 27 in one month!), the story maintains the animated movie's DNA through building on Mulan's original ballad and the many variations told in China but also forges a direction of its own.

Making of Mulan

Animated movie fans should look for references to popular musical topics, favourite characters, and more! New environments, new plots, and new characters can also be anticipated by viewers. Honghui, a new conscript like Mulan and one of the team's best martial artists, and the enigmatic Böri Khan, one of the new tale's main villains, are two of those characters. "Jason Scott Lee, who plays him in the movie, shared: "Böri Khan has a personal vengeance for the empire, and Mulan is a problem that arises in his plans to take back the land and culture of the Rourans [his people]. If there's one thing for sure: this fearful enemy you don't want to mess with.

Yoson An's Honghui, on the other hand, is someone who Mulan initially sees as a competitor, but who soon becomes a friend... and maybe something more.
"They start off on the wrong foot and as they progress through the trainings together, they have this unspoken bond ‘cause they recognize each other’s warrior spirit."

Mulan - Behind The Scenes

For Yifei Liu, who plays Mulan, the character represents a powerful symbol of the value that comes with being yourself and standing in that truth. “The chi in her body is inspiring and it’s in every one of us. The more she can stay still and be calm and stay grounded, the more power she can go beyond herself.” The actor’s ability to really bring that inner chi to her own performance was impressive to many on set. “She’s taking on this intense lead role and I’ve been so impressed. It takes a lot of stamina and focus, and she’s doing it. She’s been stellar,” added Lee.

Training for an action-packed film like Mulan was no easy feat, and the actors went to great lengths to capture the warrior spirit. “[Director] Niki [Caro] brought over this amazing Serbian ex-Special Forces guy, and we went through military training with him for three months every day,” recalled An. The actors also trained in a variety of fight styles, dependent on their character, which included a Chinese fight style, a Rouran fight style (the style of the enemy army), and even a specific Wushu style, just for Mulan and the Commander. Producer Jason Reed explained,
“The Rouran style is a little rougher, a little less refined, and more horse-based, as was traditional with the northern nomadic tribes. With the Chinese army, we have a traditional ancient military style that was about formation-building and moving in coordination — typical of large armies at the time.”

Yoson an as Honghui

For many in the cast, being a part of a film like Mulan, with such epic scenes and impactful history, has been an absolutely surreal experience.
“The animated movie was one of my favorite films as a kid, so when I found out that I got cast in this, I was like, ‘Okay. It’s on,’” shared An.

“Mulan really opens up a positive side to younger generations. To think big, take risks, and know that anything is possible. You just gotta believe it,” remarked Liu.

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