After a pretty heated debate with a friend of mine, It came to my attention that Mulan wasn’t actually based on the chinese poem that we’ve all come to associate with the beloved Disney movie. Sure, the concept and idea came from the poem, but where exactly did the plot come from?
Now if you’re not familiar with the storyline behind Disney’s Mulan, it’s about a young girl who’s living in a time of war, so each family has to give up one male to fight. Her father is very old and crippled and has already served, so to save her father’s life, she crossdresses as a male to enlist in the war and fight off the huns. She ends up successful and gains much honor to her family. Well not only is the movie littered with inaccuracies, it’s eerily similar to a french fairy tale (which can arguably be traced back to William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, because it also has many of the same themes and similar scenes like when Fortuné was sentenced to be stabbed to death, but taking off her clothes revealed that she was a woman and then the king just married her).
Originally, when they made the movie, they had a completely different plot, and I believe it was closer to the original poem than the movie that actually came out, but there were too many plot holes and Mulan’s character was… iffy almost? So they scrapped the entire thing and the movie almost didn’t come out. So they changed it. Created the plotline that I wrote above and made the well beloved movie we all know today.
Don’t get me wrong, Mulan is one of my favorite movies of all time, empowering women, destroying gender roles, but I mean the poem doesn’t even mention more than half the things that Mulan does in the movie. I don’t even think she gets married to the general in the poem, but that’s what happens in the movie, and in the french fairy tale as well.
And It’s like, I think I’d be alright with it if Disney was like, oh, we got the idea from the poem, but we integrated many ideas from other sources, but if you watch the Behind the Scenes in the Mulan DVD, it says many times that they were sticking to the chinese tale, which isn’t cool. It’s like what they did with Frozen, where they got the idea from the Snow Queen, but then they twisted and distorted the story until it was unrecognizable from the original, sure you can look at it and be like, yeah I get where they’re coming from, but they did not even touch plotlines. My problem is that Disney doesn’t credit the proper stories and I think that’s just rude.
Now granted, it was probably a marketing technique because they were also releasing many other movies that didn’t have European origins, ah the Disney Renaissance was such a wonderful time for diverse movies, but like at the same time the only thing they really got from the poem was her name and the vague setting, but the rest was just kind of… a mix of everything else, if that makes sense?
I mean I guess no one really noticed, because it was supposed to cater to American audiences, and maybe they didn’t even notice what they were doing, maybe it was all a coincidence and it just happened to be similar… but that seems a little too far fetched to be true, I mean to even write the story there has to be intensive research on background information, right? It’s all just… so similar… and like… maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t added the romance, because that was a major difference between the poem and the French fairy tale. Like… Romance is usually implied when it comes to disney, but it seemed that Mulan’s relationship with Shang was more… ambiguous, but then the sequel happened, and well… we all know how that ended… Like does disney really have to make sequels, ugh.
And maybe I’m being a little too critical of Disney… but I mean… I can’t be the only one?