Disney Admits Mulan Controversy Has 'Generated A Lot Of Issues'

Connections with Xinjiang have proven to be the latest in a series of headaches embroiling the live-action version of "Mulan."

A Disney executive on Thursday briefly addressed the controversy plaguing “Mulan,” the company’s latest big budget live-action remake, which has generated backlash for being filmed partly in China’s Xinjiang region. That’s where Uighur Muslims have been imprisoned en masse in so-called “re-education centers.”

“I’m not a box office predicator [or] prognosticator, but [the backlash] has generated a lot of publicity; let’s leave it at that,” said Christine McCarthy, The Walt Disney Co.’s chief financial officer, at the Bank of America Virtual 2020 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference.

“But let me just put something into context,” she added. “The real facts are that ‘Mulan’ was primarily shot — almost in its entirety — in New Zealand. In an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country of China for this historical period drama, we filmed scenery in 20 different locations in China. It’s common knowledge that in order to film in China you have to be granted permission. That permission comes from the central government.”

McCarthy added that “Mulan” followed standard practice by acknowledging the various governmental administrations of China that approved filming in the credits.

Several eagle-eyed viewers highlighted the credit sequence after the film debuted on Disney+ on Sept. 4. Special thanks are given to Xinjiang’s publicity department, as well as to various bureaus associated with Turpan, a city suspected of having as many as eight reeducation camps in its vicinity, according to Radio Free Asia.

“I would just leave it at that, but that’s generated a lot of issues for us,” McCarthy said, likely referring to China’s ban this week on “Mulan” media coverage because of the increased international scrutiny on the movie’s ties with Xinjiang.

Other political issues aside from Xinjiang have also bedeviled the film. In 2019, lead actress Liu Yifei attracted international scrutiny for voicing her support for Hong Kong’s police force on the Chinese social media platform Weibo as protests over a controversial extradition bill kicked off in the semi-autonomous city.

Overall, “Mulan” received a tepid reception in China, with a 4.7 out of 10 rating appearing on social network review site Douban. Elsewhere, the film has garnered mixed reviews, with some praising its elaborate visuals and others criticizing it for removing songs and characters present in the 1998 animated original.