As Mulan is set to open theatrically in China, Chinese authorities have told major media outlets not to cover the live-action adaptation, in an order issued after controversy erupted overseas over the film’s links with the Xinjiang region, Reuters has learned.
The studio expected Mulan to play big in China, now that the film isn’t getting publicity amongst Chinese citizens on top of the controversy, it becomes a major blow to the studio and its $200+ million production.
Disney brought in some big names to appeal to the Chinese market, which is the second-largest movie market in the world, including star Liu Yifei and legendary martial stars Donnie Yen, Jet Li, and Gong Li.
Three sources told Reuters media outlets had received the notice, two of whom said it was sent by the Cyberspace Administration of China. A fourth source at a major Chinese newspaper said he received a text message with a similar order from a senior colleague. No reason was given in the notice, but the sources said they believed it was because of the overseas backlash over the film’s links to Xinjiang.
The film shot a majority of the film in New Zealand, however, Xinjiang, Mulan’s credits included thanks to the authorities there, which prompted calls overseas for a boycott of the movie. China’s clampdown on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang has been criticized by some governments, including the United States, and human rights groups.
Disney’s animated film was not received well in China, so the studio worked to ensure its live-action film tested well with audiences, and the company’s CFO Christine McCarthy told investors on Wednesday that it was “very pleased” with the initial results of its release elsewhere.
McCarthy explained how filming in China works and how they had to do it with Mulan:
“Let me just put something into context. The real facts are that Mulan was primarily shot — almost in entirety — in New Zealand. In an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country of China for this 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 Continues noting that it is a common practice around the world “to acknowledge in a film’s credits the national and local governments that allowed you to film there. So, in our credits, it recognized both China and locations in New Zealand. I would just leave it at that, but it has generated a lot of issues for us.”
Mulan released on Disney+ with Priemer Access on last week and in some smaller theatrical markets. Disney+ has yet to release official numbers for the film and likely wont do so until its next quarterly earnings call. The film earned $6 million theatrically in the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and some other small territories.