A petition urging Disney to cast an Asian actress in the part of Mulan in its forthcoming live-action remake is close to reaching its goal of 90,000 signatures.
Though the film’s cast has yet to be announced, the petition creator Natalie Molnar seeks to prevent a “whitewashed” version of Mulan if the character were to be played by a white actress.
She lists “The Last Airbender,” “Pan” and the upcoming “Ghost in the Shell” as recent offenders of the trend — wherein white actors or actresses have been cast to play women of color. None of these films, by the way, are from Disney.
But perhaps the petitioner’s worry is much ado about nothing, however. As, based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, the upcoming movie serves as further proof of the studio’s commitment to diverse storytelling.
Young Indian-American actor Neel Sethi played Mowgli in Jon Favreau‘s “The Jungle Book,” while “Moana” follows a young girl as she searches for a fabled island in the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania. Disney cast Auli’i Cravalho of Oahu as the Polynesian princess and Dwayne Johnson is the voice the male lead, a demi-god named Maui.
The lead character in Disney’s “Big Hero 6” was voiced by Ryan Potter, a half-Japanese actor, while “The Jungle Book” also features the voices of Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito. Nyong’o is also part of Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ensemble, which also includes John Boyega and Oscar Isaac.
Additionally, Disney cast Oscar-winning Spanish star Javier Bardem as the villain in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and the studio released “McFarland, USA” about a young Latino cross-country team.
With the Chinese box office playing an increasingly important role in Hollywood’s mysterious greenlight process, “Mulan” is the perfect library title for Disney to adapt as a live-action movie, as the character appeals to Asian audiences. Disney is perhaps the most well-known studio around the world, and it’s clear that it is going to great lengths to tell a wide range of stories featuring diverse characters and actors.
Disney announced that the film version of “Mulan” was in development in the spring of 2015.
The studio purchased the screenplay from the writing team of Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek that follows the Chinese female warrior, whose legend was first told in the 1998 animated movie “Mulan,” which grossed over $300 million worldwide and spawned a direct-to-video sequel.
“Mulan” told the story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man so she can join the army and fight in a war. The character first appeared in an ancient Chinese poem, and it’s unknown whether Mulan is based on a real heroine or if the poem was merely an allegory.
Chris Bender and J.C. Spink are producing the “Mulan” movie, which is the latest animated classic to get the live-action treatment at Disney, following “Maleficent” and “Cinderella,” with “Beauty and the Beast” and “Dumbo” on the horizon.