Disney draws flak on Chinese folk tale remake

Bloomberg September 08 | Updated on September 08, 2020

Mulan credits thanking Chinese government departments spark social media row

Walt Disney Co’s big bet on Mulan, a $200-million live-action remake of a Chinese folk tale, is facing fresh political criticism days after its North American streaming debut and just before its planned premiere at cinemas in China.

A newspaper columnist and social media commenters have faulted Disney for filming in Xinjiang and for using the films credits to thank Chinese government departments from the region. As many as 1 million Uighurs in Xinjiang have been detained in camps that the Beijing government calls voluntary education centers.

Mulan is crucial to Disney’s recovery after the pandemic forced cinemas around the world to close or operate under tight restrictions this year, prompting delays of the originally planned March debut. The Uighur human rights issue adds to other political opposition the film has sparked, including calls for a boycott after Liu Yifei, who stars as the title character, voiced support for the police last year amid pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

In July, the US sanctioned a top member of Chinas ruling Communist Party and three other officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, a major escalation in the Trump administration’s tense rivalry with the country.

Disney debuted the film in the US on September 4 over its recently launched Disney+ streaming service, where its available for a special fee of $30. Downloads of Disney’s streaming app rose 68 per cent to 890,000 over the weekend, a sign that Mulan helped drive demand in a market where cinemas are still not fully reopened.

Before the pandemic, the film was intended to play big in China after a simultaneous debut in the world’s largest movie market after the U.S. Now, China is the first major market to fully reopen cinemas, with Mulan teed up for a September 11 debut in a key test of whether moviegoers are ready to crowd back into theaters for a blockbuster.

Published on September 08, 2020

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