Despite compromising on every ideal to woo the Chinese box office market, Disney’s Chinese epic Mulan has fallen flat on the mainland with lackluster ticket sales and negative reviews.
Disney had filmed part of the historical drama in Xinjiang Province where over 1 million ethnic minority Muslims are imprisoned in concentration camps by the Chinese state. The Uighur, as they are known, have faced programs of mass incarceration, forced sterilization, family separation, and ‘reeducation’ by the ethnic Han majority.
Disney has largely avoided public comment on the controversy surrounding their live-adaptation of Mulan but are thought to have made efforts to appeal to both the Chinese audience and the Chinese government to tap into the lucrative box office market.
However, such efforts, including publicly thanking the Xinjiang Propaganda Office seem to have failed to draw viewers in China to the movie, with reviewers calling the film culturally insensitive and inaccurate.
China’s state-run English daily Global Times wrote, “[the] poor box office performance of Mulan in the Chinese mainland is not surprising because it failed to tell a Chinese story in an accurate and attractive manner.”
“It also blended conventional settings of traditional Western fairy tales incompatible with Chinese historical stories. Disney failed to do enough research on non-Western elements and stories. That led to many silly mistakes in the movie,” said a Chinese film critic to the state-run newspaper.
With the film now under fire from both Western critics and Chinese movie-goers, Disney has seemingly compromised its ideals for nothing.