entertainment

China bars media coverage of Disney's 'Mulan' after Xinjiang backlash

21 Comments

Chinese authorities have told major media outlets not to cover Walt Disney Co's release of "Mulan", in an order issued after controversy erupted overseas over the film's links with the Xinjiang region, four people familiar with matter told Reuters.

Set to open in local theaters on Friday, Disney had high hopes for Mulan in China, but starving it of publicity in the country's strictly censored media would be another blow to the $200 million production.

Starring big-name Chinese-born actors - Jet Li, Gong Li, Donnie Yen and Liu Yifei - and based on a Chinese folk story, Mulan was tailored to appeal to audiences in China, the world's second-largest movie market.

But mixed reviews online and capacity limits in theaters due to coronavirus prevention measures were likely to weigh on its box office performance, even before major media outlets received a notice telling them to refrain from covering the movie.

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.

Neither the Cyberspace Administration or Disney immediately responded to requests for comment.

Partly shot in 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.

On Wednesday, the Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily, criticized the backlash against the movie in an editorial in its English edition, describing it as "another manifestation of the extreme ideologies regarding China among U.S. public opinion."

Disney had worked to ensure "Mulan" tested well with Chinese audiences, and the company's chief financial officer told investors on Wednesday that it was "very pleased" with the initial results of its release elsewhere.

The movie was released on Disney's streaming service in many markets, rather than in cinemas, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mulan is likely to be shown on more than 40% of China's screens on Friday, according to data from Maoyan, a Tencent-backed ticketing platform. Chinese theaters are currently limiting capacity, typically at 50 percent.

The film had sold 9.78 million yuan ($1.43 million) worth of tickets as of Thursday afternoon, accounting for 55% of all ticket sales sold across China for Friday's shows.

One analyst, who declined to be named because he said the situation is sensitive, predicted the film would earn a dismal 150 million yuan at mainland box offices, given early audience reviews.

The film, which many have already seen online, has received a 4.7 score out of 10 on popular social media site Douban, where users leave reviews of films, books and music.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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More Chinese censorship and control. Hollywood should never bow down to these oppressors. This is one of the reasons I've lost all respect for Hollywood - not to mention their mind-numbing sequels and reboots. You can no longer find Chinese bad guys in their movies. I'd love to see a whole slew of directors make them the bad guys. I could respect that.

20 ( +23 / -3 )

This is one of the reasons I've lost all respect for Hollywood

I am shocked someone so conscientious as yourself ever had any in the first place what with their stereotyping, racism and jingoism from the start. Do you ever see American bad guys where there are no American good guys?

I have to admit that I feel sorry for everyone involved except for maybe Yifei who spoke for Chinese authorities over Hong Kong protestors. This movie has turned into a political target for both China and America and even if it were the best movie of the last 10 years it would have trouble raking in a dime.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

The CCP censorship attempt is futile. The story has already been known and circulating worldwide. Even Disney wouldn't like to comply, saying "bad news is better than non-news."

Disney charges 3,000 yen for Mulan on streaming service. Isn't it really worth watching? I opt for a boycott awhile for other than political reasons.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Chinese government is disgusting.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Disney's 'Mulan'

OMG, that remake of the original animated movie seriously sucks.

Disney had worked to ensure "Mulan" tested well with Chinese audiences

Well, we can't have any movies that don't test well with Chinese audiences now can we?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Mulan is great. She's not the traditional Disney princess that falls in love. She read her father's books and became an expert in military strategy. When the emperor put together an army to fight off invading tribes, Mulan volunteered to take her father's place as her brother was still too young. This is endearing because my older daughter can use all the tools in the garage and do some woodwork. Not a bad story if you can subtract the politics.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I hope this teaches Hollywood a lesson. I'm actually glad to see Disney suffering a double whammy on this one: Nobody in the West wants to see it, now nobody in China does either.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I will not see "Mulan." Paid or otherwise. Disney, HBO, Netflix, and other studios, stop carrying water for China.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Mulan is great. She's not the traditional Disney princess that falls in love. She read her father's books and became an expert in military strategy. When the emperor put together an army to fight off invading tribes, Mulan volunteered to take her father's place as her brother was still too young. This is endearing because my older daughter can use all the tools in the garage and do some woodwork. Not a bad story if you can subtract the politics.

Subtract the politics from a story about gender role, warfare, an invasion, and a defense of an imperial power?

OK, I'll give it a go. Here is my script for Mulan, without politics.

SCENE 1

[A room in a house in China. Mulan enters.]

Mulan: Hello.

THE END

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Pandering didnt pay, in this case.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Wait, the fact that she lives in a house, rather than an apartment or similar, implies that she either has or is related to people with a fair degree of money, which introduces class into it. Let me try again.

SCENE 1

[A featureless void. Mulan appears.]

Mulan: Hello.

THE END

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I am boycotting any future Disney products around the world. I hope others join in.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

quercetumToday  10:37 am JST

Mulan is great. Not a bad story if you can subtract the politics.

How can you subtract the politics when the article is about "Mulan" and politics? Come to think of it, I don't know if it's possible tp discuss anything concerning China these days without the politics.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I sincerely hope Disney lose a shed load of money on this film and the more and longer they get a battering from the public and media the better. Hit their bottom line, it’s the only thing that the morally bankrupt, narrow minded and short sighted Hollywood execs take notice of.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Sneezy, wow, I love your treatment! You must be a professional script writer? :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sneezy, wow, I love your treatment! You must be a professional script writer? :)

It's strange, but none of the studios I've sent my politics-free scripts to have gotten back to me. Must have gotten lost in the mail.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

China's CCP is trying to exert it's economic influence overseas to coerce others into doing its biding too... so don't be surprised to see this type of blackout occurring elsewhere.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Sneezy, wow, I love your treatment! You must be a professional script writer? :)

Well, his story line is almost identical to that in the opening of our little boy's favorite book "Dragons Eat Noodles on Tuesday". No really. It starts off as "Once upon a time. The end" and builds from there (the protagonists end up in the dragon's belly with the previous days noodles but you can read the book yourself). He might have a future in children's literature. You never know :)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have to admit that I feel sorry for everyone involved except for maybe Yifei who spoke for Chinese authorities over Hong Kong protestors.

This is rubbish. They should have known what they were getting in when they decided to take no action against Yifei nor against the proposal of shooting scenes in Xinjiang. They chose to take risks, and now they get burned.

When Keith Richards admitted his hardcore drug use, Disney chose to fire him from "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" because they wanted to keep the so-called "family values" you'd expect from a Disney movie. Silly excuse to use, but they did. Let me ask you this: if someone as big as Richards can get fired, then why was Yifei not fired for her political comments considering how much backlash she could bring? Reshooting all scenes and using necessary digitalization tools to complete the process can take 1 month if not 2 at the most. It worked when Kevin Spacey was replaced by Christopher Plummer in "All the Money in the World" in the midst of Spacey's scandals.

I wrote a long comment on a different article related to "Mulan" the other day as to how it fails with 4 major strikes against the movie. Those are elements that explain how and why the movie might be on its way to become a huge financial bomb and deserves to be one.

Sidenote: Did you notice that actor Tzi Ma, who plays Mulan's father, shares an uncanny resemblance with Xi Jinping? Nothing is left to chance in China, but the good news is that many people kept their eyes peeled to avoid getting caught in that trap.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is rubbish. They should have known what they were getting in when they decided to take no action against Yifei nor against the proposal of shooting scenes in Xinjiang. They chose to take risks, and now they get burned.

The movie is aimed at a Chinese audience. Most Chinese are not aware of western concerns regarding Xinjiang probably including the director and producer. For better or worse western sensibilities were never a consideration when shooting this movie. At his point I think the CCP simply wants to prevent the Chinese population from becoming aware of the situation in Xinjiang and how much of the world is upset with the Chinese government over it. It makes them look bad. If Disney takes a haircut so the CCP can maintain appearances that is ok to them. I am emphatically not justifying their actions, but they are understandable from a Chinese point of view. Almost everything the CCP does has to be understood as aimed at maintaining social stability so there isn't even a hint of challenge to their power. That is non-negotiable. Almost everything else is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He might have a future in children's literature. You never know :)

I understand that children are typically very intelligent and discerning consumers, which is why children's literature is much harder to produce than people assume: adults will accept "good enough", children won't settle for less than excellence.

In summary, I don't think I would be a good children's author - but thank you for your thought!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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