China is Not Excited for Disney’s Mulan

A swing and a miss for Disney

Jordan Fraser


Photo: Disney+

We’re only five days away from the September 11th release date of Disney’s Mulan in Mainland China, and Chinese social media is blowing up… but not in a good way.

Chinese social media app (and Twitter equivalent) Weibo has been burning with rage over the makeup, costumes, and other cultural aspects of the film with what they’ve decided is cultural appropriation gone horribly wrong.

Despite Fashionista and In Style gushing over the period-accurate costumes and makeup, Chinese netizens have labeled the attempt at historical accuracy a white-washed Asian dream of Chinese and Japanese histories and myths all rolled into one ugly package.


Photos of court scenes have been shared across Weibo, with users commenting on the way the scene was shot.

Netizens point out that the way the actors are standing and addressing each other in the court isn’t historically or culturally accurate at all. In fact, the way they’re acting is as though they’re in a European castle, not the Emperors palace in ancient China.

People point out that this movie, directed by a white New Zealander, is more reminiscent of medieval Europe than Ancient China, albeit with “Halloween makeup” thrown in.

Some of the weight of the blame is falling on makeup designer Denise Kum who told Fashionista:

“I used primary colours that are very symbolic in Chinese colours, but at the same time they’re very seminal in old-school Disney” in reference to her using the colours of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.”

Fashionista asked Mulan costume designer Bina Daigeler whether while in China on a research trip, she asked local advisors for advice on her costume decisions; and she admitted that she didn’t.

Instead, she relied on her intuition while shopping for costume pieces in Shanghai.
She would go to the parts of the city she felt drawn to, and bought whatever seemed right to her. She even noted that her Chinese assistant protested the parts of the city she was visiting…