Liu Yifei Is Disney’s Mulan
Following a global search, Disney has found their lead actress for the live-action adaptation of Mulan. Liu Yifei, a Chinese actress and brand ambassador, is set to play the princess.
Disney Sets New Precedents
Disney is an entertainment juggernaut. They have always been a major player in the film industry, but right now they own the business. Most of the year’s blockbusters come from the House of Mouse. Alongside Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar properties, Disney is making live-action versions of their animated classics. And, for the most part, it’s been a resounding success. Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is my personal favorite version of the story. The Jungle Book pushed the limits of computer-generated imagery. And Beauty and the Beast shattered box office records.
During all this, one film has been at the top of most viewers’ lists to get the live-action treatment: Mulan. The story of a young girl training in her father’s place to fight the Huns during China’s Han dynasty is ripe for a live-action adaptation. In addition to a setting and story that lends itself well to live action, the film has the opportunity to set a standard for blockbuster adaptations of international stories and legends.
Diversity is a key talking point in modern popular culture. Many projects live and die by their perceived success (or lack thereof) in including many different voices and perspectives. Furthermore, a lot of films based in Asia, or on Asian properties, have fallen under intense criticism. Earlier this year, Legendary’s The Great Wall was disparaged for centering its story on a group of white characters. Even worse, the big-budget adaptation of Ghost in the Shell used only a small handful of Asian performers despite its Japanese setting and source material.
Disney Finds Its Mulan
So, taking all of this into account, Disney decided they had to find an Asian actress to fill the role of Mulan. More importantly, they prioritized finding a Chinese actress for the role. So began an extensive search for the part. According to the studio’s own statistics, casting directors saw over 1,000 actresses across five continents before settling on Liu Yifei a.k.a Crystal Liu. Liu is a bona fide star in China. She rose to prominence with a string of television dramas in her home country. Also, she lived in Queens, New York for a portion of her childhood.
In 2008, Liu starred opposite Jackie Chan and Jet Li in The Forbidden Kingdom. In 2012, she won an acting award at the Macau International Film Festival for her work in The Assassins. After a thorough global search, this is the actress filling the shoes of one of Disney’s beloved characters. The studio has an eye for casting, and Liu’s resume is very impressive. Time will tell and audiences will find out if Disney’s decision paid off when Mulan hits theaters in 2019.