September 10, 2020
In the highly partisan political landscape, a growing controversy has emerged regarding locations and local authorities in China where some of Disney’s live-action Mulan was filmed.
With the $200 million budget movie set to open in Chinese theaters, in addition to the current Premier Access on Disney+ in the U.S. and other territories, human-rights activists have raised questions about Disney’s cooperation with local authorities in China’s Xinjiang region, where allegations of abuse and re-education internments against ethnic Muslim Uighur minorities originate.
In response, there have been growing calls on social media to boycott Mulan over the issues.
“Mulan is a patriot but she shouldn’t be placed in Xinjiang because patriotism has been forbidden in Xinjiang,” Abduweli Ayup, a Norway-based Uyghur activist, wrote in a post. “In China, patriotism is loving the Chinese Communist Party.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) weighed in on the matter, accusing Disney of “whitewashing genocide” by allegedly cooperating with Chinese police working at the camps.
“Your decision to put profit over principle, to not just ignore the CCP’s genocide and other atrocities, but to aid and abet them, is an affront to American values,” Hawley wrote in Sept. 9 letter to Disney.
Liu Yifei, the lead actress in Mulan, added fuel to the controversy when she tweeted support for police crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Speaking Sept. 10 on the Bank of America Securities Virtual Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said she had no interest in discussing international politics. Instead, the executive reiterated that production on Mulan involved numerous international locations — most notably in New Zealand.
“The real facts of Mulan [are] that it was primarily shot in — almost the entirety in New Zealand. And in an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country of China for this historical period piece drama, we filmed scenery in 20 different locations in China,” McCarthy said.
The CFO said it is standard procedure that when filming in China or any foreign country, that permits must be obtained. And in China, that permission comes from the central government in Beijing. McCarthy added that it is also common practice in Hollywood to acknowledge the appropriate agencies, authorities and governments in a movie’s credits.
For Mulan, Disney reportedly thanks eight government entities in Xinjiang, including security in the city of Turpan, where the government allegedly operates the camps. Disney also credits the publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uighur Autonomy Region Committee, an agency that reportedly produces state propaganda.
McCarthy said it is common practice in movies to also acknowledge national and local governments, which for Mulan included both China as well as New Zealand.
“I would just leave it at that,” she said. “But that’s generated a lot of issues for us.”