It sounds like the upcoming live-action remake of Mulan is going to be making a lot of changes from the original cartoon... and not everyone is happy about it. First came the news that the new movie may not include the beloved songs from the original, then we found out that Mulan will be up against a totally new villain, and now fans are freaking out over reports that Li Shang won't be in the live-action Mulan. It looks like Disney is replacing the military captain and bisexual icon with a new love interest for Mulan.
The news comes from an old casting call that Disney sent out when searching for the star of the upcoming Mulan remake. Along with a character description for Mulan, the casting notice also described a new male character named Chen Honghui, stating that he falls in love with Mulan once he discovers that she is a woman. Although the casting call is from months ago, it is only now being confirmed to be seemingly accurate since Chen Honghui's character description mentions a Commander Tung, and Star Wars actor Donnie Yen was recently announced to play a role named Commander Tung in the upcoming movie.
With Chen Honghui described pretty clearly as the main love interest in the Mulan remake, that must mean that the romantic interest from the 1998 animated film, Li Shang, is gone from the new movie. The news is upsetting to many fans of the Disney classic, both because Li Shang is a beloved character, but also because he was an important representation of bisexuality for a number of movie fans. And regrettably, the character description for Shang's replacement makes it clear that Chen Honghui will not be bisexual at all:
He quickly realizes that Mulan is his chief rival, but he does not realize that she is a woman ... But after learning that his rival is a woman, his intense feelings of rivalry turn into something very different, something like love.
The full character description is shared in the tweet below:
The clarity of that statement about Chen Honghui's sexuality was disheartening to many Mulan fans, who applauded the original movie's progressive representation of bisexuality (even if it was accidental). Check out some of the responses to the reports about Shang being replaced below:
Sooo, yeah... there are a lot of unhappy Disney fans right now. And this replacement of Li Shang is not even the first major change that the new, live-action Mulan is making to the original animated story. Last year, the director, Niki Caro, stated that the new movie will not include the songs from the 1998 cartoon. That means that beloved original songs like "I'll Make a Man Out of You" and "Reflection" won't be heard in the upcoming remake.
Furthermore, the new Mulan is replacing the original movie's villain — Hun leader Shan-Yu — with a powerful witch, and it will also be giving Mulan a sister, which she did not have in the original. With all of these changes to the story, it is no wonder why some Disney fans are starting to worry that the live-action Mulan will barely resemble the animated classic they know and love. There also has yet to be any confirmation about whether Mulan's animal sidekicks, Cricket and Mushu, will be represented at all in the new movie or not, so that is another thing causing diehard Mulan fans to worry.
It seems clear that fans are less mad about Li Shang himself being gone from the movie, but moreso the explicit erasure of bi identity in the character description for this new love interest. I guess we will just have to see what this Chen Honghui guy is really all about when the new movie comes out.
Mulan is slated to hit theaters on March 27, 2020.