Mulan director Niki Caro explains that Mushu was left out for the sake of realism

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Fans were surprised and even dismayed following reports that the cartoon dragon Mushu wouldn’t be brought to life in the upcoming live-action version of Disney’s Mulan.

Now the film’s director, Niki Caro, has revealed why the mystical creature was left out of the new remake in a short video for USA Today.

The 53-year-old New Zealander explained that the wisecracking dragon would have been out of place in the new film, which strove for a more realist tone.

Didn't fit: Mulan director Niki Caro, 53, revealed in an interview with USA Today that the animated dragon Mushu was left out of the new remake to focus on realism; shown in March

Didn’t fit: Mulan director Niki Caro, 53, revealed in an interview with USA Today that the animated dragon Mushu was left out of the new remake to focus on realism; shown in March

‘We were very inspired by what Mushu brought to the animation, which was the humor and the levity, and the challenge was to bring that to Mulan’s real relationships with her fellow soldiers,’ Caro explained in an interview with Mulan’s star, Yifei Liu.

By removing Mushu, who was voiced by Eddie Murphy in the previous version, Caro and her multiple screenwriters were able to further develop the other soldiers Mulan fought alongside. 

‘Mushu, beloved as that character is in the animation, was Mulan’s confidante, and part of bringing it into the live action was to commit to the realism of her journey, and she had to make those relationships with her fellow soldiers. So there was certainly a lot to work with in that department,’ she said.

Mushu’s name also references American Chinese cuisine, and his presence was geared more toward that community, as the dragon wasn’t featured in the original Mulan legend. 

New direction: 'We were very inspired by what Mushu brought to the animation, which was the humor and the levity, and the challenge was to bring that to Mulan’s real relationships with her fellow soldiers,' Caro explained; still from Mulan (1998)

New direction: ‘We were very inspired by what Mushu brought to the animation, which was the humor and the levity, and the challenge was to bring that to Mulan’s real relationships with her fellow soldiers,’ Caro explained; still from Mulan (1998)

New characters: Part of bringing it into the live action was to commit to the realism of her journey, and she had to make those relationships with her fellow soldiers,' she said; shown with Yifei Liu in March

New characters: Part of bringing it into the live action was to commit to the realism of her journey, and she had to make those relationships with her fellow soldiers,’ she said; shown with Yifei Liu in March

Though Caro claimed that Mushu was simply removed for storytelling purposes, his absence may have been more about appeasing Chinese censors and viewers.

In February, University of Southern California professor Stanley Rosen, who studies Chinese politics and culture, told The Hollywood Reporter that ‘Mushu was very popular in the U.S., but the Chinese hated it.

‘This kind of miniature dragon trivialized their culture,’ he said.

In February, USC professor Stanley Rosen, who studies Chinese politics and culture, told the Hollywood Reporter that 'Mushu was very popular in the U.S., but the Chinese hated it; still from Mulan (1998)

In February, USC professor Stanley Rosen, who studies Chinese politics and culture, told the Hollywood Reporter that ‘Mushu was very popular in the U.S., but the Chinese hated it; still from Mulan (1998)

Liu, who was born in China but gained American citizenship, was criticized throughout the world last year when she re-posted a pro police comment related to protests in Hong Kong.

In February, she only offered cagey answers about mainland China’s crackdown on Hong Kong protestors and the government’s moves to end the ‘One country, two systems’ policy.

‘I think it’s obviously a very complicated situation and I’m not an expert,’ she said at the time. ‘I just really hope this gets resolved soon.’

After she was asked to expand on her views, she would only repeat, ‘I think it’s just a very sensitive situation.’

Angry fans: Yifei Liu, the film's star, was criticized in August for reposting a pro–Hong Kong police comment in August 2019; still from Mulan (2020)

Angry fans: Yifei Liu, the film’s star, was criticized in August for reposting a pro–Hong Kong police comment in August 2019; still from Mulan (2020)

Non-answer: She gave cagey answers when asked about the situation in Hong Kong in February by The Hollywood Reporter. 'I think it's obviously a very complicated situation and I'm not an expert,' she said at the time; still from Mulan (2020)

Non-answer: She gave cagey answers when asked about the situation in Hong Kong in February by The Hollywood Reporter. ‘I think it’s obviously a very complicated situation and I’m not an expert,’ she said at the time; still from Mulan (2020)

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