Home / Entertainment / Mulan backlash: Disney executive says Xinjiang controversy has created “many problems”

Mulan backlash: Disney executive says Xinjiang controversy has created “many problems”

The remarks – made Thursday by Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy at a Bank of America conference – come after days of online criticism directed at Disney (DIS) and just before the film premieres in China on Friday. In the credits of the film, the company thanked a Chinese government agency accused of human rights violations in Xinjiang for its help in making the film. Disney had not previously spoken publicly about the matter.

“Mulan was filmed mostly, almost entirely, in New Zealand. And in an effort to accurately represent some of the country’s unique landscapes and geography for this historical drama, we filmed scenes in 20 different locations in China,”

; McCarthy said. to analysts during the conference, which was held virtually.

McCarthy said it is “well known” that filming in China requires permission from government advertising departments, and noted that it is normal practice to “recognize in the film’s credits, national and local governments that have allowed you to film there. “.

“So in our credits, this has been acknowledged, both in China and in locations in New Zealand. And I would just like to leave it that way,” he said. “But this has created a lot of problems for us.”

McCarthy did not elaborate on what these “problems” were and Disney did not immediately respond to a request for further comment outside of US business hours.

People pass a poster for
Disney began releasing its live-action remake of “Mulan,” the iconic 1998 animated film, in international theaters and as $ 30 video on demand on its streaming service, Disney +, last year. weekend.

In the credits, the company recognized several Chinese government bodies. Some in particular raised red flags: the Xinjiang government’s advertising department and the public security and tourism offices for Turpan, a city of about 633,400 people just outside the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi.

The Turpan Public Security Bureau has been listed by the US government as an organization involved in “human rights violations and abuses” in the region.

Beijing has long defended the crackdown in Xinjiang as necessary to counter extremism and terrorism, and has said it is in line with Chinese law and international practice, calling the allegations of mass detentions a “groundless lie” and ” sensational rumors “.

China’s foreign ministry on Friday said the film’s thank-you note to the Xinjiang government for “providing convenience” was “normal practice.”

“The business of Xinjiang and the business of Hong Kong are purely internal affairs of China,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a regular press conference. “No foreign government, organization or individual has the right to interfere.”

Disney suffered a backlash after thanking Xinjiang authorities to 'Mulan' credits

Disney’s decision to credit Chinese agencies was immediately met with a fierce backlash. Critics have asked Disney to clarify its relationship with Xinjiang authorities, while some social media users have asked people to boycott the film.

Asked by an analyst Thursday if he thought the controversy would affect the film’s performance, McCarthy hesitated.

“I’m not a revenue predictor [or] pronosticator, “he said.” But I’ll say it generated a lot of publicity. ”

Earlier this week, McCarthy told investors in a separate conference that the studio was “very pleased” with the initial response to the film’s release over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Opening in China

The film was a subject of controversy even before its release.

Last year, Liu Yifei, a Chinese-born US citizen who plays the film’s main character, expressed her support for Hong Kong police as she faced allegations of excessive violence against protesters. This led to pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong calling on people to boycott the film. The film is expected to debut in Hong Kong next week.

Zhao, the spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, on Friday praised Liu and called her “the modern Mulan”.

“I want to give her a thumbs up. She did a good job,” Zhao said.

But probably the most important test for “Mulan” is her theatrical debut in mainland China this weekend.

China is home to the second largest box office in the world and is a critical market for Disney. Analysts said “Mulan” appears to be tailor-made for audiences there, as the film’s plot is set in the country and the new remake boasts an international cast, with an ethnic Chinese star.

To be successful, 'Mulan' may have to take over the world

But it’s also not clear that Mulan will be successful in mainland China, where many people grow up learning the traditional legend of Hua Mulan, a warrior who disguised herself as a man and took her father’s place in the army.

On Douban, China’s most popular movie rating website, “Mulan” is rated only 4.7 out of 10, lower than other live-action Disney titles like “Cinderella” and “Maleficent”.

Harold Li, a 29-year-old computer engineer in Shanghai, said he saw the film on Friday and was disappointed.

“The Disney interpretation is full of stereotypes,” he told CNN Business. “I don’t think the Chinese public will buy [it]. “

This sentiment was echoed by many users on Douban, who questioned the accuracy of the plot.

However, some Chinese viewers expressed their approval on social media, saying the film “wasn’t as bad as some critics say.”

& # 39; Mulan & # 39; gets a Star Wars' makeover, losing songs by adding show
The debate isn’t dissuading some people from watching the film. By 5 p.m. Friday, ticket sales for the title had reached around 36.8 million yuan ($ 5.4 million), according to Maoyan, China’s largest online movie ticketing platform. “Tenet”, a Hollywood spy thriller, grossed about 51.4 million yuan ($ 7.5 million) on its opening day last week in China. (“Tenet” is produced by Warner Bros, which, like CNN, is owned by WarnerMedia.)

According to Chris Fenton, former president of DMG Entertainment, a Beijing-based global media company, it would have been difficult from the start.

“He’s adopting a mythology that is close and dear to China, and then taking an iconic American company like Disney to try and make it Hollywood,” he said.

“In the most likely scenario, you create a feathered fish where it is not successful in either market. It is ‘too Chinese’ for the Americans or ‘too American’ for the Chinese. It is very difficult to make it work in both countries.”

– Selina Wang, Ben Westcott, Serenitie Wang and Laura Contributed to this report.

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