Whether or not Disney has deigned to include a lucky cricket and a trio of sweet, bumbling sidekicks in its upcoming live-action remake of Mulan, at least the House of Mouse has found its hero.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Wednesday that Disney has cast Chinese actress Liu Yifei to portray the titular character in the upcoming live-action remake of Mulan. Based on Disney’s 1998 animated film of the same name, Mulan follows the story of Hua Mulan, who disguised herself as a man in fifth-century China to take on her father’s army conscription and save him from death. Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na Wen in the animated version) went on to become a hero of China, saving the day from invaders and proving along the way that gender has no influence on ability.
Liu, also known as Crystal Liu and often referred to in China as “Fairy Sister” for “her pure and innocent looks and image,” beat out nearly 1,000 other actresses for the role. Not only did Liu meet the “star quality” Disney was looking for, she also met requirements for English language and “credible martial arts” skills.
Clearly, Mulan will keep her badass status in the live-action version of the story.
Disney saw backlash over its casting of Princess Jasmine for the upcoming Aladdin live-action remake due to its choice of Naomi Scott (Power Rangers), a young woman of British and Indian heritage. Objectors pointed out that Scott’s casting furthered the harmful idea that people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent are interchangeable. While Aladdin takes place in the fictional land of Agrabah, it’s always been understood as a distinctly Middle Eastern place, both culturally and geographically.
In its casting calls for Mulan, though, Disney struck a different tone, searching for an ethnically Chinese actress to fill the role from the beginning rather than casting a wide net.
Liu, who spent part of her childhood in the United States, is perhaps best known in the U.S. for her role alongside Jackie Chan and Jet Li in 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom and for 2014’s Outcast, in which she starred alongside Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen.
There’s not yet any word on whether or not Eddie Murphy will reprise his role as the comedic dragon Mushu.
Disney’s live-action Mulan is slated for a 2019 release date.