'Mulan' 2020 trailer: Mushu is gone. Here's why that's a good thing.

Disney got rid of the annoying little dragon.

The worst cinematic trend of the decade has got to be Disney’s “live-action” remakes of classic cartoon movies. From The Jungle Book to Aladdin, each new CGI’d copy that utterly fails to capture the magic of the original, but in 2020, Disney could finally correct course with a live-action Mulan by distancing itself from the 1998 animated classic. And yes, that means no more Mushu, despite how angry some fans might be about the talking dragon’s exclusion.

Disney released the first full trailer for the live-action Mulan on Thursday morning, and despite a few nods to the classic musical numbers from the 1998 animated film, it feels like a different kind of story.

Both versions of Mulan are based on the “The Ballad of Mulan,” a brief narrative poem that tells the story of a woman who would have lived in the 5th century and went to war in her father’s stead. Whereas the original 1998 animated film took that core idea and extrapolated it into an adventure comedy about a female warrior, the 2020 live-action version is aiming for something a little more grounded.

To be clear, there are still fantastical elements at play here, but there’s no need for comedic relief via a ridiculous talking dragon.

'Mulan' has a shapeshifting witch that can transform into a bird.


Instead of Mushu, there appears to be some kind of phoenix spirit that may or may not replace the dragon altogether. When Mulan’s father prays to their ancestors, we see the phoenix take flight.

The invading forces from the north also include a shapeshifting bird witch played by Gong Li, who Mulan faces off against during the trailer. And the bad guys run straight up a wall during the trailer. So don’t think Mulan is going for ultra-realism by any means.

This is still a fantasy. It’s just not the comedic fantasy fans of the original animated feature might be expecting.

"Mushu would ruin the tone of this Mulan.

The growing onslaught of live-action Disney remakes have felt rather bland because each has more or less given everyone exactly what they expected. People go out in droves to the theaters to see them, riding a wave of nostalgia so potent that these bland movies almost become forgivable. Aladdin gave us some unique twists in the story and even reworked musical numbers, but it mostly felt like more of the same stuff we’ve seen before.

Will Smith as the Genie in 'Aladdin' (2019).

Walt Disney Studios

What’s the point of a remake if all it does is remake everything in a straightforward way? There’s little that’s adventurous or exciting in any of these movies … until now. Mulan is going for something totally different.

Mushu would ruin the tone of this Mulan, so leaving the little lizard out is something we should be thankful for. It puts more of the spotlight on Mulan herself. Why does she need the guidance of an ancient male dragon that, in case you forgot, didn’t have much respect from the ancient figures in Mulan because he’d made so many mistakes in the past?

Mulan succeeds in the animated version in spite of Mushu, thriving due to her own verve and determination rather than any bit of advice he gives her. Mulan will be a more serious and fantastical celebration of the character. A silly little dragon would only detract from that.

Mulan will be released in theaters March 27, 2020.

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