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Hollywood filmmakers to visit Mulan's roots

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-03-10 02:14

Veteran Hollywood filmmakers, including creators of the 1998 animated film Mulan, will embark on a "discovery trip" to the legendary Chinese heroine's birthplace in Hubei province next week.

"We have much to learn from the history and success of China. For many years, China has enjoyed, among other wonderful things, a rich oral tradition, and the contributions made to it from the wide array of its cultural traditions," said Raymond Singer, Annie Award-winning screenwriter of Mulan.

In the 20 years since the Disney film came out, its director Tony Bancroft hasn't been to the land of Mulan's roots. "For me, it's a full circle tour of where my favorite heroine was born," he said. 

The trip will take Bancroft, Singer and five other filmmakers to Mulan's birthplace — Huangpi district in Wuhan city.

During the two-day visit on March 13-14, they will visit take in the natural beauty of Mulan Mountain, and see a number of Mulan-themed performances, such as Mulan's horse fighting show, local opera and a Wushu performance by Mulan Martial Arts School.

They also will visit places of historical interest, like Hubei Ming Dynasty King Fang's Museum and the General's Temple, according the organizer, US-Asia Innovation Gateway, a Silicon Valley-based non-profit organization.

The group has organized two Hollywood Masters' China Trips over the past year to connect Hollywood filmmakers with their Chinese counterparts and potential investors in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.

"Mulan is a strong-willed and determined girl. She is as tough as she is caring. Those characteristics make her popular to contemporary audiences," said Bancroft, a veteran director at Walt Disney Animation and Sony Pictures who most recently directed the film Animal Crackers.

"I believe the tale of Mulan appeals to Westerners because at its core, it's about a daughter's respect for her family and especially her father," Bancroft said. "For Western audiences that is a very appealing dramatic story to start with. Then it also has a lot of comic fun to it that adds to the appeal of the story."

Mulan is based on the tale of Hua Mulan, a legendary female warrior from ancient China, who disguised herself as a man in order to sign up for the army, replacing her father. She is Disney's first Chinese "princess".

A live-action remake of the 1998 film is expected to be released in 2019.

Singer said Mulan's story is timeless. "No matter our conditioning of culture, the geographical place we call home, or the language and myths we use to tell our stories, we all connect on the same fundamental level of yearning to love, to serve and to be loved and respected for who we truly are when we are at our best," he said.

"That is what the film, the legend and its appeal are at their very core," Singer added.

From Mulan to the Kung Fu Panda franchise, Hollywood filmmakers have shown increased interest in Chinese culture and folklore for inspiration.

"It's a treasure trove of stories," said Singer. "By bringing them to a Western audience, and giving new life to an Eastern ones, we can shrink the differences between us and make a path towards a more harmonious and empathic world."

In the past China was closed off to Westerners, which has created a mystery, said Bancroft. More recent US films have explored the Chinese culture and environment which has opened audiences to a whole new world of stories and characters, he added.

"I think we have only just begun to see films that are influenced by Chinese culture and stories based on its folklore," said Bancroft.

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