Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mulan and Disney World

For the Independence Day weekend, my wife and I took a trip to visit my relatives in Florida.  As our hotel was not far from Downtown Disney, we took a short trip there to have lunch, see the sights, and meet another family that Chrystal knows from her photo club.  Though Caroline is still a little young for a "Princess Makeover", we stopped by that shop to look into it and perhaps buy a Mulan costume for Halloween and a doll for a future birthday.  Imagine our surprise when we found that, not only is a Mulan makeover not offered, the shelves were quite bare of Mulan-related merchandise (though we eventually did find and buy a Mulan doll in another shop).

I have written to Disney World about this and will post their response; as I prefer actual letters to e-mail for my correspondence, it may take some little time.  I understand that Mulan is not their most popular movie, and I can also understand that not many little girls in this country long to be dressed as a Chinese "princess".  Still, I would think that there are enough people who ARE interested in this to at least offer the makeover and a shelf of Mulan and Mushu dolls.

From a humorous perspective, this want of pre-packaged costume provides ol' Baba an opportunity to provide it...

[phone rings]

SELF: Hello?

PRINCIPAL SMITH: Mr. R?  This is Joe Smith, Caroline's ---

SELF: Oh, dear Lord, what's she done now?

SMITH: Um, well, in this case, it's nothing SHE'S done.  It's her Halloween costume.

SELF [relieved and proud]: Oh!  Thank heavens for that... Yes!  Pretty neat, isn't it?  It took me some time to put it all together.  She's Hua Mulan, you know.

SMITH: Er... Yes.  It's quite... um... authentic.  That's the problem.


SMITH:  Yes.  For one thing, it seems that she finds it hard to walk in that much armor.  She fell over at recess, and we had to get both of the PE coaches to help put her back on her feet.

SELF: Well, chain mail isn't light, you know.  I don't think the Chinese had discovered aluminum alloys at that time.

SMITH: You're probably right.  But the real problem is the sword ---

SELF [learnedly] : It's a jian, the Chinese double-edged sword.  I thought that Mulan would be more likely to carry one of those than a dao, which is the single-edged sword, rather more like a cutlass or a heavy sabre.

SMITH: Ah.  Didn't know that.  Learn something new every day... Well, be that as it may, we really can't have her walking around with a real sword.

SELF: She didn't hit anybody with it, did she?  I TOLD her not to...

From a less humorous perspective, does all of this say anything about stereotypes?  Should I, for example, assume that my daughter will like / want to dress as Mulan*?  Should Disney assume that only little girls of Asian (and especially Chinese) heritage would want to dress as Mulan?  Or that only girls of American Indian heritage would want to dress as Pocahontas?  At what point do little girls start to think, "I can't be her because she's --- and I'm ---"?

It may be that my daughter will want to dress as Elsa or Anna or whatever "princess" is hot at the theatres in a few years.  Who knows?

Still... Mulan in armor WOULD be a great costume for Halloween, though I suppose some people might think that it's less "trick or treat" and more "your candy or your life"!


(*) Frankly, Mulan strikes me as the most admirable of the various "princesses", far more worth emulating than, say, Snow White or Cinderella who sat around waiting for a prince to show up.  And don't even get me started on that dimwit Anna from "Frozen"...


  1. LOL. I would dress up as Mulan in a heartbeat and I'm as white as they come. But I'm an adult and don't mind ignoring the stereotypes... a child, though? Hmmm... Good question!

    I'm curious if Disney will respond and what they say. And yes, Anna... ew. I finally broke down and saw it to find out why everyone was raving and then wished I could get my $1 back from Redbox.

    1. And yet little girls seem to love it. Go figure.

      I expect Disney will handle this fairly well. I get the business aspect, but they are also in the business of making dreams come true. We shall see.

  2. Please post the address you wrote to; I too an very frustrated with Disney's blonde and caucasion saturation of the market. (Don't get me started on American Girl dolls... And no miss sales lady... Your Hispanic doll is NOT the same thing as an Asian doll).

    1. The address I was given is:

      Guest Experience Services
      Walt Disney World Resort
      Post Office Box 10040
      Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

      With regards to American Girl, you may be interested in: