Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday, 10 September 2020


Disney Nods to Uproar Over Filming ‘Mulan’ in China’s Xinjiang

  • Disney has been criticized for filming in controversial region
  • Finance chief declines to predict box-office impact of outcry
Mulan Source: Disney

Walt Disney Co. Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said the company’s decision to shoot some scenes of “Mulan” in a controversial region of China has “generated a lot of issues for us.”

The executive, who spoke Thursday at a Bank of America conference, noted that “Mulan” was mostly shot in New Zealand but that 20 locations in China were used to showcase “some of the unique landscapes.” Critics have decried Disney for filming in Xinjiang, a region where as many as 1 million of the Muslim-minority Uighurs are housed in what the government calls “voluntary reeducation centers.”

Filming in Chinese locations was “an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country for this historical period piece,” McCarthy said.

Key Speakers At The 2019 Milken Conference
Christine McCarthy Photographer: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg

“It has generated a lot of publicity,” she said. “Let’s leave it at that.”

McCarthy didn’t get into what issues Disney is facing, but her remarks represented an acknowledgment of the controversy, which was fueled by Disney thanking Xinjiang in the credits of “Mulan.” The $200 million movie debuted on Disney+ last week and is slated for release in Chinese movie theaters on Friday.

Two Republican senators have criticized the company’s decision to film in the region. Missouri’s Josh Hawley wrote a letter to Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek asking if he would donate “Mulan” profits to organizations fighting injustice in the region.

McCarthy said that filming in China requires approvals from the government and “it’s common to acknowledge in a film’s credits the national and local governments that allowed you to film there.”

She declined to say if the uproar would hurt ticket sales.

“I’m not a box-office predictor,” McCarthy said.

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