Niki Caro extensively researched Chinese history to prepare for Mulan

The heroine's story was first told in the fifth or sixth century.

Niki Caro extensively researched Chinese history as she prepared to direct the live-action remake of Disney's Mulan.

The 360-word poem, The Ballad of Mulan, first told the tale of the feminist heroine, who disguises herself as a man to take the place of her ailing father in the Imperial Army, back in the fifth or sixth century.

It has since been adapted into plays, operas and films, most famously by Disney in 1998, with the animated movie becoming a much-loved classic.

Caro was keen to get everything right for the upcoming movie, and took multiple trips to China to speak with dozens of experts, including the world's specialist on Tang dynasty military strategy, in an effort to make sure her live-action remake honoured tradition and history.

"I certainly wasn't aware of how deeply important (Mulan) is to mainland Chinese – all children are taught it," the filmmaker told The Hollywood Reporter. "She is so meaningful that many places I went, people would say, 'Well, she comes from my village’… It was wonderful to feel that profound connection – but also terrifying.”

And the 53-year-old director was so keen to ensure Chinese audiences were happy with the finished film that she removed a scene in which Mulan kisses love interest Chen Honghui on a bridge.

"It was very beautiful, but the China office went, 'No, you can't, that doesn't feel right to the Chinese people,'" she said. "So we took it out."

While some were upset at the decision to hire the New Zealand filmmaker rather an Asian director, Caro assured her critics that she got the job done.

"Although it's a critically important Chinese story and it's set in Chinese culture and history, there is another culture at play here, which is the culture of Disney, and that the director, whoever they were, needed to be able to handle both – and here I am," she responded.

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