“Movies are made everywhere and we rely on all sorts of different locations to tell a story. While many iconic sequences and landscapes were shot in China, we found a number of critical locations in New Zealand, which augmented our story. One of those places, and the most critical, was the Ahuriri Valley in the South Island.
About the New Zealand Screen Production Grant
Mulan received the New Zealand Screen Production Grant – (International grant)
International Productions are eligible for a cash grant of 20% of Qualifying New Zealand Production Expenditure (QNZPE) with a 5% Uplift available for a smaller number of productions that are invited to apply and can demonstrate significant additional economic benefits to New Zealand. PDV Productions can access a grant of 20% of QNZPE up to QNZPE of $25 million, and 18% of QNZPE for QNZPE above $25 million. Full details can be found here.
1,583 New Zealand crew
17 New Zealand cast
89% New Zealand cast and crew
36 New Zealand HODs
143 shooting days in New Zealand
49 sets built in New Zealand
New Zealand has a great depth of talent and a lot of infrastructure that is great for filmmaking on big pictures. The team we assembled here in New Zealand are able to roll with the punches and tackle a film that is so complex and challenging as Mulan. We could not have done this film without this caliber crew.
Acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro brings the epic tale of China’s legendary warrior to life in Disney’s Mulan, in which a fearless young woman risks everything out of love for her family and her country to become one of the greatest warriors China has ever known. When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.
Mulan features a celebrated international cast that includes: Yifei Liu as Mulan; Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Tzi Ma as Zhou, Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Honghui; Ron Yuan as Sergeant Qiang; with Gong Li as Xianniang and Jet Li as the Emperor. The film is directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, suggested by the narrative poem The Ballad of Mulan. The producers are Chris Bender, Jake Weiner and Jason Reed, with Bill Kong, Barrie M. Osborne, Tim Coddington and Mario Iscovich serving as executive producers.
It was so touching to me to go back to New Zealand to direct a movie, particularly a movie of this size. I felt like the crew of Mulan just opened their arms to me, to Yifei, to the work, to the story. They took the storytelling very seriously. The New Zealand crew was deeply invested in the work that we did.
They are world-class professionals. They’re also extremely kind and extremely strong and extremely fun to work with. At the end of the movie, the crew busted out in a haka dance. This is a sign of maximum respect for New Zealanders, and I felt the full force of their love and respect in that moment. It was amazing and very humbling.
On Location in New Zealand
We took 900 people and all of our horses to the Ahuriri Valley to stage an epic battle. It was incredible, like being on the back lot of a gigantic Italian movie from the ’50s. I would drive to work and see the Rouran Army crossing the road on their horses. New Zealand was incredibly good to us.
About 70 percent of the production took place in Auckland in 2018, with the remaining time spent on location in New Zealand’s South Island and China. Mulan was the first production to use the two state-of-the-art sound stages at Kumeu Film Studios in Auckland.
Our belief in and longstanding relationship with the film industry in Auckland and Kumeu Film Studios is what enabled us to bring this production to New Zealand. I have a long track record of producing in this country and it is always a great experience.
Over 400 Weta Digital staff worked on Mulan. Weta Digital helped realise Mulan’s journey through the creation of The Imperial City, a digital hawk, the witch’s magical powers and spectacular environments.
The Imperial City, a bustling medieval metropolis and the location for most of the third act of the movie was developed using a new system for procedurally generating content based on data gathered in China. For authenticity, historical research into medieval Chinese city planning and architecture was undertaken. Using the scans, like building blocks to create a huge variety of buildings, and then laying these out according to rules derived from historical research. The largest, most detailed scan ever done by Weta Digital.
More than 50 extras were scanned with a custom-built photogrammetry rig and used a new process to quickly turn them into animatable characters to populate the city. This allowed the team to use the beautiful costumes and make-up directly without having to re-create it themselves. The technology and research team developed new ways of rendering all those assets efficiently so a more realistic detail could be provided into the shots, making them truly come alive.
It was an honor to work on a project that was largely produced in New Zealand, with an iconic New Zealand Director, Niki Caro, who has had such a singular creative vision across all her projects. To be able to support such a large scale New Zealand project is always an honor. Being able to use the New Zealand landscapes and dramatically transform them into historic China is a reminder that New Zealand can really be a unique filming location.
Over 50 Weta Workshop staff worked on Mulan crafting :
Over 240 principal cast costumes
Over 4000 weapons
1,114 complete outfits
281 sets of armour
The Rebel Fleet partnering with New Zealand ISP Devoli created a guaranteed link from Kumeu Film Studios through to AWS in the US. This enabled the delivering all colour graded dailies, editorial media and the Original Camera Media directly into the Cloud within 24 hours of the Camera turning over, transferring between 10-17 Terabytes per day, resulting in the Post Production immediately working on approvals, edits and VFX shots.
The Rebel Fleet also partnered with New Zealand based SAAS Dailies provider Moxion.io to roll out their 'Immediates' package enabling files to be uploaded directly from on-set available in Moxion. Immediate provided a continuous flow of takes from the cameras allowing users to receive a summary of the shots over a specified period.
Over the last few years, I've worked with The Rebel Fleet and Moxion. They helped setup our internet link back to LA, our fibre optic link back to LA, where we transferred our file securely in record-breaking time. I don’t think anyone has set up a system that works as fast or as securely as Rebel Fleet has. They did a tremendous job.
Ariel supplied the Mulan production with their MARTTi all weather, cinema drone systems. These systems are designed and built in New Zealand using computer FEA, advanced composites and 3D printing to create cinema drones that are much lighter, quieter, faster and more weatherproof than anything else in the world.
The MARTTi drones were used on Mulan to carry Arri Alexa LF cinema cameras at over 100kph in locations as varied as White Island, Aoraki/Mt Cook, The Ahuriri Valley and the Stockton Coal Mine often working in bad weather.
The economic benefits to New Zealand spread across the country. Mulan was shot in Auckland and in the Waitaki and Mackenzie districts in the South Island, including Omarama's Clay Cliffs, Poolburn, Ida Valley and the Ahuriri Valley.
2,130 New Zealand vendors
NZ$9.9M spent on 45,981 nights of
NZ$1.3M spent on hire vehicles
NZ$2.5M spent on set decoration purchases
NZ$2.7M spent on wardrobe purchases & supplies
NZ$4.3M spent on armour and weapons
NZ$15.5K per day (approx.) catering for Main unit
NZ$6.9K per day (approx.) catering for 2nd unit
I don’t know that we can make a movie at this scale with this much production value if we weren’t able to shoot here in New Zealand. And there are two elements to that. The first is the dramatic scenery, and the second is having an infrastructure that is so film friendly, to have crews that know how to work on big movies, that know how to handle massive amounts of logistics that also are artistically driven. And we had WETA Workshop to do our armor and make our weapons.
Mulan debuts on Disney+ with Premier Access on 4 September 2020.