How ‘Mulan’ Goes to Battle - Anatomy of a Scene

For the live-action film “Mulan,” putting together a sequence where an avalanche drives back an army was no big deal. It only required two years of preparation, multiple location scouts, intense horse training and a cast of more than 80 Mongolian and Kazakh trick riders. In other words, a cinch.

Niki Caro, the director of the anticipated film (finally on a home screen near you via Disney+), worked tirelessly with a large team of crew and cast to pull off a sequence many will remember from the animated version. But the new scenes have some narrative updates.

In this video, she discusses the moment when Mulan (played by Yifei Liu) comes into her own as a warrior and uses her smarts with an assist from nature to beat back an aggressive army.

“The key for me to creating and executing a sequence of this size, scale and complexity was the collaboration of some really singular women,” Caro said. That collaboration included her cinematographer Mandy Walker, and one of her first assistant directors, Liz Tan.

They found the right location, one with multiple levels to stage a battle, in the Ahuriri Valley, on the South Island of New Zealand. In managing all of the moving parts, like extras, stunts and the use of a trebuchet to fire a real flaming cannonball, Caro said “it was like being the conductor of a really brilliant orchestra.”

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