Walt Disney Studios’ stunning feature film Mulan, released on the Disney+ platform with Premier Access in September 2020, marked another milestone in Auckland’s rapid emergence as a major screen production force.

 

 

Mulan had its main production base in Auckland and was the largest ever filmed in the region. Directed by Auckland-raised and trained Niki Caro, Mulan was the first production to use Kumeu Film Studios’ two new state-of-the-art sound stages which opened in mid-2018.

Niki Caro said:

As one of a small number of women directing large budget studio features, this was an amazing opportunity to come home to. In New Zealand, this crew just wrapped their arms around this movie and around me, and that gave me so much strength to hold this story up.

Disney built 49 intricate sets for the US$200 million plus budget movie – many within the stages and production buildings at KFS, and on the studio’s large backlots. It also used a stage at Auckland Film Studios, and seven locations around the region including Mangere, Muriwai, Kaipara, Woodhill Forest, Oratia, and Hunua.

Mulan is the latest chapter in Disney’s valued long-term relationship with the Auckland region. Over nearly 20 years, Disney has produced numerous feature films and television programmes and invested tens of millions of dollars, creating jobs and supporting a wide range of businesses in Auckland.

Mulan Executive Producer Barrie Osborne said:

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.

 

Mulan - made in Auckland

 

Veteran Kiwi producer Tim Coddington, who regularly works in Auckland, was an Executive Producer on Mulan, while many of the 1700 crew employed on the project were from Auckland’s western screen heartland.

Key Auckland-based heads of department included Oscar™ winner Grant Major (Production Designer), Denise Kum (Hair, Make-Up and Prosthetics Designer), and Simon Ambridge (Unit Production Manager).

Disney worked with a wide range of local suppliers – delivering substantial economic benefits for the local economy. most of the 1100 costumes were constructed in the region.

KFS is operated by a specialist team within the region’s economic development agency Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), which also supports the local screen industry through a long-term lease of the privately owned studios.

Barrie Osborne said:

The new studios in Kumeu were a great place to work for us, a good home for this film as well. The team we assembled in New Zealand were 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 calibre crew.

 

     

    Pam Ford, ATEED General Manager Economic Development, says: “We are extremely proud that Auckland’s world-class screen industry played a major part in a stunning production brought to life by an incredibly talented director we happily claim as ours.

    “Mulan provided hundreds of jobs and a huge direct spend into our region for everything from drone and digital production companies to local cafes, carpenters and wood suppliers, and is a great showcase of Auckland’s creative talent.”

    SPOTLIGHT ON SUPPLIERS 

    Key Auckland vendors included: The Rebel Fleet, Moxion, Ariel Cameras Ltd, BCD Travel, JC Plumbing Ltd, HIREPOOL Ltd, Panavision, Henderson Wood Machinists, Gripping services NZ Ltd, City Life Hotel Auckland, Ashton Hire Crane, and Rich Rigging Project Services.

    The Rebel Fleet and Moxion

    The Rebel Fleet partnered NZ ISP Devoli to create a guaranteed connection from servers at Kumeu Film Studios through to AWS in the US. This meant they were able to deliver 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 a day. This meant the post production process could get to work on approvals, edits and VFX shots right away.

    The Rebel Fleet also partnered Auckland-based SAAS Dailies provider Moxion.io to roll out their 'Immediates' package which enables files to be uploaded directly from on-set available in Moxion. During Mulan, the Second Unit was shooting in rural China, the Main Unit Director and DOP were still in New Zealand. With Immediates, the New Zealand-based team were able to provide sign off of approved shots, while the Second Unit was shooting. This helped to provide near real time feedback, enabling the production to move on with confidence and travel to the next location.

    Mandy Walker, Cinematographer on Mulan, said: “Moxion Immediates enabled us to pass through the normally difficult internet situation in China to become our eyes on the ground – letting us reference footage literally as it was being shot in real time and quickly providing feedback to our offshore units.”

    All of these services were provided to Disney while adhering to their strict digital and content security requirements.

    Michael Urban, The Rebel Fleet CEO says: “Working with Disney on this production created multifaceted benefits for the company with crew upskilling and refining their craft, the ability to further their workflow tools creating colour and creative consistency across multiple units shooting in New Zealand and China, while also providing certainty around the Original Camera Media and making sure they provided a safe delivery in post production.”

    Barrie Osborne said: “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.”

    Henderson Wood Machinists

    A family owned and operated business established in 1976, regularly provides a complete service to the film and television industry’s set constructions around New Zealand.

    Ivan Dobrec, HWM Director, says: “Mulan was one of our largest jobs for the year! We supplied not only tonnes of timber but also used our inhouse machines to create many custom-made products specifically for the movie. It will be fantastic to see the magic Disney’s set builders created with all of the timber and products we supplied.”

    Ariel Camera

    Ariel supplied the production with its MARTTi all weather, cinema drone systems. These systems are designed and built in Auckland 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 speeds over 100km/h in remote locations – often working in bad weather. They were used on set for more than 700 hours, travelling more than 600km.

    Sam Peacocke, Ariel Camera Director says: “It took about a year of research and development to produce the MARTTi drones. Ariel Camera’s collaborated with a number of other companies most of which had a lot to do with America’s Cup winning Emirates Team New Zealand who are experts in composite engineering. We were lucky to have all this brain power from the yachting world, which you can take through to drones.”

    Working with Disney on Mulan has helped Ariel expand their cinema drone systems and allowed them to work on other large screen projects.

     

       

      JUST THE FACTS:

      • 49 sets were built in New Zealand – the following were built at Kumeu Film Studios
      • Shed (Makeup/Hair/Camera Tests, Tai Chi Lake, Hua Sleeping, Matchmakers, Yurt, GS Silk Road, Oasis Tavern, Hua House, Post Avalanche, City Rooftops, Chancelllor’s Res)
      • B Stage (Mtn. Campsite, Mtn Garrison/Tavern, Tolou Conscription/Finale, D Garrison, Throne Room, New Palace Top)
      • Stage A (Crater Lake, Tolou Conscription/Shrine/Finale, GS Mountain Cliff, New Palace, GS Lover’s Bridge, GS Sampan)
      • Backlots (Mtn. Garrison, Tolou Conscription/Shrine/Finale/Roof, D Garrison, New Palace, DSG Establisher, BK Ramparts, GS Oasis & Tulou)
      • Auckland Film Studios Stage 5 (Lake Swim)

       

      ON LOCATION AROUND AUCKLAND:

      • Oratia – bamboo forest
      • Tidal Rd, Māngere – Imperial City Central Avenue Desert Steppe
      • Jonkers Farm – ridge near Imperial City
      • Muriwai Earth Quarry – Great Hall Ramps
      • Makarau – Bucket Challenge
      • Woodhill Forest – Witch’s Tree
      • Hunua – countryside
       
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