Series Intro: This is Part 36 of a multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors.
Official Title: Mulan
Release: June 19, 1998
Running Time: 90 minutes
Estimated Cost: $70 million
Estimated Revenue: $304.32 million
Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Mulan, a young maiden, is set to meet the town matchmaker, so she can continue to honor her family by bearing sons. However, Mulan is not ready for the tests and tries to cheat her way through, as she does early with her chores. She bombs at the matchmaker, but a bigger upset is about to occur, when the Emperor announces that every family must send one male to the arm. Mulan’s father – the only Fa male – is old and has already been injured in a war. Mulan, in drag, steals her father’s armor and goes as his son “Ping.”
The family ancestors – ghosts – meet and decide to send a guardian to help her. The dragon (nee lizard) – Mushu – sent to wake up the guardian, accidentally destroys it instead and decides to go and protect Mulan in its place. He is accompanied by Mulan’s lucky Cricket.
Mulan and company meet up the army, she immediately falls for her commanding officer – Li Shang - after she is almost discovered. Shang tells Ping to go home because he will never become a man (in the masculine, hyper-competitive, testosterone driven kind of way). Ping proves him wrong (as do the other recruits).
Shang’s army comes head to head with the Huns on a snow topped mountain, all was almost lost until Ping takes the last cannon and instead of aiming it at Shan Yu, as ordered, he aims it at the peak of the mountain. This caused an avalanche that almost takes the life of Ping, Mushu, the Cricket, Mulan’s horse and Shang, but thanks to the efforts of the rest of the recruits, they are all saved, injured but safe.
Ping’s injuries are bad and the doctor finds out his secret identify as Mulan. Shang is supposed to kill her for the trick, but because Ping saved him, he saves Mulan and leaves her on the mountain top with her horse (Mushu and the Cricket remain hidden with Mulan).
Mulan discovers that the Huns are still alive and she returns to the city where Shang is being honored by the Emperor. Everyone ignores Mulan, until the Huns arrive. Then they begin listening to her ideas and she is celebrated by the Emperor for defeating (and assumed killing) Shan Yu.
Mulan returns home with her honor restored. Mushu’s honor is also restored by the ancestors. Shang arrives at Mulan’s to return her father’s helmet and he stays for dinner.
Honor to Us All
I'll Make a Man Out of You
A Girl Worth Fighting For
And a closing credit song: True to Your Heart (which I don’t count because it isn’t sung by any characters!)
Limited offering here for it being a cartoon musical, have we begun to see the end of the Renaissance approaching? The end of the grand musical?
Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5
I loved this movie so much as a child, I thought it was great to see a “Princes” in a comedic role and truly fighting (both against the fact that she is a woman and against the Huns). Girl Power!
Animation Rating: 2 out of 5
I believe we’ve lost some of the greatness in animation that we saw just a mere decade ago with Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. There was a bit of over reliance on CG effects that really took me out of the world of the movie.
The Test of Time:
Although sometimes grouped (inaccurately) with the Disney Princesses, Mulan hasn’t had the staying power of some of the other lead characters from the Renaissance.
Mushu has a bit part in a WDW attraction that reveals the inner workings of animation, at Disney’s [MGM] Hollywood Studios. Mulan was produced in Orlando so it would only make sense that a Mulan character would host this attraction.
Through the Modern Lens
Another non-white heroine!
I’ll admit I don’t know too much about Chinese culture, but I had a feeling that a lot was inaccurately portrayed, until further research showed that China actually allowed the movie to play! Could WDAS have stuck close enough to Chinese traditions that the people of China weren’t insulted?
I love how Mulan stands up for herself and takes action into her own hands. I also appreciate the fact that although she finds Shang attractive, she doesn’t do stupid things for love, but the her country!