Mulan (1998)

Release date: July 19, 1998
Director: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
Story by: Robert D. San Souci
Screenplay by: Rita Hsiao, Chris Sanders, Philip LaZebnik, Raymond Singer, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer
Cast: Ming-Na, Eddie Murphy, B.D. Wong, Pat Morita, SOon-Tek Oh, Miriam Margolyes, Freda Foh Shen, June Foray, Harvey Fierstein, Gedde Watanabe, Miguel Ferrer — and singing voices of Lea Salonga, Donny Osmond

Actually… I take it back, what I said about Mulan in my Why Little Girls Should Grow Up with Studio Ghibli post. At least when we talk about this film and not the subsequent Mulan stories.

Mulan is pretty rocking, and it’s actually aging pretty darn well.

Based of an anonymous the Ballad of Mulan poem that’s based on a folktale that has been repeated through generations and developed into films, series, and operas. Mulan tells the story of Hua Mulan, a woman who dressed up as a man and fought in the army for twelve years.

Disney’s version starts with the invasion of the terrible Shang-Yu (Ferrer), leader of the Huns, who feels the emperor’s Great Wall is just to piss him off. On the other side of the country, Mulan (Ming-Na), who after a failed — but really hilarious — attempt at the matchmaking house, is shamed into thinking that she will never uphold her family’s name.

Because of the Huns’ invasion, the Emperor (Morita) sets the order that a man from each family must go out and fight. However, since the Hua family only has Mulan, her weaken father is forced to take the imperial edict. Mulan is up in arms saying her father shouldn’t be going to war in his condition, but they must uphold the family’s name — knowing this, Mulan sneaks in to take his father’s armor and his imperial edict, and goes off to war in his name.

The family’s protective spirits awaken, and decide to send the family’s Great Stone Dragon to be awaken by the little one, Mushu (Murphy). There’s a problem, the Great Stone Dragon shatters to pieces, and now Mushu alongside the Lucky cricket Cri-Kee are off to help Mulan achieve her glory!

There’s some talk in China at the moment, about how Hollywood can take their culture re-package and sell it back to them so freshly. And I think it’s true about Disney’s Mulan. Compared to China’s 2009 version of Hua Mulan (starring the awesome Zhao Wei), Mulan is dynamic in all its 88min. in running time. Yes, sure — it doesn’t look completely Chinese and some even say it’s “too Japanese” but if you look past those details, we have a story about a girl who saves a whole nation, and defeats a huge army… Mulan has a lot to stand on, it’s about a girl trying to accept herself and trying to make her family proud.

Mulan doesn’t go off to war in her father’s armor because she wants to be a man and play war, part of her wants her father not to be hurt, and the other is to proof that she’s not a complete failure. Plus, it’s got tons of humor! I couldn’t help but to laugh out loud in so many scenes spread throughout in sequences that should have been, at least, a little bit tense. Like the “ugly concubines” comment. Never gets old.

The animation is still great, detailed and crisp. It’s important to note that the computer sequence of the Huns coming down the snowy mountain. It still looks great, and it’s really REALLY intimidating.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Part of YAM’s Unofficial Animation Week.


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

10 Responses

  1. Mirella says:

    I rewatched Mulan again some days again in Disney Channel… it was still awesome.
    It was also great because it was the first time my brother watched it and he enjoyed it a lot too even if he complained a bit about the historical and cultural inconsistencies… apparently he cannot help it XD

    • amy says:

      @Mirella, oh yeah – the cultural and historical issues. It’s like asking Disney to show how diseased got the best of native american tribes in Pocahontas. xD

      Or that Tarzan couldn’t for his posse with an ironic gorilla and an allergic-to-peanuts elephant who thought was related to Tarzan. xD

      There was one thing that bugged me… in the DVD extras – the man in charged of the dubs was talking about the process of dubbing, and in a sentence mentions something about “selling it back to their culture” and mentions Japan. It also mentions China, but the way the footage was edited was weird. LOL The other dude that talked about it does only mention China, though.

      By the way, I watched the Mandarin dub of Mulan ~~~ Jackie Chan is the voice of Shang. It’s kind of unsettling. LOL

  2. ROXY says:

    Mulan is one of those few true heroines in the Disney franchise. Of course being the almost completely unromantic person that I am, I disregarded the ending and just kept everything else. But I’ve been wanting to see the live action version. Saw it in the NEtflix instant play O_O I’m so gonna see it this week.

    • amy says:

      @ROXY, the problem with Disney is having their famous Princess franchise with every character based on other fairytales and legends. From all the princesses, I think Jasmine would be the only character invented by Disney? I don’t remember a princess in the Aladdin tale xD I mean, there must’ve been… just a nameless one.

      Really, is Hua Mulan on Netflix? I saw it without subs (so my mom spend part of the film telling me important bits of film ahhahaha), but I thought it was a little too… unstructured. Plus, Zhao Wei (bless her heart) I wanted to see a slightly more manly-looking Mulan. At least to actually believe she might fool the other soldiers.

      Anyway… how about that other new version of Mulan with Zhang Ziyi that Hollywood is shooting?

  3. Roxanne says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong. I thought the Mulan legend (story or fable or w/e) was of an actual woman warrior, not of a woman who pretends to be a man.

    And I agree on the taking from legends thing. At least their doing their thing with Pixar now. “And cousin, business is a’boomin”

    • amy says:

      @Roxanne, the info is divided in those who regard Mulan as a legend from a poem, and those who believe she actually was a real person. I haven’t seen the opera, but apparently she did take the place of her dad in the army because her dad was too old and her brother was too little.

      And a few weeks ago when I saw Xiao Xiang Yu in CCTV, she’s famous for her Henan Opera of Mulan, they were talking about her like she was a real person. If she was, even more awesome xD

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