Mulan (1998) - Review


With the school holidays rolling out full force here in the UK, my children have decided they want to watch a host of Disney films that they may not have watched as much as some of their favourites (I'm looking at you Frozen II and Encanto!). As I will be partaking in a good quantity of these, I decided I would write some short reviews for each of them! First up on our Disney journey.... Mulan. This was released in 1998, Directed by Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft and was the 36th animated feature film released by Disney.

The plot of Mulan is loosely (and I mean very loosely) based on the Chinese Folk Legend of Hua Mulan. The film takes place in China during the Han Dynasty, with the Huns (led by big bad guy Shan Yu) invading over the Great Wall of China. Because of these attacks the Emperor sends out conscription notices to every family stating that one male from each family needs to join the Imperial Chinese Army. Mulans elderly father Fa Zhou is a war veteran but is the only male member of the family. To save her father she impersonates a man and takes his place in the army as it prepares to counter the Hun invasion. This leads to a action packed film with a rare focus on the theme of war (for a Disney film). Its actually got some quite graphic scenes compared to Disney films, with blood, fighting and death. It's not all doom and gloom though, there are lots of comedic sections littered between the more serious sections, my favourite being the match maker scene earlier on in the film that leads to Mulan being deemed a disgrace to her family.

Mulan is also joined on her quest by the small red dragon Mushu, a former family guardian who aids Mulan after mistakenly destroying the great stone dragon guardian who was meant to assist her after being prayed to by Mulans Grandma. Mushu provides a good chunk of the comic relief throughout the film through his dialogue and his interactions with lucky cricket Cri-Kee.


The animation is extremely smooth, and the contrasting, vibrant bright colours and then dark, drab colours of the Huns really pop from the screen. The characters all feature great designs with memorable looks and expressions.

The voice cast in Mulan is top notch, with Eddie Murphy stealing the show as the dragon guardian Mushu. He brings his usual witty performance (very much in the same vein of Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin) and his dialogue is littered with funny one liners. The rest of the cast is rounded off with Ming-Na Wen (The Mandalorian) as Mulan, BD Wong (Jurassic Park) as Captain Li Shang and classics such as June Foray (Granny in Warner Bros Cartoons), James Hong (Literally everything but I love him as Mr Ping in Kung Fu Panda), even George Takei (Sulu in Star Trek) and Pat Morita (Mr Miyagi himself)!

The songs are also a highlight of the movie. With Joseph himself Donny Osmond lending his vocals as the singing voice of Li Shang and Lea Salonga (The singing voice of Jasmine from Aladdin) providing the singing voice of Mulan. My favourites are "I'll make a man out of you" - because who doesn't love that song, and "A girl worth fighting for" but the other songs are all great and I wouldn't skip them if they came on a Disney playlist. Christina Aguilera also sang the pop version of "Reflection" which she also returned for in the 2020 live action remake of Mulan too!


Whilst the films plot may not be quite historically accurate, and its depictions of Asians may be seen as stereotypical in todays world (you have to remember this is very much a film of the 90s!), I absolutely love this film. In my opinion its one of the better animated films released by Disney during the magnificent renaissance era. It has a stellar voice cast, tons of comedy (including a fair few adult jokes sprinkled in) but also a much darker story than many of the standard Disney Princess fares out there, and the songs are fantastic to boot (who doesn't love a bit of Donny). My kids loved the slapstick visual humour and were laughing throughout, plus it kept their attention from start to finish which is always a huge win in terms of films for kids!


TOTAL SCORE:

8.5/10


KIDS THOUGHTS:

10/10 - I really liked the bit where he gets on the firework/rocket and flies away. - Addison, 6.


FUN FACTS:

When the troops discover that the Huns destroyed a village in the Tung Shao Pass, numerous dead bodies of soldiers can be seen, making Mulan the only Disney movie that shows numerous dead bodies. There was supposed to be a Mulan 3 released in 2006, but it was canceled. (BOO!) Jackie Chan voiced the character of Li Shang, both speaking and singing in all three Chinese dubs of the movie.




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