My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it is pretty good. I do not really see much wrong with it, as I do think the simplicity in the film worked really well, and helped it quality wise over it’s 3 predecessors. While I do think that Mulan needed a bit more characterization that makes her stand out a bit more, and some of the ch in the movie, and it is well paced. There is a lot to like about this movie.
Production for this film started in 1994, and it was intended to be a China Doll straight-to-video short about a Chinese woman falling in love with a British man. The studio was also interested in the Chinese poem called “The Song of Fa Mu Lan”, so they decided to combine the 2 projects. The studio went to China in the same year for 3 weeks to complete drawings and get inspiration.
This is also the first of 3 movies in the canon (Brother Bear and Lilo and Stitch being the others) to be primarily animated in the Orlando, Florida studio. The studio decided to use a simpler design compared to its predecessors to give the Chinese feeling. Many programs and softwares were created for this project.
The film starts with The Huns and it’s leader Shan Yu (Migual Ferrer) invading China, and a guard lighting The Great Wall of China to alert the entire country that they have been attacked. This causes General Li (James Shigeta) and a few other officials go to the Palace to speak of the matter with The Emperor (Pat Morita), and offers to have soldiers surround the temple to protect the Emperor, bu he refuses and tells them to get Soldiers to protect China, and that he will have a conscription notice sent around his kingdom.
We are then introduced to our protagonist Mulan (Ming-Na Wen), who is writing cheat notes on her arm as to how to pass her matchmaking test. From this and having her dog feed the chicken already established that Mulan is lazy. When she goes to her father Fa Zhou (Soon-Tek Oh) to give him tea, she almost breaks everything, and he tells her that she is late. We are then shown Fa Li (Freda Foh Shen) and her mother in law Grandmother Fa June Foray) worrying about Mulan running late, since the matchmaker is not patient, and she has to take a bath and get a makeover first. Wait. Isn’t that stuff that is supposed to be done AT THE HOUSE?
So she is the first to go to the Matchmaker, and gets a mark deducted when she says “here” for talking without permission. The cricket Cric-Kee (Frank Welker) that she is given by her grandmother decides to hop around, which somehow ends with the matchmaker being put on fire, and Mulan having to put it out by throwing the tea on her. She quickly leaves with the woman yelling that she will NEVER give her family honor, no matter how much she looks like a bride. She is disappointed, which leads into the song Reflection.
I think Reflection is okay. She is singing about how she does not recognize herself and that if she acts like who she is on the inside, her family would be disappointed, but during the movie, it is made clear that she does not really know who she is. Not one of the stronger Renaissance songs.
Anyways, her and her father share a nice moment of him comforting her, but then the Army shows up and tells all the families that they have to conscript one man from each family to fight the war. This is an issue because Fa Zhou is too old and injured to fight. Mulan tries to stop her father from going, but Chi Fu (James Hong) tells him that he needs to teach his daughter to stay in a woman’s place and shut the fuck up (their words, not mine), with her father saying she dishonored him. After a tense dinner, she decides to run off, and……
So Grandmother Fa gets a vision from……who knows what; about Mulan leaving the home, which she runs to tell her son and daughter in law. Fa Li is worried because she will be killed, but there is nothing they can do.
In the Fa Ancestry…….Ghost Residence, Mushu (Eddie Murphy) is ordered to wake the spirits of her ancestors. Okay, I have to say this; Eddie Murphy is pretty annoying and out of place. He does not grate me, but I think that hiring an African American man who is known for being a comedian, in a film about Ancient China is an issue for me. I liked so much that most of the cast was asian, which was rare for Disney at this point to actually cast a voice actor that is the ethnicity of the character (Aladdin had an all white cast, and all of the films beforehand), but it is just a nitpick-ish. So he is told to wake up The Great Stone Dragon to protect her, but after he screws that up, he decides to run off and protect her himself.
We then see 2 soldiers run into he Huns, and Shan Yu tells them to tell The Emperor to bring it on. He then subtly tells one of his men to kill a soldier, since you only need one person to send a message. So Mulan meets
Eddie Murphy Mushu and she realizes that he is the ancestor supposed to protect her.
So he goes outside to see everyone beating one another up, but it all goes back to Mulan. When she interacts with Shang for the first time, she is nervous, and her Dragon Murphy tells her to name herself Ping. Th entire camp now hates her because they have to clean up all the mess they made when they fought. It is the next morning, and Mulan is late, so she rushes to the other soldiers. She manages to barely beat Shang, who takes his shirt off, causing Mulan to restrain from having an orgasm right there and then (have you looked at her face?). This causes us to lead into our third
excuse to not waste much time on the development on the training site song I’ll Make a Man Out of You. I have to say; I like how this song not only develops Mulan, but the sidekicks Yao (Harvey Fierstein), Ling (Gedde Watanabe), and Chien-Po (Jerry Tondo), and Shang. Actually, I think this song focuses more on Shang, as it shows his struggle, persistence, and impatience with the training, since this is his chance of proving he is something.
boring, pathetically colored villain Shan Yu finds a doll, and decides to return it to her, which will lead him to kill General Li and all of the soldiers there. So Mulan decides to take a bath, and the 3 sidekicks join in, and apologizes for how they acted to her, and offers to start over. They then stare at Yao’s dick like it is the heavenliest sight they have ever seen.
So Mushu saves her, as he bites Ling, causing all of them to run. As she returns from her shower, she sees Chi Fu and Shang getting into an argument about whether the men are ready to fight or not. Shang says they have completed their training, but Chi Fu thinks they are incompetent ninnies, and that they will never see battle with the notes he wrote to the Emperor. After that is situated, Mushu and Cri-Kee sneak into the tent to change the letter, so they will go to war.
This leads us to our final song A Girl Worth Fighting For, and it is here when I realize that Shang is not straight. ALL of the men (including Chi Fu) are singing about how they want to bang a girl out after they are done war, and cause a Chinese version of the baby Boomers. Why the hell is Shang not singing? Isn’t he sexually frustrated as well? MAJOR side eye Shang. Anyways, the song ends with….
Shang has a moment where he gives condolences with his father before he demands everyone (who feels sorry for him) to keep it moving. Thanks to Mushu and Cri-Kee, they blow a cannon, giving the Huns (who are watching their every move) a signal to attack. They shoot the canons at the mountains, where only some of the Huns are. After they defeat that set, a bunch; no….hundreds of Huns are waiting on the upper hillside. They run to them like little children trying to catch the Ice Cream truck and attack. We get a long, intense, climatic fight scene between the two sides, and Mulan takes the last canon to shoot at the mountain (so it will fall on them). During the process, Shan Yu cuts her, and the others have to save her and Shang (who she grabbed onto, as he was about to fall) from the avalanche. When they are saved, Shang tells her that he owes her his life, but she soon passes out.
After a doctor shows up, it is revealed that Ping is a girl, and Shang enters, and is somewhat relieved (yall cannot tell me no different) , angry, and hurt by the deception. Chi Fu orders him to kill her like the law provided (so this must have happened beforehand if there is a law for it), but he spares her, as his debt is repaid. They all leave to head back to Imperial China, and leave her by herself. She sees the Huns reappear from the snow to make it back to Imperial China, and after she has a pity party for herself about being a failure, she rushes back to her team to warn them.
So when she makes it, all of the soldiers but Fu are saddened, and when she tries to warn Shang, he s pretty much saying “Girl, bye” to her, but she refuses, as it is important. When he ignores her, she tells the others to watch out, as she knows they are here. She is upset that no one is listening to her, with Mushu saying that it is because she is a girl. Speaking of Mushu, I forgot to mention earlier that he was a Protector of the family, but after he failed with a soldier, he was demoted to an assistant, so he is helping Mulan to get his job back.
I am tired, so I am going to wrap this section up pretty quickly. the Huns show up and kidnap the Emperor, the soldiers listen to Mulan (with Shang following her lead), Shang gets his ass whopped by Shan Yu, and Mulan and Yu go at it, beating him with her wit and quick logic; trapping him on the roof for Mushu to light a canon to kill Shan Yu. The Emperor honors her, all of China bows to her, Shang is too nervous to make a move, he follows her to her house by the encouragement of the Emperor, she reconciles with her father, and Shang joins them for dinner, which excites Fa Li and Grandmother Fa (I am sure they did not want Mulan to be a prude). She thanks Mushu for all of his help, as they end with Eddie Murphy singing. Really?
What I will say is this; the characters are likable. Are they the deepest and the most engaging? No. But they so have some depth, and are almost always a joy to watch….most of them.
What I will say about the animation is that it is simple. That is not a bad thing; but a good thing, because it gives off that Ancient Chinese art feeling in the animation, which works off really well. I do think some of the character designs are somewhat dull, but that is just me. Pretty good, but not the best I have seen.
The score is awesome. It has the epic, adventurous theme, but it is very Chinese, meaning that it sounds like the instruments and music that they play in China. You do not feel a 1990s pop feeling to any of the songs or the score. Speaking about the songs, I like how they cut it down to 4 songs, since this film would not benefit from the grand 7 musical numbers. Not the best songs, but they do hold their own.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on June 19th, 1998, it opened at #2 behind the X-Files, making 22.8 million on opening weekend. Overall, it made $120,620,254 domestically, and $183,700,000 internationally, making $304,320,254 overall. This is one of the lower-grossing films of the Renaissance, making more than Hercules, The Rescuers Down Under, and The Little Mermaid, but being outgrossed by all the others.
This is the highest critical reception the studio received since The Lion King. Many liked how they handled gender roles and stereotypes, the engaging story, likable characters, and that it is a small film that acknowledges it, and it’s simplicity makes it stand out.
It won many Annies (including Best Animated Feature; first to get that award since Pocahontas), and has a record breaking amount of Annie nominations and wins. It also got many nominations for Best Score, by places like the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards. Reflections also got a few nominations, and Christina Aguilera’s cover launched her career.
Today, it is seen as one of the better films in the canon and the best of the Late-Renaissance films (some even saying it is as god as the Big 4). Mulan is in the Disney Princess lineup, but she (and her film) has not been really marketed in theme parks and merchandise after it’s release. Disney still acknowledges it, and it is not seen as a failure, but it is not one of the Top films in the canon.
= 32.5/40 = 81%