The thirty-sixth installment of the Disney Odyssey brings us to the year 1998 with an exquisite example of Disney’s growing awareness that women can kick just as much trash as men and don’t necessarily require overt romance or a wedding to satisfy their movie destiny. I have long been deeply-rooted in my love for Mulan as a Disney Princess, as she is the only Official Disney Princess to date to be made so for extreme acts of courage instead of a royal bloodline or marriage.
It is an interesting film, more on the dark and mature side of the Disney spectrum, especially in the latter years of the Disney Renaissance. It deals with war very openly for the first time in any of the animated feature films, and yet it still holds a great deal of quotable levity and heartfelt sweetness.
This time, Drew and I were joined by fellow Disney dork and performer Kat Geertsen!
The Film: Mulan (1998)
- This is the first Disney film with an Asian heroine/cast, and the first Disney film to openly deal with warfare. It’s also the only Disney film to use the word ‘cross-dresser.’ (It almost got a PG rating as a result.)
- Originally, Disney didn’t like the idea of Mulan having a dragon companion, thinking it would be too big and menacing. The producers did further research into Chinese lore on dragons and discovered that since dragons are magic they can be any size, and thus Mushu was shrunk down to better fit the story’s needs.
- Jackie Chan provided the martial arts modeling for Shang – and provides his voice in the Chinese dub. Naturally.
- Award-winning stage actress Lea Salonga auditioned for Mulan’s voice – but they wanted someone with a slightly deeper voice for when Mulan impersonates a male soldier. They decided on Ming-Na Wen for Mulan’s speaking voice, and kept Lea Salonga as her singing voice.
- Over 700 animators, artists, and technicians worked on the film. They used new computer techniques to help create the environments and appearances of the film, including a program nicknamed ‘Attila’ which helped them to animate the Huns on horseback.
- Mulan was animated entirely at the Florida animation studios.
- Mulan is left handed and is one of only two Disney Princesses to wear pants – the other being Jasmine in Aladdin.
- Stephen Schwartz was supposed to provide the songwriting for the film, but he was offered Prince of Egypt with Dreamworks (led by
the devious deserterJeffrey KATZENBERG!) and couldn’t say no. So they erased Schwartz’ name from all the work he’d already done and hired David Zippel to finish the job.
- The film’s opening week performed fairly well, clocking in at $22.8 million, in second place only to The X-Files.
Not too shabby for the late nineties…
- This was the first Disney DVD to be released – in November 1999.
And if you didn’t feel old enough yet…The film’s pop rendition of “Reflection” was the breakout hit for then-unknown Christina Aguilera.
- The opening musical theme is strongly reminiscent of the Peter Pan pan flute melody.
- (men are patrolling the Great Wall of China) Aly: “I have a feeling that Gondor is about to call for aid.”
- Mulan is a leftie!!! I never noticed that before.
- Drew: “In a post-Avatar: The Last Airbender world….all I can see here is the Fire Nation. Or maybe the Earth Nation.
- Mulan: “Reflect before you snack… act!” Drew: “I mean that’s true. You should reflect before you snack.” Aly: “I do every day at 2 pm at work when I suddenly want chocolate.”
- When Mulan’s father is called to war, Drew had a solid point. “The guy’s already a war hero – they aren’t going to put a sword in his hand and send him to the front lines, he’ll be put in charge of some troops or something, he’ll be doing strategy. Mulan’s totally overreacting.”
- Sequence Six is the best ever of all time. Rain, dramatic synth music, a sword haircut, donning armor and riding off to war? THE BEST. THIS IS WHY MULAN IS THE BEST.
- Mushu being demoted to gong-ringer is literally all of us when we’ve had enough with our job: completely uninterested in doing a good job and just kind of sluffing off the task at hand in order to get through the day. Too real.
- Cri-Kee chirps at Mushu, who responds incredulously. Aly: “Oh. my. GOSH…. they’re the C-3PO and R2D2 of this movie!!! Mushu complains and Cri-Kee fixes things, and Mushu is the only one who can understand him!”
- Oh my gosh. Shang. is so freaking hot.
- COME, MY FRIENDS. RAISE YOUR VOICES IN SONG!
- Drew: “Apparently all the Huns are jaundiced…? Their eyes are super yellow.”
- Kat: “I love all of these cheap sound effects in the movie… the toothpaste slurp, the typewriter noises… it’s so solid!”
- Aly: “Okay, for those of you playing along at home, take a drink every time someone accidentally walks into Chin Po.”
- Oof. That hard cut from the end of “Girl Worth Fighting For” into this grim, absolutely chilling sequence of finding the burnt village… It’s stunning.
- One of my favorite things about Mulan as a character is that no matter what happens to her or around her – and she’s right there in the thick of it, being attacked by Huns in the mountains in the snow – she never stops and says, “Okay, this is too much, I’m out. I’m going home.” Mulan just… keeps going. She does everything she can, as best she can, and even though she has no martial training prior to this, she proves to be pretty smart and reasonably capable. It’s so inspiring and so often overlooked about her in this story.
- “Let’s hear it for Ping, the bravest of us all!” “You’re king of the mountain!” Aly: “…I’ll take, Things That Appear On Mulan Valentines Cards for $300, Alex.”
- Let’s also not forget that when Mulan’s disguise is ruined and they cast her out immediately she doesn’t even shed a tear. She holds fast to the fact that she tried to do the right thing and she moves on. Sadly, but she does it, and no tears. Amazing, impressive, and inspirational.
- Mulan: “You said you’d trust Ping. Why is Mulan any different?” Aly: “A QUESTION WE HAVE BEEN ASKING FOR CENTURIES.”
- Mushu: “Huh? Did you say something? …hey, you’re a girl now, remember?” Aly: “And that’s when Mulan realized: the patriarchy is buuuuullshiiiit.”
- Aly: “I’d like to convince the other soldiers to dress as concubines and sneak into the palace with me.” Drew: “Uh, great, roll negotiate. You’ll have advantage to it because they’re your friends.” Aly: “…natural 20, and I have a +5.” Drew: “Yeah, they look FABULOUS.”
- Drew: “Whoa, what is Shan Yu made of?!” Aly: “Concrete. And hate.”
- And even at the end, when she’s finally won, and saved China, and she returns home triumphant to honor her family… she still doesn’t shed a tear. She’s serene and collected. She’s amazingggggg as;lkjf as;ldkfjadf.
Disney Renaissance End Credits
Slow Jam Pop Jam:
Extra special thanks to my patrons who made this and all Disney Odyssey posts possible: AE, Alexis, Allen, Andy, Ben, Cameron, Candace, David, Dennis, Eric, Erika, Josh, Kat, Katie, Mary & Rhett, Mary-Kate, Matt, Mel, Michael, Rebecca, Stephen, and Tiffany. If you’re interested in supporting this blog, the Disney Odyssey, and future fantastical adventures, please consider donating a dollar or more to my Patreon!
Thank you for joining us this time on the Disney Odyssey… and make sure to subscribe to the blog for the next post!