Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #36: Mulan

 

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

Hello internet! Man, I don’t know about you but I’m back, feeling well rested and ready to review some goddamn Disney movies! Who’s…

…with…

…me…?

Santa Claus, Lex Luthor and Asian Nixon? But they’re mortal enemies!

Okay, is it just me or has the blog gotten…sorta…Communisty since I’ve been gone?

Comrade Mouse, how's it hangin' dawg?

Comrade Mouse, how’s it hangin’ dawg?

Gangsta Asia?! What’s been going on around here?! Why does my blog look like May Day in Red Square?

I'm now Comrade Gangsta Asia. And your blog is the people's blog now thanks to the glorious socialist revolution we had in your absence. Um...for rizzle.

I’m now Comrade Gangsta Asia. And your blog is the people’s blog now thanks to the glorious socialist revolution we had in your absence. Um…for rizzle.

Alright look, you can be a communist character or a gangsta character but not both, you’re not fleshed out enough to support two defining traits.

Yeah, this is really hard.

Yeah, this is really hard.

Second, who staged a communist uprising on my…why do I even need to finish that sentence?

Hello Mouse.

Privyet, Mouse.

Oh heeey Comrade Crow. Look, I know I haven’t been featuring you much on the blog in the last…

Ten months.

Ten months. Cinderella review.

Wow! Really? No, c’mon, you had that cameo in the Beauty and the Beast review…

Silence! As a remnant of the old regime you are considered an enemy of the blog. Take him away!

Silence! As a remnant of the old regime you are considered an enemy of the blog. Take him away!

Dammit. See, this is why you have to be careful of offending communists. They tend to hold a grudge.  Disney learned this the hard way when they financed Kundun, a biopic of the current Dalai Lama that kinda portrays China in a negative light. You know, like Ike always gets the short end of the stick in movies about the life of Tina Turner. So anyway, China heard that Disney had been talkin’ smack and didn’t think that China would hear it.

Yes, Hollaback girl is about Chinese international relations. That songs has layers, man.

Yes, Hollaback Girl is about Chinese international relations. That songs has layers, man.

Suddenly, Disney found itself frozen out of what was rapidly becoming the most lucrative movie market on the planet. China only allows a limited number of Western films to be screened there each year and if you think Disney isn’t willing to bend over so far that its lips actually touch its own anus just to get a sniff of a chance of a shot of that market…well, you haven’t really been paying attention.

"Hello, Fan Bingbing? I'm just calling to let you know that China's strength and prowess fills with joy and contentment."

“Hello, Fan Bingbing? I’m just calling to let you know that China’s strength and prowess fills me with joy and contentment.”

"But of course, Mr Stark. China is well aware of its greatness. NOW DANCE!"

“But of course, Mr Stark. China is well aware of its greatness. NOW DANCE!”

iron-man-dancing

But back in 1997, Disney decided on a slightly more dignified way of  currying favour. Mulan originally was going to be a short, straight to video animation called China Doll, about a poor Chinese girl who’s rescued by an Englishman and taken to live happily every after in the West. And that, from the offensive title to the paternalistic premise, pretty much sounds like the worst fucking thing ever. It was  Robert D. San Souci, the children’s author and sometime Disney consultant, who suggested instead making a movie version of the Ballad of Hua Mulan (not to be confused with the Ode to Fa Mulan). You can read the poem here, it’s quite short and also pretty amazing. It’s a 1500 year old poem that simply and unabashedly makes the case for gender equality, depicting a young girl who goes off to fight a twelve year military campaign in place of her aged father, wins honour and prestige and returns home at last, revealing to her astounded comrades that she was a woman the whole time.  So, we have a Disney movie that not only is going to delving into depictions of a non-European culture, but also dealing with the issue of feminism. Race and gender? Well surely this can’t go wrong?

Well…no. Actually. It didn’t.

You know, I’ve been doing this a while now and if I’ve learned one thing it’s this: Every movie has its defenders. No matter how little I, or the general consensus, rate any Disney movie, there will always be someone to fight its corner. There are Pocahontas fans, Black Cauldron fans, Aristocats fans and even Three Caballeros fans. Well, maybe “fans” is not the right word for that last one.

Cultists, that's the word.

“Almighty Rooster, hear our prayer.”

Conversely, on the other end of the scale, no matter how highly a Disney movie is ranked and rated and praised, there will always be someone who doesn’t think it’s all that. I know people who don’t like Lion King, Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Hunchback…hell there are some sick fucks who don’t like Beauty and the Beast! But…not for this one. Honestly, I have never met or spoken to a single Disney fan who does not absolutely adore Mulan. Do I agree?

Fuck yeah I agree!

Sorry, you may have wanted me to string you along until the end of the review before revealing my opinion of this movie but…really? The fact that I composed a goddamn ode to the main character didn’t tip you off? Yeah, I love this movie, and I love Mulan herself, without a doubt the most badass character in the Disney canon. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the story of Mulan, or, as I like to call her; The Death Who Walks.

Probably best to do it as quick as possible.

Probably best to do it as quick as possible.

The movie begins with the Huns attacking the Great Wall of China under cover of darkness, not realising that the wall was not built to protect China from them, but to protect them from Mulan. One lone Chinese guard sounds the alarm and goes to light the signal beacon before coming face to face with the Huns’ leader, Shan Yu (Miguel Ferrer).
I’ll often see Shan Yu ranking highly on lists of the worst Disney villains. People will complain that he’s one-dimensional, that he has no real goal or master plan, that he doesn’t have a great villain song…and I get that. But honestly I think Shan Yu is the perfect villain for this movie because he’s like Doomsday.
doomsday
Okay, I’m going to go comic-book nerdy here so anyone not into that may just want to look away now. Doomsday was a character created in the Superman comics for the express purpose of killing Superman off. That was his entire reason for existing. He comes to Earth and he beats Superman to death with his bare hands. A lot of comic fans think that Doomsday is one-note, and he is. But that’s what makes him so terrifying. There’s no reasoning with him. There’s no plan. He’s just an unstoppable force who kills, maims and destroys because he wants to. In the same way, Shan Yu is a terrifying villain to me because he’s a pure, straight up sociopath. Why does he attack China? Wealth? Power? Land? No. Because it’s there. Also, this film is a milestone in that it’s the first Disney movie with a female protagonist who is, without qualification, the star of her own story. There is no prince who rescues her, no fairy godmothers. Mulan does this on her own. That’s why the movie needs a truly threatening antagonist or else it undercuts Mulan’s strength. Toe-tapping songs and funny sidekicks are not on the cards. Shan Yu is here, and he is going to fuck your day up.
We also get an unusual bit, where an unnamed background character gets a moment of genuine badassery. Face to face with Shan Yu, the soldier nonetheless does his duty and lights the signal proudly telling Shan “Now all China knows you’re here!”
1243
"China calls for aid!"

“China calls for aid!”

"And Rohan shall answer."

“And Rohan shall answer.”

But despite knowing that he will soon face the might of the Imperial army and the Horselords of the Rivermark, Shan Yu simply smiles and says: “Perfect.”

Meanwhile, in the Imperial Palace, the Emperor (Pat Morita) is informed by General Li (James Shigeta) that the huns have crossed into China. Li tells the Emperor that he will draw his troops back to the palace but the Emperor instructs him to instead protect the commoners. It’s supposed to establish the Emperor as a just and kind ruler but really the exchange boils down to:
“You should be a massive douche!”
“Nah, I’m not going to be a massive douche.”
“Oh wise and benevolent Emperor!”
Besides, he’s not so benevolent. He’s clearly hoarding all the best hats.

Besides, he’s not so benevolent. He’s clearly hoarding all the best hats.

The Emperor institutes a draft, saying that every family must provide one man for the war effort. Li says “Thousands of extra troops? Nah, s’fine, I got this.”, thereby cementing his place as the Worst General In History and the Emperor wisely insists.
Meanwhile, in the Fa family home, The Death Who Walks (Ming Na Wen) is preparing for her meeting with the village matchmaker. This is futile of course, as Mulan is already married. To war itself. But she goes along with it because she loves her parents almost as much as she loves seeing the fear in the eyes of a dying Hun.
I’ve mentioned before how the Renaissance movies excel at portraying father-daughter relationships, and this movie is no exception. Fa Zhou (Soon-Tek Oh), Mulan’s elderly father, scolds her for not having already left for the matchmaker, while she calmly makes sure he has his medicinal tea and promises to make him proud.
In the village, Fa Li (Freda Foh Shen) and Granny Fa (June Foray) anxiously await Mulan’s arrival. I friggin’ love Granny Fa. When Mulan’s mother says that she should have prayed to the ancestors for luck, Granny replies “How lucky can they be? They’re dead.” Granny instead puts her faith in a lucky cricket, Cri-kee, voiced by Frank Welker, who has voiced one character for every atom in his body. You know, when word got out that there was going to be a cricket character in this movie, that probably caused some awkward scenes in the Disney studios.
"C'mon fellahs! You gotta give me the part of Cri-Kee the cricket!!

“C’mon fellahs! You gotta give me the role of Cri-Kee the cricket!”

"For the last time, you're wrong for the part!"

“For the last time, you’re wrong for the part!”

Mulan finally arrives and the women get her ready for her meeting with the matchmaker. This leads us into our first of only four songs, Honor to Us All. Matthew Wilder and David Zippel are on song duty for this movie and the results are…uneven. To say the least. Honor to Us All is a good one though, probably the most “Chinese” sounding of the four, a bouncy little ditty where the women of the village attempt the impossible task of making a demure bride-to-be out of Mulan.
And of course, as is mandatory, we get a scene where Mulan helps a small child, returning a doll to a girl after it gets stolen by some bullies.
"Here. Hold this while I end his life."

“Here. Hold this while I end his life.”

We also get a hilarious moment where Granny Fa switches from her speaking voice (June Foray) to her singing voices (Marni “Pipes O’ Steel” Nixon) and…it’s pretty noticeable. It’s as if in Mary Poppins Mr Dawes Snr suddenly switched voice from Dick Van Dyke to Colm Wilkinson.

"TAKE AN EYE FOR AN EYE!"

“TAKE AN EYE FOR AN EYE!”

The meeting with the matchmaker does not go as well as could be hoped (she enrages the matchmaker who declares that Mulan will never bring her family honour) but it does not go as badly as might be feared (Mulan does not kill the matchmaker for her impudence and leave her head on a pike as a warning to others).

Mulan returns home, miserable because she thinks she’s let her father down, and this brings us to our next song, Reflection.

Everybody, I owe you an apology. In the last review I implied that Go the Distance was the worst “I Want” song of the Renaissance. That was because I’d forgotten about Reflection, although I don’t see how you could blame me. Mother of God I hate this song.  You know how Disney always releases terrible adult contemporary versions of the songs from their movies? Like Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle’s version of Whole New World or Celine Dion’s version of Beauty and the Beast? See, first they take a great song, remove the awesome orchestral music, replace it with some crappy synthy elevator shit and have it performed in the most bland, edgeless way possible. Well, with Reflection it feels like they just skipped straight to this version. Mulan sings about how she can’t be herself because that would break her family’s heart (and the skulls of all who would oppose her) and goes to the shrine to wipe off her makeup.

"Joker's just a mad dog. I want whoever let him off the leash."

“Joker’s just a mad dog. I want whoever let him off the leash.”

It’s just a dead, bland, filler song. I hate to say it but…dammit it’s just no Am I Feeling Love!

We get a very nice scene now, where Fa Zhou comforts Mulan and basically says “Don’t worry about it.” This cuts short however, with the arrival of the Emperor’s advisor, Chi Fu (James Hong) who’s come to enforce the draft.

And even his horse thinks he's a tool.

And even his horse thinks he’s a tool.

Chi Fu hands Fa Zhou his conscription notice but Mulan runs out and begs him to reconsider, saying that her father has already served his country. Chi Fu tells Zhou that he should teach his daughter to hold her tongue “in a man’s presence”.  And if one shows up, I’m sure she’ll get right on that. Zhou isn’t happy, and tells Mulan to button her wordhole. The Fa family returns home in silence, while in the distance Chi Fu calls out “The Wu family! The Chu family! The Tang family!”

"Tang family? Tang family? Huh. How come I can't get no Tang round here?"

“Tang family? Tang family? Huh. How come I can’t get no Tang round here?”

That night, at dinner, Mulan confronts her father over his decision to go to war again. Zhou retorts that it’s an honour to protect his country and family and that he will do what’s right, and angrily tells Mulan it’s time she learned her place. And all the while, Fa Li sits in the corner whispering under her breath “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. Please don’t make her mad. Not again.”

 It’s now that Mulan makes her fateful decision. She takes her father’s sword. Leaves home without a word. ‘Cos Pops too old to kill Huns. And she thinks that shit’s absurd. Disguised in her father’s armour, she saddles the family horse Khan (Frank Welker, who’s voiced everyone you’ve ever known. Friends. Family. Lovers. Even you are voiced by Frank Welker) and rides off into the night.

Fa Zhou wakes up and in a panic realises that Mulan’s run off to take his place in the army. Fa Li begs him to go after her and bring her back, but Zhou says that if he reveals her, she’ll be executed.

Is the problem of Drag Kings joining the Chinese army really so widespread that they had to make it a capital offence? Well, anyway, Granny Fa prays to the ancestors to watch over Mulan. And of course, because she is an old lady, her prayers are instantly answered. Father Crilly, please explain for the readers:

In the family shrine the ghost of the great ancestor materialises. We never find out his name, but he’s voiced by George Takei, so I’m just going to go ahead and call him O Mai. O Mai then wakens Mushu (Eddie Murphy), S tiny bronze dragon who comes to life and says “Tell me who needs protecting, Great Ancestor! Anyone who messes with our family?! Vengeance will be mine!”

Wait. “Our family”? Is Mushu related to Mulan? Damn, the Fas were into some kinky shit! So let’s talk a bit about Eddie Murphy.

Although his career has gone seriously off the boil of late, Murphy remains, without a doubt, one of the greatest comedians of all time. Take Delirious, which contains possibly the funniest moment in standup history. It’s the part where Eddie Murphy spends a good fifteen minutes making homophobic jokes about “faggots”, and then you remember that 14 years later he was arrested for picking up a transsexual prostitute. Now THAT’S comedy!

Okay, joking aside, Murphy is really good in this, a rare post-Nutty Professor performance where he actually seems to give a shit. We learn that Mushu used to be a guardian spirit for the Fa family but got demoted after he screwed up the job of protecting Fa Feng. Oh, well I’m sure it wasn’t that big of a deal…

Holy SHIT why is that dragon not in jail?!

Holy SHIT why is that dragon not in jail?!

Mushu offers to go bring Mulan back but  the other ancestors give him the laugh and O Mai tells Mushu that they’ll be sending a “real dragon”…
FUCKING YES.

FUCKING YES.

…and sends Mushu out into the garden to wake him. Instead, Mushu accidentally destroys the statue and has to pose as him by wearing his severed head as a fucking hat!
It's like the ending of Seven. Only so much worse.

It’s like the ending of Seven. Only so much worse.

That charming business concluded, Mushu tries to figure out what to do next, and Cri-kee tells him to go get Mulan. Mushu says that after straight up murdering the Great Dragon he’d have to bring Mulan home with a medal for the ancestors to let him back in the temple and holy shit life is cheap to these guys. Well, makes sense I suppose. They are dead. Mushu and Cri-kee chase after Mulan and find her outside the Wu Zhong camp. Mushu introduces himself to Mulan with a big impressive piece of shadow theatre before revealing himself properly to Mulan’s shock, who simply says “You’re tiny!”.
Sigh. Nickel for every time a girl’s said that to me.
I joke, of course. It's so big I have to keep it coiled in a basket.

I joke, of course. It’s so big I have to keep it coiled in a basket.

Mulan walks into the camp with Mushu hiding in her armour and feeding her advice like a tiny reptilian Cyrano de Bergerac. Mushu tells Mulan to punch Yao (Harvey Fierstein) because “that’s how men say hello”. This is good advice, because Mulan normally says hello by decapitation and drinking the blood as it spurts from the neck hole. Unsurprisingly, this ends up causing a massive brawl which interrupts the staff meeting of General Li, Chi-Fu, and Li’s son, Captain Li Shang (BD Wong). General Li rides off with the main army and leaves Shang in charge of whipping the new recruits into shape. Shang’s first job is to interrogate this strange off-putting youth who starts fights for no reason and seems to be talking to an imaginary friend that only he can hear.

I HUNGER. "Patience, old friend."

I HUNGER.
“Patience, old friend.”

Shang asks Mulan “What the hell brah?” and she says “Sorry you had to see that. But you know how it is when you get those manly urges. And you just have to kill something.” Oh, and then she get sinto character. With Mushu’s prompting, Mulan tells Shang that she’s Fa Ping, Fa Zhou’s only son. Chi Fu is surprised, as he never knew Fa Zhou had a son, and Mulan says “He doesn’t talk about me much.”

At least, not since "the incident".

At least, not since “the incident”.

The next day, training starts, and Shang sets the soldiers the following task: They have to retrieve an arrow from the top of a pole with weights tied to their arms. Everyone fails, especially Mulan, who can’t stay too long off the ground before the weight of the souls of those she has killed pulls her back towards the underworld. Shang says that they have a long way to go.

And so begins the epic, unequalled awesomeness of I’ll Make a Man Out of You.  My God, I love this song, at once an unironic hymn to masculine strength and ability while subtly undercutting any possible chauvinism by showing how Mulan overcomes adversity to become the equal of the men around her. This whole sequence is fantastic and I like that it doesn’t gloss over the obvious difficulties a girl in Mulan’s place would experience. She doesn’t magically gain male musculature and stamina, instead she uses her smaller frame to her advantage when she finally climbs the post and retrieves the arrow. Donny Osmond, Shang’s singing voice, gives a genuinely great performance  and it’s got such a killer melody too. Honestly, I’m tempted to post the entire thing here but that may be tempting the wrath of the Fair Use Gods, so instead, here’s the Cantonese version sung by Jackie Chan.

 My friends. We live in a wonderful, wonderful world.

I think it’s also worth noting that halfway through this song, Mulan almost washes out of training. Shang gives her horse and sends her home which would seem to solve everyone’s problem: Mulan gets home safely, Zhou’s military obligations are discharged, Mushu’s proved that he can look after the Fa family…everyone wins, right? Wrong. Because that would mean Mulan doesn’t get to do what the Red Rooster put her on this earth for: Killin’ huns.

We now check in with the Hun army for a scene that really showcases why Shan Yu is such a great villain. His falcon brings him a small doll which he passes around to his men, asking him what they can see and smell. They answer that they can see horsehair, black pine and sulphur. And from this, Shan Yu just straight up Sherlocks that there’s an imperial garrison waiting for them in a village in the mountains.

You know my methods, gentlemen. Apply them.

You know my methods, gentlemen. Apply them.

Shan’s henchmen say that they can now easily avoid the imperials, but Shan says “No”. They’re going through the pass, Imperials bedamned, because that’s the quickest way to get to the Imperial City. And when they get there, they will commit such unspeakable acts of savagery that people will still be talking about it in the 26th century.

"Are you familiar with the works of Shan Yu?"

“Are you familiar with the works of Shan Yu?”

“Besides” says Shan “The little girl will be missing her doll. We should return it to her.” The purring menace of Ferrer’s delivery is just a thing to behold, he really does not get enough props for this role. Maybe it’s because he sounds so much like Razoul from Aladdin that people think he’s voiced by Jim Cummings, I know I did for ages.  Shan is the perfect adversary for Mulan. As this scene makes clear, he doesn’t have any higher purpose for this war. The war IS the purpose. But then what did you expect? It’s Miguel Ferrer.

Anyway, back at the camp it seems that Shang has actually made men out of them (Montages. Is there anything they can’t do?) but Chi Fu is not convinced and tells Shang that he’s recommending that his troops never see battle.

Does anyone in this army even want to win this war?! What is this objection to having more troops?! Are you worried that having more people is cheating? YOU’RE CHINA! THAT’S YOUR PRIMARY ADVANTAGE!

Sigh. Meanwhile, Mulan has stripped down and is taking a much needed bath in the lake when Yao, Chien-Po (Jerry Tondo) and Ling (Gedde Watanabe) arrive for some skinny dipping. Mushu is understandably worried that they’ll see Mulan naked, firstly because they’ll realises she’s a woman and secondly because no mortal has seen the true form of The Death Who Walks and lived to tell of it.

Kali

Mushu bites Ling to give Mulan the distraction she needs to get out of the lake without anyone seeing her non-dangly bits. Mushu overhears Chi Fu telling Shang that his army is benched, and decides to take matter into his own claws. With Cri-Kee’s help he forges a letter from General Li requesting immediate reinforcements and soon the army is on the march.

This takes us into A Girl Worth Fighting For, actually the last song in the movie even though we’re only halfway through this thing. It’s a nice song, where the soldiers sing about the girls they have waiting for them back home. Yeah, these guys have clearly never seen a war movie. You start talk about that special gal you’re gonna marry when you get back to the farm and you’ll be eating lead within a minute. It’s the guy equivalent of a girl having sex in a slasher movie.

And speaking of things getting brutally cut short, the song abruptly ends mid-chorus with them entering the gutted, charred remains of the mountain village. It’s actually very effectively done, and the sudden change in tone is quite chilling. I also think it was the right choice to have no more songs from this point onward. The Huns have arrived, battle is joined, the time for singing is over.

Shit just got real

Shang, Mulan and the rest of the troops search the village for survivors but find none. All they find are the doll that led the huns to the village and the remains of General Li’s army, slaughtered to the last man.

"He was our greatest general. We are so screwed." "He was our greatest general?! We are SO screwed!"

“He was our greatest general. We are so screwed.”
He was our greatest general?! We are SO screwed!”

We also get an absolutely beautiful moment where Shang creates a shrine for his father out of his sword and helmet, and Mulan lays the doll beside it, symbolising how the great and powerful general and an anonymous peasant child are now equal in death.

Realising that they’re the only hope left, Shang leads his ragged troops through the pass to stop the Hun army.

After Mushu accidentally sets off one of the cannons and gives away their position, the Hun archers let fly, forcing the Chinese to pull back. The Chinese are able to repel the archers with their cannons, and for a moment it seems like they’ve won.

And then the Huns reveal just how big their army actually is.

Attila

Eep.

I think with this scene you can see that Disney were acutely aware that the stampede scene in Lion King was still their crowning achievement as animators, and that three movies later they had yet to top it. With the charge of the Huns, they’re clearly trying to top that sequence. Do they succeed? Yes and no. As a feat of animation, it’s probably even more impressive. The CGI still holds up amazingly well and the image of thousands upon thousands of hun riders pouring down over the white snow is jaw dropping. But I said in the Lion King review that the stampede scene was, in my opinion, the most perfect scene in all of cinema and I stand by that. There’s just not the same emotional heft here. Partially that’s because the score is not as good, and also because we know Mulan is not going to die like Mufasa because death would be too scared to claim her. Understand, this is not a diss on Mulan, this scene is fantastic…but if you compare yourself to the stampede scene there’s just no way you’re winning that fight.

Okay, so Shang’s army is staring down at a million tons of hun barrelling towards them, and he tells his troops to try and take a few of the bastards down and he’ll see them in Sto-Vo-Kor. He tells Yao to aim their last cannon at Shan Yu himself. But Mulan takes the cannon and runs straight for the huns.

One girl. Against the entire hun army.

Poor bastards never stood a chance.

The Death Who Walks finds herself face to face with Shan Yu, but instead of firing the cannon at him, she launches it into the mountain, triggering an avalanche that wipes out Shan’s entire force and making her the first, and to date only, Disney hero with a five figure bodycount.

True story; Disney was originally going to call this movie Hunny, I Blew Up Your Army.

True story; Disney was originally going to call this movie Hunny, I Blew Up Your Army.

Oh, and the “Ain’t I a stinker?” smirk she gives Shan as he watches his men getting buried under a cubic ton of ice and snow is just priceless.

Khan rescues Mulan and she manages to rescue Shang, before Khan gets caught in the avalanche and swept over the mountsainside.

Oh no.

Khan!

KHAAAAAAAANN! KHAAAAAAAAAA!

KHAAAAAAAANN!
KHAAAAAAAAAAN!

Oh, you knew that was coming, don’t look at me like that. Besides, it’s alright. Because snow is just frozen water, avalanches counts as waterfalls  under Disney universe rules, making them perfectly safe for heroes. Shang tells Mulan “You’re the craziest man I ever met, and for that I owe you my life.”

"You're a loose cannon, Ping! But dammit you get results."

“You’re a loose cannon, Ping! But dammit you get results.”

But incredibly, Shan actually managed to get a lucky hit on the Death Who Walks, who is now bleeding (surprising Mulan, who always thought that blood was something that only came out of other people). Mulan passes out and is checked out by the doctor, who then gives Shang some very disturbing news.

"Dude's dick is fucking gone!"

“Dude’s dick is fucking gone!”

Shang goes into the tent and Mulan sits up in bed. Aaaand then we get that awkward moment when someone suddenly remembers they have boobs.

"D'oh!"

“D’oh!”

Shan is shocked (and, let’s face it, relieved) to find out that the dude he’s been having all this weird sexual chemistry with is a girl. Chi Fu bursts into the tent and demands that Shang execute her for “High Treason! Ultimate Dishnour!” But Shang refuses, saying that his debt to her is repaid and orders the men to move out.

Leaving her in the freezing mountains. With no clothes. Nice of him to spare her life, huh?

Mushu, Khan and Cri-kee try to confort Mulan, who admits that she may not have joined the army to save her father, but to prove to herself that she could succeed at something: “So when I looked in the mirror, I’d see someone worthwhile. But I was wrong. I see nothing.”

Aw Mulan, that’s just because mirrors are afraid of you.

Mushu then confesses that the ancestors didn’t actually send him, and that he’s just been using her to get back his job as a family guardian. This is pretty important, because  Mushu has been an entirely self-interested character up until this point. Sebastian, this guy is not. But now he promises Mulan that he’ll stick by her no matter what, and they agree to return home together.

I've been chopping onions, shut up.

I’ve been chopping onions, shut up.

But in a shocking twist, it turns out that Shan Yu and a few of the Huns survived the avalanche. And, because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they are now immune to avalanches. Mulan sees them claw their way out of the snow, and races to the Imperial City to warn Shang.

In the Imperial City, they’re holding a parade to honour Shang and his troops.

"Oh you're gonna love this guy!/It's Shang Li! Mighty is he!/Saved all of Chiiii-na!"

“Oh you’re gonna love this guy!/It’s Shang Li! Mighty is he!/Saved all of Chiiii-na!”

Mulan tries to tell Shang that the Huns are in the city, but he doesn’t believe her because she’s a girl.

Oh, and because she carried out an elaborate fraud against him for several weeks and their entire relationship was built on a dense tissue of lies and mendacity. But mostly the girl thing.

At the palace, Shang presents Shan Yu’s sword to the emperor, only to have it snatched out of his hands by Shan’s falcon. The Huns spring out of a parade dragon, take the Emperor hostage and retreat into the palace.

Mulan arrives and tells the soldiers that she has an idea, which results in Yao, Chien-Po and Ling dressing up as concubines.

Weirdly, this is the most badass they ever look in this movie.

Weirdly, this is the most badass they ever look in this movie.

Using Mulan’s pole climbing technique (I’m not making a joke and you’re an awful person) they manage to break into the palace.

In the throne room, Shan tells the Emperor that his walls and armies have failed, and that he must bow to him. The Emperor says “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it”. Which sounds badass as fuck, until you remember that he’s talking to a man who a mountain tried to kill…and failed. Outside the throneroom, the soldiers approach the huns dressed as concubines, and their cover is almost blown when one of Ling’s apples falls out of his dress where it was acting as cleavege.

"Ach du lieber! Das is not eine boobie!"

“Ach du lieber! Das is not eine boobie!”

They manage to get into the trone room just in time to save the Emperor and rappel him down to the ground, but Mulan and Shang are left trapped in the palace with Shan Yu and he ain’t happy. Shan grabs Shang and snarls “you took away my victory!” but Mulan distracts him by throwing a shoe at his head…

"Who throws a shoe? Honestly!"

“Who throws a shoe? Honestly!”

…and says “No. I did!” and pulls back her hair.

Shan Yu realises that she is The Soldier On the Mountain (you will KNOW her name!) and I gotta say, I love how he doesn’t waste time with any tedious “beaten by a girl, whaaaaaaa?” stuff. It’s just; “That was you? Huh. Well, you gonna die now.” Which is how it should be.

Mulan gets chased by Shan through the palace while Mushu rides a bat shaped kite over to the fireworks tower and scares the guards away by pretending to be Batman.

A Batman joke? But Batman and Disney have nothing to do with each other, it makes no sense.

A Batman joke? But Batman and Disney have nothing to do with each other, it makes no sense.

Mulan climbs up onto the roof only to be trapped when Shan bursts up through the wood like the goddamned Shai-hulud. “Looks like you’re all out of ideas” Shan snarls, and thrusts with his sword but Mulan catches the blade in her fan and uses it to disarm him.

Which is awesome.

Even more awesome? That’s a real fighting move.

Mulan promptly proceeds to hand Shan his Hunny Buns on a platter, and pins his cloak to the roof with his own sword. Mushu then launches a massive rocket at Shan seeing as how, since ice failed to kill him, they might as well try fire.

There’s a massive explosion and the day is saved.

Chi Fu still wants to have Mulan executed and Shang wants to smack Chi Fu right in his stupid mouth but they’re interrupted by the arrival of the Emperor.  Mulan bows before him, ready to accept his judgement.

I hate when she does that. It makes her look like she's about to crawl out of a TV and eat your soul.

“Seven days…”

The Emperor starts listing her rap sheet; stealing her father’s armour, impersonating a soldier, dishnouring the Chinese army, blowing up his palace, two wrecked police cruisers…before finishing with “And, you have saved us all.”

"You're a loose cannon, Death Who Walks. But dammit, you get results!"

“You’re a loose cannon, Death Who Walks. But dammit, you get results!”

And then he bows to her. And then, China bows to her.

The Emperor offers her a place in his cabinet, but Mulan turns it down to return to her family. The Emperor then gives her his medallion and Shan Yu’s sword to prove to her family the great things that she’s done. Overcome with joy, she hugs thhe Emperor, and Yao asks “Is she allowed to do that?”

Good question Yao. No. No she is not. It’s called “Lèse-majesté and anyone who did that in real life would be so fucking dead. Like, super dead.

Mulan says her goodbyes, but Shang can only muster up the courage to say “You fight good” which is kind of like telling Mozart that as composers go, yeah, he’s not bad.

Mulan rides off, and the Emperor tells Shang “You don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty.”

Back at the Fa place, Mulan reunites with her father in the garden and presents Zhou with the gifts she received from the Emperor, telling him that they’re to honour the Fa family. Zhou tosses them to the ground and embraces Mulan, saying “The greatest gift and honour, is having you for a daughter.”

I like onions. SHUT UP.

I like ONIONS. SHUT UP!

While this is going on, Li and Granny Fa look on and Granny says that instead of bringing home a sword she should have brought home a man. Shang shows up and asks to see Mulan, and Granny quips “Sign me up for the next war!”

Granny Fa goes to War? No lie, I would watch the shit out of that movie. I would watch that movie four million times. I would watch that movie until the disc melted and my DVD player burst into flames.

Anyway, Mulan asks Shang if he wants to stay for dinner and he says yes and we get a very nice, low key ending…no wait I’m sorry, Mushu kicks off a dance party in the ancestral shrine and Cri-Kee is suddenly playing drums…

And what, pray tell, the close up mouth whore fuck is this?

And what, pray tell, the close up mouth whore fuck is this?

…and oh movie, you were doing so well.  You just had to fumble at the finish line didn’t ya? All this nonsense needs is Shrek singing karaoke and it’d be a perfect Dreamworks ending. Mulan thanks Mushu for everything he’s done, all the ghosts dance to an upbeat pop number, and O Mai looks on with unconcealed loathing and contempt.

I feel you, buddy.

I feel you, buddy.

***

Mulan did not gross as much as the early Renaissance movies, but that’s to be expected. Those movies didn’t have to compete with Pixar after all, and this ended up in second place behind A Bug’s Life for family movies that year. It did however do far better than Hunchback, Hercules and Pocahontas.  As for the movie’s intended goal of opening the China up for Disney…yeah, not so much. The Chinese government allowed it a limited release, but only at a time of year when it was pretty much guaranteed to fail. Chinese audiences were pretty “meh” about it too, claiming that Mulan was too Westernised and looked “Korean”.

I...suppose?

I…suppose?

Mulan certainly does get things wrong about China. Details like the clothing, architechture, what dynasty this is all supposed to be taking place in, that kind of thing. But I still think it’s miles ahead of something like Pocahontas because it gives us characters we can care about and relate to.
I love this movie. I do. I love every minute of it. I love everything about it. I love the fact that my daughter will have a character like Mulan to watch as a little girl, even if her mother and grandmother did not. That means the world to me.
And while it may get some of the details wrong, in many ways it is one of the most faithful Disney movies in terms of keeping to the spirit of its source material:
“I take off my battle cloak, And put on my old-time clothes.
I adjust my wispy hair at the window sill, And apply my bisque makeup by the mirror.
I step out to see my comrades-in-arms, They are all surprised and astounded:
‘We travelled twelve years together, Yet didn’t realize Mulan was a lady!'”
The male rabbit is swifter of foot, The eyes of the female are somewhat smaller.
But when the two rabbits run side by side, How can you tell the female from the male?”

Scoring

Animation: 18/20

Lovely simple character designs, fluid animation and that scene on the mountain. Awesome stuff.

The Leads: 19/20

The Death Who Walks is awesome but she misses out on the full twenty because…

Songs shall be sung of your death.

Songs shall be sung of your death.

20/20! I don’t know what I was thinking! Maybe twenty one, can I do that?!

The Villain: 18/20

Menacing, hyper-competent and bad-ass as fuck.

Supporting Characters: 18/20

No weak links here, pretty much all the supporting players work.

The Music: 17/20

Once Be a Man gets in your head, Game Over man. You’re going to be humming that when you’re on your deathbed.

FINAL SCORE: 91%

NEXT TIME: The Renaissance comes to an end as we review the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Counter-Reformation and the subsequent wars of religion….sorry, wrong Renaissance. It’s Tarzan. Tarzan is next. Not the ReformationTarzan. 

NEXT UPDATE: 19 September 2013.

Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. The blog updates every second Thursday. Thanks for reading!

135 comments

  1. Great review, unshavedmouse! Nice to see you back! Hope you had a great holiday!

    I’m one of those fans of “The Aristocats”, actually.

    And, you’ll probably ban me from your blog for saying this, but I’m someone who’s NEVER loved this movie! I NEVER liked this movie! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it nor dislike it, but I just feel VERY neutral to it! I never grew up with this one, so there’s no nostalgic factor. I find all the songs in this film below par (yes, including “I’m Gonna Make a Man Out of You”), I find much of the side characters either forgettable or annoying (I’m talking about Mushu here), and I was never obsessed with Mulan as a character. I mean, I give her props for the extremely courageous and honorable act that she’s trying to do, to take her father’s place in the war, but other than that, I’m never rooting for her or feel any sort of emotional connection to. I’m even against her being a Disney Princess because of lingusitic/etymological/or-whatever-the-correct-term-is reasons! Summing up, I don’t dislike this movie, but I don’t like it either.

  2. Even if the only good thing in this movie were “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” that would be enough to make this movie worth watching at least once.

    It’s.
    That.
    Badass.

    Thankfully the rest of the movie is pretty damn great too so it becomes worth watching about a thousand times. I think this may be Disney’s funniest movie. I know it’s not really a straight comedy because it obviously does get fairly dramatic at the end, but goddam if there aren’t some great jokes in the rest of it.

    I don’t think there’s really much more to say that you didn’t already cover. It’s just a really funny, effective, and at times very badass movie.

    1. It is a great film, but funniest Disney animated award goes to Emporer’s New Groove, hands down. Looking forward to what the mouse does with that one.

  3. While we’re on the topic of the song…

    The new-found knowledge that Grandma Fa was Rocky the Squirrel in a past life only makes her more awesome.

  4. Great review. Be lucky that you are reviewing a bunch if Disney films back to back and not DreamWorks. Glad that you are back.

    You are the ONLY person I know or heard that dislikes Reflections, and I is highly unlikely to find someone who dislikes or is eh about it.

    I agree that this film is better than Pocahontas, BatB, Hunchback, Aladdin, and Hercules, as its story and characters are tight, and it sticks with that they are trying to go for. Mushu does get annoying at times and his jokes are weird.

    I don’t know, but I do find Shan Yu to be bland, as he is not compelling and not really much of a character. It’s just me. So I am assuming you think Shang is not bisexual? I do think that because he is the ONLY one to not sing A Girl Worth Fighting For, but he was not that attracted.

    When you mean Mulan did better than Pocahontas, Huchback and Hercules, you do mean critically, right?

    I did up to Shark Tale when it comes to my reviews and am about to post Madagascar if anyone’s interested.

      1. Really? I never knew. It was never one of the better I Want songs. I must ah e been under a rock when it comes to people hating the song. Go the Distance is the absolute worst as it makes Hercules an attention whore. One of the many issues with the film.

      2. I can’t stand Reflections either. People think I’m crazy, but for me, it’s such a bland, generic pop song in a film with otherwise great music. Go the Distance is a thousand times worse though.

    1. It’s ok-ish for me, but I can’t really hold a grudge against the song that got Christina Aguilera on the music scene (Burlesque was a very important part of 2011 for me, shaddup).

  5. This review sums up pretty much all the stuff that makes me love this movie so much. One thing I can think of that you didn’t touch on (Not specifically, anyway) Is that even though Mulan is a totally BA soldier, she still acts like an actual young woman when she’s not pretending to be a man, rather than a ‘Strong independent woman *chika-chicaaaah*’. One of my favorite lines captures this perfectly: “Just because I dress like a man, doesn’t mean I have to smell like one.”

    Well, I’m somewhat interested in what you’ll have to say about Tarzan. I personally love the movie, but I’m aware that it’s not for everyone…

    1. In a way, Mulan acts like neither. What I love about the movie is that she first tries to act like a stereotypical woman and fails. And then she tries to act like a stereotypical man and fails again. It’s only when she says “screw this nonsense” and acts like MULAN, using her smarts to reach the arrow that she succeeds in her goals. Some people misinterpret her has a tomboy, but that’s exactly what Mulan isn’t.

      1. They fact that Mulan DID in fact, try to fit initially but couldn’t makes her story even more endearing to me. Much better that she at least tried for her family first instead of being a snotty punk who never tried at all!

  6. “Shan Yu realises that she is The Soldier On the Mountain (you will KNOW her name!) and I gotta say, I love how he doesn’t waste time with any tedious “beaten by a girl, whaaaaaaa?” stuff.”

    Do I detect a reference to Carrie, Mr. Mouse?

      1. I’m talking about the re-adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Carrie coming to theaters this October. The tagline is “You will know her name.”

  7. But Reflexion is great! It’s poetry in song! It’s one of the best “I want” songs, simply because it in a way isn’t one since Mulan doesn’t even know what she wants, aside from finding her place in live (which is the ultimate problem all teenagers have, so well done Disney, and especially well done that you went for the short version of the song and not the awful long version). Plus, Reflexion introduces the Mirror-theme in the movie, it’s practically the core song of it.

    Yeah, I love this movie, too. Though I have some nitpicks. For one, I really don’t enjoy Eddie Murphy as Mushu, I’m firmly in the camp of the people who think that he sticks out too much. He is the main reason why I watch this movie nearly always in the German dubbing. There the role is spoken by German Comedian Otto, who can handle the funny scenes just fine, but also has a very soft voice and sells the calmer scenes way better.

    Another is the animation. It’s really fluid and shines in a few scenes, but for large parts of the movie there actually isn’t much to look at. Plus, the number of soldiers in Shang’s troop seem to change in nearly every scene, until there are somehow only ?ten? left for the final confrontation.

    And then there is the music. The songs are great (and underrated Imho.), the score is outstanding (one of Disney’s best), but they have nothing to do with each other. The styles barely mesh.

    Those are all minor nitpicks, though. Speaking of nitpicks: They don’t leave Mulan alone with nothing in the mountain. You can see that they even left her something to eat for the journey home.

    1. My favourite music piece in this movie though is not “Reflection”, not even “I’ll make a man out of you”, it’s the hair-cut score! Really, look it up at youtube, you can play it over almost everything and it will look awesome.

      1. God, yes! But it has to be the version that was put into the film, not the soundtrack version (which is pretty good but not kick-ass)

  8. While “Reflection” is certainly not the best “I want” song in terms of orchestration, I think it’s the best in terms of lyrics and what it’s actually saying. Mulan is lost and confused about her direction in life. She doesn’t want wealth, public acclaim, a loving boyfriend, adventure, she just wants to feel that she’s doing the right thing. , and she has no idea what that “right thing” is. That’s something pretty much everybody feels in the modern age, even if only for a short time before they figure it out. Lucky bastards, I’m still trying to figure out my “right thing.”

    Now the worst in terms of lyrics and what it’s actually saying, definitely “Go the Distance,” especially the movie version. A geeky, awkward kid wanting to become a famous hero? That screams “I’m going to rub my success in the faces of everybody who called me a loser when I was a kid.” All the other “I want” songs all basically boil down to a personal, private want that will make them emotionally satisfied but have no real effect on the outside world, least that’s not their intentions.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Tarzan so I could be wrong, but I think Mulan is the last Disney movie to have an emotional, silent moment, letting the animation and music speak for itself and just be artistic, rather than spell everything out for you. It’s something I DESPERATELY miss in recent Disney films, and I have a feeling not even Frozen will give me what I want

      1. Then I think Tarzan is the last to have such moments then. Kind of fitting since it’s a whole new dark era after it.

      2. You are absolutely correct. Most of the films in the Post-Renaissance Era don’t have heart, as they were trying to capture an completely different audience who are not interested in Disney and catching up to DreamWorks and Pixar by any means possible. Even PatF and Tangled don’e have those heart-wretching moments as they are trying WAY too hard to please everyone and to be gender-neuteral.

      3. Brother Bear could have had some effective silent moments, but Phil Collins just didn’t know when to shut up.

    1. “A geeky, awkward kid wanting to become a famous hero? That screams “I’m going to rub my success in the faces of everybody who called me a loser when I was a kid.””

      You know, I know it’s the wrong review, but I feel that I have to take up for this song. Hercules is very clearly established as a Bullied Kid. Speaking as another Bullied Kid, the dream of being welcomed somewhere with cheers and accolades is an extremely heartfelt and cherished wish.

      Wanting to be appreciated for your abilities does not automatically make you a bad person who only does good things for others for the attention. The idea that the amount of attention you want is inversely proportional to your sense of morality is a fallacy. When you never GET positive attention, you just start to crave it really badly, that’s all.

      And yes, you DO want to rub your success in the faces of everybody who picked on you. I don’t think that’s something that you ever completely get over, without extensive therapy at least. I consider myself as well-adjusted as I can be for *not* having had therapy, and I still fantasize about going to my reunion all successful and happy and brave enough to tell every bully to go fuck themselves to their faces.

      1. And as I said in my response further below: “Go the Distance” takes on a whole new meaning and sense of depth when you apply it to the queer community and their struggles.

      2. I agree with this. As someone who comes from an incredibly dysfunctional household(understatement) and who as a result was a wallflower throughout school life so as to avoid getting bullied, I understand the sentiment of a young teen starting to crave for positive attention when all he/she gets is negative or no attention. Funny that you mentioned the Spider-Man musical in another post as Peter Parker in the comics started out in an incredibly similar “I’ll show ’em bullies!” way. As long as there is growth and progress and the attention-seekingness slowly ceases to be a problem with age and wisdom, that kind of a trait in a young person is okay and natural.

        For that reason, I like “Go the Distance”. And I think the reason so many people praise “Reflection” is because they can connect with the lyrics and identify with Mulan searching for her true identity and purpose in life. The most horrible “I Want” song will always be Snow White’s “I am WEE-SHEEE-ING!”. The outdated anti-progressive thought process combined with that soul killing drowning cat voice of Adrianna Caselotti! Aaaaarghh!

      3. Yeah, but I think why people have a problem with it is because of the lyrics. It says nothing about showing the bullies that he is successful, but it is like he wants attention and a bunch of stuff. Some people find the lyrics to be bothersome, and how Hercules handles his deal with Hades is also another reason.

      4. “but it is like he wants attention and a bunch of stuff”

        So I just re-looked up the lyrics to “Go the Distance” and I find no mention of wanting to get anything beyond people who are happy to see him. I mean, this line:

        “I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong”

        This line is a bit of a sucker punch to the heart. If he *imagines* what he wants to look like cheering crowds and a hero’s welcome…well he’s a geeky awkward teenager, most geeky awkward teenagers want that. What he *really* wants, as the refrain goes, is a safe place to belong. Which is something literally EVERYONE wants. Moreover it’s something everyone NEEDS. Show me someone who doesn’t need appreciation and affection and security, and I’ll show you someone without a functioning brain stem.

        I really don’t understand the hate this song gets. GtD, to me, is one of the most easily relate-able, most refreshingly honest, most sincerely human “I Want” songs in the Disney canon, complete with the human (particularly the adolescent) tendency to paint over the emotional fulfillment they’re missing with an elaborate fantasy scenario. I can imagine being in the spotlight singing a solo with a powerful voice that moves people to tears…that’s just a visualization of my need to be told I’m good at something. Hercules’ dream of cheering crowds is just a visualization of his need for acceptance.

        The way people rush to condemn Hercules for wanting praise and attention really bothers me…it just makes me think that people are trained to feel that their *own* desire for praise and attention–*legitimate psychological needs*–is shameful, and that wanting to have that part of your life fulfilled makes them a bad person. (This is the same wellspring from whence you get the awful, unhelpful rhetoric aimed at bullied kids like “Just have fun on your own” and “Just ignore them”, as if the companionship and good opinion of a peer group is somehow *optional* for your emotional health.) When Oliver and the orphans sing “Food, Glorious Food” no one throws shade on them for being gluttons, because we understand that they’re being starved for something that fulfills their physical needs. For some reason we think that being starved for something that would fulfill our emotional needs is an okay state of affairs, and is something we’ll just eventually get over and forget about, and if you don’t get over it–and especially if you visibly hunger after it–you’re a pathetic, self-absorbed attention whore; a bad person. Stuff and nonsense.

        TL;DR You’re allowed to want praise. No shame.

    2. I feel you about Frozen. The teaser featuring the slapstick bit with the moose & snowman with the misshapen carrot nose hasn’t really gotten my hopes up.

      1. Have you seen the Japanese trailer for Frozen? It seems like an entirely different movie from the one shown in the American teaser.

      2. I take back what I said; Tangled’s teaser had a similar tone in humor with a sequence that was never featured in the final product, and I ended up really enjoying that. I’ll keep my doubts on hold.

        Fun Fact: The guy playing that snowman played Steve Wozniak on that godawful Steve Jobs biopic. So…good for him?

    3. “Atlantis the Lost Empire” has a virtually wordless scene near the end (Kida says, “Milo?” but otherwise there’s no speaking) where the city is saved and Kida and Milo look out over it, just holding hands. Very nice moment.

  9. “We also get a hilarious moment where Granny Fa switches from her speaking voice (June Foray) to her singing voices (Marni “Pipes O’ Steel” Nixon) and…it’s pretty noticeable.”
    You know, everyone says that, but I try to hear it and I don’t. It sounds perfectly transitioned. Maybe I’ve spent too much of my life in choruses, but Grandma’s singing voice sounds MORE like her speaking voice than a lot of real-life people’s singing voice sounds like their speaking voice, especially when they switch registers. My High A doesn’t sound like my speaking voice, is what I’m saying XD

    “(she enrages the matchmaker who declares that Mulan will never bring her family honour)”
    Fun Fact: well, disclaimer first. My beloved is Japanese, not Chinese, but she knows enough about general East Asian culture (and as I constantly tease her, Japan stole its culture from China…the current Japanese demographic is thought to be directly descended from Chinese immigrants during the latter parts of the prehistoric era, and the Heian Court was practically in China’s lap, so the two cultures are very similar in many respects). Anyway, our mutual friend Michelle asked her once, after watching the scene where the Matchmaker screams at Mulan in the street, if that would ever happen in real life. Answer: “NO. You would NEVER lose face like that in public.” Could be just that Disney Did Not Do Enough Research, but it could also be a bit of Fridge Brilliance, making the Matchmaker even MORE disagreeable to the Asian market than she is to the American market, and making Mulan look even more humiliated and put-upon.

    Fun Fact about “Reflection” and “Go the Distance”: They’re both used by transfolk as personal anthems, to encourage them through the process of transitioning. I like both songs on their own, but when you look at them in the light of the struggles transgender people face, they take on a lot more depth and become very heartbreaking.

    Also: the pop version of “Reflection” is the only pop version of a Disney standard that I actually enjoy.

    HAHAHAHAHA “Am I Feeling Love” XD XD XD XD “I heart loooooooooove~”

    “Chi Fu tells Zhou that he should teach his daughter to hold her tongue “in a man’s presence”. And if one shows up, I’m sure she’ll get right on that.” BUUUUURN. *high fives you* And yeah, I also noticed that Chi Fu’s horse is constantly side-eyeing him. I wish we had a scene where the horse bucked him.

    “The Wu family! […] The Tang family!”
    Hey, maybe if those families intermarried, they could have fought the Huns and spared Mulan the trouble. After all, the Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothin to fuck wit.

    Mulan’s transforming-into-a-guy montage is probably the epic Disney montage ever. I know it’s just literally giving herself a reverse-makeover, but that music and the camera angles and the dark colors…it just FEELS awesome.

    “Is the problem of Drag Kings joining the Chinese army really so widespread that they had to make it a capital offence?”
    Maybe the First Battalion Transvestite Brigade is so good at what it does that they’re considered a war crime?

    “he’s voiced by George Takei, so I’m just going to go ahead and call him O Mai.”
    Aaaaaaaaaaaaand another high-five for you, sir!

    “I HUNGER.
    “Patience, old friend.””
    Aw, man, you missed out on photoshopping The Horned King in behind her. No high-five for you this time.

    “Make a Man Out of You” is awesome. That is all.

    “The little girl will be missing her doll. We should return it to her.””
    If they lingered for a second longer on Shan Yu before cutting to a humorous scene, it would pass from deliciously creepy to disturbingly creepy.

    Probably my favorite moment of the bath scene is when Mushu puts toothpaste directly in his mouth. For some reason that just makes everyone in my family bust a gut no matter how many times we watch it. It’s the sound effect, I think. This movie does make great noises.

    “We also get an absolutely beautiful moment where Shang creates a shrine for his father out of his sword and helmet, and Mulan lays the doll beside it, symbolising how the great and powerful general and an anonymous peasant child are now equal in death.”
    Thank you for defining that so beautifully 🙂 I’m usually good with picking out the symbolism, but this moment has always stumped me even though I’ve always felt that it’s supposed to be poignant.

    I agree with you re: the Hun stampede vs. the Wildebeest stampede. There’s also the fact that most people are younger when they watch TLK than they are when they watch Mulan, so the wildebeest scene impresses itself on you as the more scary scene. The Hun stampede also doesn’t have as much follow-through: we get a lot of time with Simba in the middle of the stampede and Mufasa fighting his way in, and then out of it. The Huns never do the equivalent; there’s no hand-to-hand combat between them and Mulan’s group. So the stakes never feel quite as high.

    “Mulan passes out and is checked out by the doctor, who then gives Shang some very disturbing news.”
    HE’S COME DOWN WITH A TERMINAL CASE OF LADYPARTS!

    “Aaaand then we get that awkward moment when someone suddenly remembers they have boobs.”
    Oh my God, she has boobs! Why isn’t someone doing anything about this? She has boobs! BOOBS!

    “Mushu then confesses that the ancestors didn’t actually send him, and that he’s just been using her to get back his job as a family guardian. This is pretty important, because Mushu has been an entirely self-interested character up until this point. Sebastian, this guy is not. But now he promises Mulan that he’ll stick by her no matter what, and they agree to return home together.”
    Making the already God-awful sequel even more infuriating.

    The even more Badass Moment for the Emperor is when Shan Yu tries to decapitate him with the sword and Shang tackles him; if you pay attention to the Emperor; he just strolls away casually while this epic wrestling match is occurring a foot away from him.

    You know that part when Mushu says “Citizens! I need firepower!” I can tell that it’s a reference to something, but I haven’t been able to figure out what exactly he’s referring to. Is it a Batman quote?

    “And then he bows to her. And then, China bows to her.”
    Which is an emotional moment for me. I have no idea why, but it makes me teary the same way the van Gogh episode of Doctor Who made me teary.

    “Good question Yao. No. No she is not. It’s called “Lèse-majesté“ and anyone who did that in real life would be so fucking dead. Like, super dead.”
    The Death Who Walks laughs at your laws and social mores.

    And…the ending sequence doesn’t bother me. The movie’s been silly throughout except for the Shit’s Serious moments, and we weren’t going to get a big romantic ending, so Ghost Party works for me.

    “Mulan certainly does get things wrong about China. Details like the clothing, architechture, what dynasty this is all supposed to be taking place in, that kind of thing.”
    Heh. But you know, like I said in my giant rant about the awful sequel, what Disney does get right is in not condemning every aspect of Chinese culture that the movie does choose to explore. It does speak volumes that Mulan lives in her Ancient Chinese-inspired culture as a Chinese girl, not as a 21st Century American. She feels its strictures keenly and she does defy them, but there are other parts of her culture that she simply accepts as normal (such as accepting that her marriage will be arranged, and wanting to be an impressive prospect). Disney also doesn’t go the route of condemning Mulan’s parents for participating in this, or for also just generally living in their culture…but at the same time, nor does it caricature it too much (death penalty for female soldiers aside…that was cringeworthy, but I guess you had to up the stakes a bit since American audiences won’t consider “social embarrassment” as high enough stakes). Mulan’s parents–who also I’m assuming have an arranged match–are shown to be loving, and good parents. It’d be easy for the moviemakers to take the done-to-death route of portraying an arranged match as inherently unhappy, and having a daughter resent having one made for her, but they didn’t (and honestly…if you were going to arrange a match for your kid, wouldn’t you want to pick out someone that your child is going to get along with? I feel like completely-unhappy arranged matches must be noteworthy in their scarcity when looked at over the course of history). This is very refreshing and very respectful. Maybe Disney was going out of its way to kiss China’s ass, but I like that the movie feels like an honest critique of Asian-flavored sexism WHILE bowing to the spirit of the culture. Maybe superpowers have to be mad at Disney more often.

    “I love the fact that my daughter will have a character like Mulan to watch as a little girl, even if her mother and grandmother did not. That means the world to me.”
    I feel the same way about my future children 🙂

      1. Why is everyone here armed?! With Gansta Asia having an identity crisis, and Communist Crow trying to take over, and Horned Kings dragging you into Bahia, and BAHIA my friend BAHIA, the correct question is, “why *aren’t* you armed?”

  10. “Mulan originally was going to be a short, straight to video animation called China Doll, about a poor Chinese girl who’s rescued by an Englishman and taken to live happily every after in the West. And that, from the offensive title to the paternalistic premise, pretty much sounds like the worst fucking thing ever.”

    Well if they still got Lea Solanga to be in it, she’d be used to dealing with paternalistic white Western guys who promise her love and a future, from that other project she’s famous for. Except this time her character gets a happy ending.

    I’m not bitter about Miss Saigon. I’m not bitter at aaaaaaaaaaaall.

      1. I think the actor can only do so much with the material, though, and its the material that bothers me. Every time he and Ellen sing “The girl is smart” in The Confrontation my fingers itch to do some White Guy strangling. “The girl”? You mean the girl you slept with and went through a marriage ceremony with? The one you now consider a charity case, and that you’re now expecting to accept the decision you *made for her* which will entail leaving her and your child in a shithole while you send money to ease your conscience? Fuck you, you condescending paternalistic self-absorbed weak-willed dickhead.

    1. Well, at least Chris had intended to marry Kim and bring her back to the States with him…it wasn’t his fault that they were separated in the chaos of Saigon’s fall. He moved on with his life, marrying Ellen, because he knew he needed to build a new life for himself and not live in the past, and because he knew he’d probably never see Kim again even if she WERE still alive.

      Not like his “ancestor” Lt. Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly, who was looking ahead to “a real marriage to a real American wife” even on his wedding day with Butterfly. (Although it’s possible to forgive even him to some extent when you consider that these temporary “marriages” between geisha and servicemen were common at the time, and what’s more, the geisha normally KNEW they’d be temporary. Pinkerton had no way of knowing that he got the one geisha in Japan who DID take it seriously.)

      1. Whoa hey, never saw this comment!

        My beef with Chris is not that he moved on, but how he writes Kim off. He never admits to Ellen that he genuinely loved Kim as an adult woman; he instead refers to Kim like she’s some little kid he naively tried to protect (with the almighty benevolent powers of his White Man’s Penis, of course; which is genuinely creepy if he DID, in fact, always consider her to be like a child in need of protecting). He doesn’t take responsibility for his relationship with her; he relegates it to a time when he “was a different man” who “didn’t have a clue who” he was, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. And even after he’s written her off as essentially a youthful indiscretion, he still feels entitled to make decisions about her life and the life of their son without consulting her like an equal.

        If he’s lying to Ellen about his true feelings for Kim to placate her, he’s a cowardly paternalistic dickhead. If he’s NOT lying to Ellen about his true feelings for Kim, then he’s just a regular paternalistic dickhead.

  11. When I went to watch Pocahontas a while back, I was quick to pop in Mulan to get my spirits back up and was delightfully surprised how much better it holds up. Not a frame of the story is wasted, and the art & sound direction are just marvelous.

    Mouse, I’ve been meaning to mention this: You surely must have a labyrinthine memory bank of Simpsons references. I recognized the line “sweet, sweet pep” from an earlier review from a small line from “Homer the Heretic”, and I was so sure you were going to keep the “Radioactive Man” gag going with Jiminy professing “But look at my RANGE!” Great stuff, and your Doomsday analogy was brilliant.

    Tarzan holds a special place for me, being the first Disney film I saw in theaters (I can still remember welling up when he made his goodbyes to Kala). While it’s a shame that this Renaissance retrospective is coming to a close, it’ll be a treat to see how you tackle this very, very weird crop of new films. Looking forward to it!

  12. I like you. I found you courtesy of your review of viaqua. Then I read a whole bunch more. Then I shared you with everyone I knew on facebook. See! I’m promoting you! I’m sorry I went a whole year without knowing who you were but I promise it’ll never happen again!

  13. Great review, as always! 🙂 Reminded of how bad-ass and groundbreaking a character Mulan really was/is!

    Now I am actually looking forward to your Post-Renaissance reviews. I am probably one out of three people who like movies like “Treasure Planet”, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and “Meet the Robinsons”. So it will be fun to read your take on them, even if you end up completing ripping them new ones. :p

    1. Treasure Planet has quite a following by now, which I think would be even larger if more people had actually seen the movie.

      1. Yeah, you are right. I know they’re popular on Fanfiction (they have more stories than the Big 4).

        They are definitely growing a big cult following. It is by far underrated. Can’t say the same for Atlantis and Meet the Robinsons is ok.

    2. I love Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire! It surprises me that at least TP doesn’t have a larger, mainstream following; I guess the scifi aspect is a little too “niche market”.

      1. As I said above, I honestly think that it is because too many people haven’t seen the movie, since it had to compete against parts 2 of HP and LotR when it was released. Treasure Planet was the first movie I discussed for my “by the book” series, and despite being posted at a place full of Disney fans and beside this being a fairly recent movie, a lot people remarked that they either never saw it or really should watch it again.

      2. I’ve got TP on my Netflix list but . . . eh, I dunno. Something keeps me from watching it but I’m not quite sure what. Nostalgia Critic might have come close when he said the styles felt muddle and unmeshable — 22nd century technology with 18th century clothes, sailing ships with full masts flying through space. I’m sure I’ll watch it eventually . . .

        But I’ve had a major soft spot for “Atlantis” since it came out in theatres. Yes, major plot holes. Yes, too large of a cast. Yes, Erod may have been right when he said it was a rip-off of “Stargate.” Yes, the chalk map would be backwards if Milo really had leaned on it and they ignored that for the sake of a gag. I don’t care. I like the movie. Call it a guilty pleasure.

      3. One issue could be of the art style; I know a lot of people who just get really thrown off by the whole “sailboats in space” thing.

      4. Honestly, every reviewer who doesn’t really like the movie says the same thing: “The art style is confusing” and “Jim Hawkins’ design is manipulative”. I’m beginning to wonder if it is a “one person said it and everyone else agreed” thing. Because we are only talking about aspects of style, here. Even if you have trouble with the design (I actually like it), the movie still tells a great story with some really clever updates on the original. And I should know it, because this was my favourite book as a child. I know it inside out, have watched every adaptation I could get my hands on, and Treasure Planet is definitely one of the best.

      5. “Nostalgia Critic might have come close when he said the styles felt muddle and unmeshable — 22nd century technology with 18th century clothes, sailing ships with full masts flying through space.”

        Huh. I actually find that one of the cooler parts about the movie. Personal tastes, I suppose.

        ““Jim Hawkins’ design is manipulative””
        …what? Like, what’s the complaint, exactly? Manipulative in what way? What’s there to manipulate? I’m confused o.O

        “I know it inside out, have watched every adaptation I could get my hands on, and Treasure Planet is definitely one of the best.”
        I just watched TP last night and I do think it’s held up. There are some things you have to handwave…like the fact that their galaxy seems to have air in outer space…but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film. If anything the relationship between Jim and Silver has grown more poignant over time.

        What’s your thoughts on Muppet Treasure Island? I personally am a big fan 🙂 If I ever met Tim Currey, I’d say that this is my favorite movie that he’s done XD

      6. That it is a muppet movie and I don’t feel equipped to judge them, because muppet movies are pretty much for people who grew up with the muppets, and I didn’t. Thus said, it is a fun muppet movie and I loooooove the song when they hide the treasure. But for an adaptation of the book, it just doesn’t take the material serious enough to be taken serious by me.

      7. The Victorian era clothing/architecture meets futuristic sci-fi is one of the main reasons I adore TP. Ships with sails floating through the cosmos may not be digestible but screw it, the concept makes for some ethereally breathtaking imagery!

      8. “That it is a muppet movie and I don’t feel equipped to judge them, because muppet movies are pretty much for people who grew up with the muppets, and I didn’t.”

        It’s interesting to hear someone look at this way, because I also didn’t grow up watching the Muppets–I’m not sure why we even bought the movie; my dad had a habit of just bringing home videos for me to watch. I did immediately fall in love with it, though…the scene where Jim tells Silver to “take your oars and row away; I never want to see you again, ever” still gets me right in the feels.

      9. “The Victorian era clothing/architecture meets futuristic sci-fi is one of the main reasons I adore TP. Ships with sails floating through the cosmos may not be digestible but screw it, the concept makes for some ethereally breathtaking imagery!”

        I agree…I always roll my eyes when someone starts the review with whining about it. “Why didn’t Disney keep to the book.” Well, perhaps because there are already countless adaptations of treasure island, including a very well known by Disney. If you tackle a material which has been done so often already, you better find a new angle. And I love what they came up with! And I would have loved to see the TV series Disney had in development.

      10. Muppet Treasure Island is a gem. All other adaptations of Treasure Island are rendered obsolete by it’s glory.

  14. *completely, though “completing” makes sense too thanks to the amount of bashing those movies already receive!

  15. Mouse, I’m surprised that in your diss of “Reflection” you didn’t say a word about Christina Aguilera, especially given her current visibility with “The Voice.” Whatever you think of the song, the pop version was a MAJOR hit for her, and the only other Disney Renaissance pop cover about which that can really be said is…Michael Bolton’s “Go the Distance.”

    So I postulate that the lower-quality the song, the better the pop version. Makes sense. If the original isn’t immortal, it isn’t a horrible sacrilege to adulterate it. Still, I would say with great confidence that more people today probably consider “Reflection” a Christina Aguilera song than a song from “Mulan.” So take that for what it’s worth.

    We’re all anticipating your 2000s-era reviews.

    “Treasure Planet” was a huge bomb at the box office because they STUPIDLY chose to release it in a loaded 2002 holiday season rather than in the summer. Which is really the only reason why “Lilo and Stitch” was such a hit (OK, L&S pretty much kicks a$$ and is the spiritual heir to “Emperor’s New Groove”). Also, releasing L&S and TP in the same year….BOTH of which have “alien” themes…and those immediately after “Atlantis?” What was Disney THINKING???!!!! Regardless of the quality of the films, they were all too similar in too many ways to release in sequence. L&S wins the palm among the three simply because of its heart and its comedy.

    You do know, of course, that “Dinosaur” was added to the canon retroactively after they had decided to count CGI films…and there was some waffling about that. Around the time of “Chicken Little,” Disney decided that they were going to give up on the numbered “canon” films and even said so on their website. They just couldn’t make a decision on whether to count CGI or not, even when the writing was on the wall for hand-drawn. But then, but then, they realized that they were close to 50, and they wanted to make “Tangled” the 50th. That meant they had to go back and retroactively count “Dinosaur.” Previously, “New Groove” was 39, “Atlantis” was 40, L&S was 41, TP was 42, etc. But to make “Tangled” #50, they went back and counted “Dinosaur,” assigning it the number 39 and shifting everything else up–and at the same time deciding to re-adopt the “canon” numbers. In fact, I think the case of “Dinosaur” might be why Disney waffled for a while on the numbers. They were going to go to mostly CGI, but they’d already decided not to count “Dinosaur” (made and released in an age when Eisner had pretty much waved the white flag to Pixar as far as CGI goes). So really, deciding to retroactively assign it a number actually removes an inconsistency that could not have been foreseen when the film was released.

    “Home on the Range” is widely disliked. As I’ve said, I really believe that it has a lot to do with huge anticipation for another Menken-scored hand-drawn that was stuck in development hell forever (its original title, which stuck for a long time, was “Sweating Bullets”–pre-9/11 and Columbine, of course). Then Disney realized it wasn’t worth much and didn’t promote it. The return of a Menken score in a hand-drawn film should have been HUGE. How they dropped that ball, I’ll never understand. Fortunately, “Enchantment” is a thing, and one that proves that great ideas and concepts CAN survive Development Hell.

  16. Oh, and the best of the pre-Tangled CGI’s? “Meet the Robinsons” by a mile. Most of the movie is meh, but the resolution is SO clever and the twist SO unexpected that it rises above its basic material.

    1. Seriously. If the rest of the movie had been as strong as its ending, it would have been a revered classic on the same level as Pixar’s finest.

      But that resolution alone qualifies MTR as an awesome film.

  17. The villain gets 18/20?? He barely has any screen time, therefore any personality.

    Sorry, dude. I honestly think you were too easy on this movie.

    1. Also: I know tons of people online who don’t like “Mulan” all that much. They don’t hate it; they’re just dispassionate about it (lackluster songs, forgettable characters-cough-the villain, and a story that simply doesn’t merit repeat viewings).

      1. I don’t hate Mulan, in fact I was swept up in the dare I say “Hype” of the movie haha… and always thought I liked it MORE than I actually did, ha… But 15 years later, it’s not one of the Disney movies I find myself re-watching or even thinking back on as my favorites. Again, I know so many people online who have said the same thing. There’s definitely a lot of detractors to this movie. They’re just not that vocal, ’cause it’s more of a dispassion, not a hate lol.

  18. Hey Mouse, I discovered your blog about a week ago and I’ve been binging on your Disney reviews. I’ve enjoyed them overall, and even the parts I didn’t enjoy at least made me think. We are the same age but from different countries so I appreciate your unique perspective. I also love the running gags like “been to Bahia.” Your review of Pocahontas is my favorite of your reviews so far. You spelled out what I always sensed was wrong with the movie and main character, but could never quite put my finger on. And I laughed hard when you made fun of Pocahontas’s dream.

    But now I have to wait, what, a week and a half to read the next review? Sucks.

    I was a little surprised to learn that The Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t counted as Disney Animated Canon (is it because it’s stop-motion or because it’s Tim Burton?). And I’m wondering if you’re going to review the non-Pixar CGI movies. Tangled in particular owes a lot to The Little Mermaid and a little to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, even though it was marketed as a Dreamworks look-alike.

    Anyway, to comment on this review and its subject: I love Mulan. While it’s not my favorite Disney movie, it’s definitely in my top ten, FWIW. I’m one of those who thought that Shan Yu was too one-dimensional, but you made a good case as to why this works for this particular movie and heroine. Not every movie needs a Judge Frollo (although that would make a really interesting and disturbing crossover, now that I think of it).

    “Granny Fa Goes to War” would have made an infinitely better sequel than what Toon Disney actually gave us. 😛

    1. Hi Maran. Welcome to the blog. What is and isn’t a canon Disney movie can be a bit confusing and sometimes it seems like Disney themselves don’t even know. For these reviews I’m going by wikipedia’s numbering. So yeah, I’ll be doing Tangled as well as Chicken Little, Dinosaur and the rest of the CGI ones.

    2. It is not on the list because it was originally released under the Touchstone label. Plus, I’m not sure how much input the actual animation studios had on this one. The movies on the Disney Classics lists are all made by them, but there are animated movies for which Disney outsourced, like Who framed Roger Rabbit and Enchanted.

      1. Enchanted wasn’t outsourced. It’s 100% pure Disney (even though Disney makes fun of itself in the movie), and the animated bits were done by Walt Disney Feature Animation. It’s counted as a live action/animated mix, just like Song of the South, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Pete’s Dragon.

      2. @Mr.Brahms It is a Disney movie, but the animation was outsourced to James Baxter Animation. It was not done by the Disney Animation Studios since they had laid off most of the animators they had for traditional animations after Home on the Range.

      3. I know. But with James Baxter, the animator of Belle, in charge, and Disney titans like Henn and Deja on board, the animation is pretty “Disney” anyway. And it wasn’t released under a subsidiary studio like Roger Rabbit.

  19. Disney spelled it out pretty clearly in that special feature on the “Tangled” DVD celebrating 50 Disney animated features. Basically, it’s counted if it was produced by Disney Feature Animation. Being distributed by Disney (Nightmare Before Christmas, The Wild, all Pixar) is not the same as being made by DFA. The only real waffle was on whether or not “Dinosaur” would be counted. I explained above why it eventually was, retroactively.

  20. In fact–replying to myself a comment above, I think Enchanted is a movie that the mouse SHOULD include (as he did Song of the South, Mary Poppins, and Bedknobs). It has an Alan Menken score too, redeeming the great composer after the misstep of Home on the Range.

  21. Correction–I guess, theoretically, the animation in “Enchanted” was “outsourced,” but only because Disney had dismantled their hand-drawn unit at the time. But it was headed by James Baxter (the animator of Belle), and other Disney greats such as Mark Henn and Andreas Deja worked on it. So it might as well have been WDFA. At any rate, it’s more “Disney” than Roger Rabbit.

  22. Here comes a really interesting Disney movie, where misogyny and gender roles is the main theme (even if they also have to fight the Huns). Gotta love the Ancient China setting too, even if there might be some anachronisms. And yeah, isn’t Mulan’s grandmother just hilarious? I also remember liking the sequel, so I have to re-watch it some time.

  23. I love Reflection. I think it’s a pivotal moment in the movie. It expresses how helpless Mulan feels at the time and how trapped she is by the limitations of her era. Plus Lea Salonga is an amazing singer. Look up the full version she sings live, it’s fantastic. And really, Mulan going home when Shang told her to would not solve the problems. Serving in the Chinese army was considered not just a duty but an honour. Yeah that H word again. So for Mulan to fail during the training stage would have been a huge dishonour for the Fa Family.

    1. That’s an interesting point, that being discharged during training would be an dishonor. On the other hand, Mulan was a girl, so she wasn’t supposed to be in the army anyway. So her parents would have had to keep it all a secret anyhow, to avoid the shame. But of course, Mulan came around and became a hero.

  24. You clearly haven’t heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s cover of “Part Of Your World.” That is the worst pop cover of them all. She totally ruined it.

    1. Ok, so I just watched Mulan again, and while it’s a good movie, I just don’t find myself loving it. The first third of the movie is amazing, but I find myself less invested once we meet Mushu. I feel like they try too hard to make the men look disgusting and stupid. The scenes where Mulan, Shang and the horse get rescued from the avalanche was so absurd, even for a cartoon, it takes all the suspense away. Don’t let me get started on Mulan beating Shan-Yu with a fan versus his sword while on the rooftop. The concubine cross-dressing scene was just to silly for such a serious part of the movie. Usually the villian is my favorite character, but I found Shan-Yu to be very bland and uninteresting; I’m surprised you rating him so highly. While the songs “Reflection” and “I’ll make a man out of you” were fine, I found it a weaker score overall. So while it wasn’t a bad film by any means, it just doesn’t have the re-watchability factor for me personally. Sorry:-(

  25. Did I mention I was a major procrastinator? If not, let me reiterate that to explain why I’m posting here and not the suggestions page like I said I would. Well, that and Mulan was awesome and you did a great job reviewing it and wanted to give a big, long list of reasons why.

    Mulan was my first Disney movie I was introduced to in theatres. The title of actual first Disney movie I watched in theatres was The Little Mermaid, but I’d seen it on video plenty of times, which mostly led little kid me to wonder what the big deal was going somewhere else to watch a movie we could watch at home and why I was being subjected to an even gianter Ursula… Yeah, in any case, Mulan was the first animated Disney movie which I’d never seen prior to the big screen. So I guess Mulan gets badass points us both. Loved your memetic badass quotes about The Death Who Walks. It’s like Chuck Norris jokes except not annoying and cliché. Also, all the references to the unorthodox-yet-heroic-cop movies.

    Man, if the biggest of all of your supporting cast isn’t fleshed out to have two defining traits, who is? I guess caption-gag blog characters don’t need to be too multifaceted, huh? Also, Comrade Crow doesn’t seem to remember chanting Europe back into life, saving wartime Europe like the Soviets did the first time. Silly birdy. I mean, silly magnificent comrade birdy.

    Count me in as a Three Caballeros “fan”. As in someone in whose mind that movie will go down in history as the originator of this site’s most classic meme ever. Hmm, I think most people I know like Mulan, but I’ve seen enough of the internet to have encountered a few people who have at least complained that it didn’t address feminism well. Problems with Mulan’s early retirement mostly. The web has plenty of people who if aren’t impossible to please, at least have a need to feel more progressive than anyone else.

    Hmm… In light of recent directions this blog’s been taking, I’m starting to hope the comic non-fans aren’t that big a part of your audience. Good defence of Shan Yu in any case. I’ve never seen a comic with Doomsday (or really any actual Superman comic, I’m more of a Far Side guy, really), but that analogy made sense to me. Hmm… If Shan Yu destroys things for seemingly no reason but that things are there to destroy, maybe wanting to watch the world burn, if you will, then I wonder who it was that let him off the leash… Hey, did Mulan’s family ever have a dinner of particularly spicy chicken chow mein at any recent point?

    I second that Granny Fa is awesome, and really liked Cri Kee’s performance as well, enough that I’ve ended up with possibly two toys of the little guy in my house (I hadn’t hit the sidekicks-are-annoying age when this came out and McDonald’s was down to identical meal toys that day). Also, wow, looking at Jiminy makes me really notice how much of an improvement the designers have made drawing insects.

    Aw snap! Sounds as if Chi Fu got prank-called hard! You’ve got to admire the rascals in that day and age, can you imagine the effort it takes to make prank calls in calligraphy? Also, I have to wonder, if Takei’s character wanted that dragon statue to get Mulan back, does that mean it was actually alive? Did Mushu actually kill it?!? Or was O Mai just senile to the point of talking to rocks? It’s kind of confusing to think about. In any case, your rationality to why the ancestors would find death no big deal was hilarious.

    …I must be tired. I first read Shang’s character’s voice actor as “grinning smiley face in shades” Wong. Also, I remember my dad was very glad to have taken us to Mulan and hear my sister come out of the theatre saying how she wants to be just like Mulan and kill bad guys. That said, I think that may have had less desirable effects on me. I think Mulan’s the only piece of media I actually remember influencing me to violence. I’ve definitely remembered “I’ll hit you hard enough to make your ancestors dizzy” being one of my preferred quotes around 1998.

    The Khan gag cracked me up because I totally did expect it. Never gets old. Well, especially because it’s only been done back in the 60s. Also, the doctor’s diagnosis line after the battle had me in a good minute-long fit of laughing hysterics that would make Ed look stoic. So perfect. Also, as well as being the first Disney movie introduced to me by film, Mulan also is the first movie featuring a breast reference that I’ve seen. I actually missed it quite a few times and was confused about how Mulan’s cover got somehow blown. Also, when I first saw that bath scene, I thought Mushu’s sole worry was actually that Mulan would give herself away by washing off the masculine musk she’d acquired. Child innocence can be humorous.

    I think Mulan and Mushu’s exchange after Mulan’s expulsion is probably what nullifies the argument against Mulan’s not being ambitious after the war the most for me. Mushu pointed out that what made Mulan the bigger man was that unlike him, she didn’t go into the war with selfish intentions. As Zeus stated last movie, it’s the strength of one’s heart that makes the hero, a philosophy this movie seemed to stick with. I think some people interpret that (or as I’ve mentioned above, possibly try to use to prove themselves better people than the writers somehow) as meaning Mulan only did what she did for a man’s sake (Fa Zhou’s in this case), thus being submissive by caring about a male character more than herself. I personally don’t get how sidelining a guy from a battle he was determined to fight by taking his place against his will comes off as submitting to him in any way, but I guess some people have this idea that stories can’t be progressive without it being all about the socially oppressed character? I kind of prefer it when characters can achieve respect from themselves and others without the cost of their compassion. It’s part of the reason Cordelia’s my favourite Shakespearian female character. Refusing to stroke Dad’s ego and bailing him out of trouble doesn’t sounds heroic enough to me.

    Though looking back at your Hunchback review, maybe some viewers just really wanted to see a lady make it big the same as some people really wanted to see a not-pretty guy get romance. Guess I can’t fairly hold a grudge against those guys, but that there was how I saw it anyway.

    Wow, you cut a lot of onions. Ireland isn’t having any yellow-spotted lizard infestations I should know about, is it? Also, were the Communist Chinese that big on their ancient monarchy? Communists tend not to, I wonder if making a movie about saving the kingdom of a badass emperor (I mean come on, the guy’s got a sword for a beard) who proves to have better sense than some of his subjects was the best move to pandering to China at that point. Also, apparently the Chinese actually loved Kung Fu Panda and apparently some said it captured Ancient China better than a lot of their local media. Don’t know what to make of a Dreamworks movie beating this out. Should we just conclude that he public is irrational? Maybe we can just say that.

    …Wait a second, the Renaissance ended *after* a big Communist takeover? I think I might have to re-check my history books for that one.

  26. I watched this movies today (late yesterday technically, but I haven’t slept yet). I found it a little disappointing. Maybe it was bad for this movie that I saw Miyazaki’s masterpiece Princess Mononoke the day before. But seeing Nausicaa the same day as Wonder Woman didn’t ruin that film.

    IN some ways it’s better then I expected. I was anticipating Mulan to be a character always wanted to be a soldier and hated girly things. I’m very glad that’s what she was.

    I liked Eddie Murphy, and I liked the Man out of You song. Which I’d actually already heard via AMVs, and I guess I wasn’t expecting the other songs to be so much lower in quality.

    I’m someone who liked to defend Disney against the accusation that they sanitize everything. IN some ways the Fairy Tales are more adult then the Brothers Grimm versions. And they dub Miyazaki’s films without censoring anything

    So I was a little peeved that the one film in the Canon that is in theory a War film, managed to avoid showing any warfare. The Avalanche is great in that Mulan uses her intelligence, but it was still a way to avoid showing any actual battles. Finding the village is a somewhat effective way to show War after the fact, but even that I’ve seen done better elsewhere. And I’m saying this as a person who’s publicly expresses opposition to “Show don’t tell”.

    The things that is most uncomfortable however is the matter of Race. There isn’t much to offend the Chinese, but they aren’t the only Ethnic group in the film. There were also the Huns, who historically should really be the Mongles. Perhaps they saw calling them a tribe no one today really identifies with as a way to avoid any racist accusations.

    But the fact remains, that it is a story in who’s world the POV nation was perfectly justified in building a massive wall to keep out the scary foreigners, who are apparently as hard to kill as Michael Myers. As someone watching this in 2017 America, that was a real problem.

    So that is why this was not the right place to to defend a villain being one note. Doomsday is one note because he isn’t human.

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