Mulan has been my undisputed favourite Disney movie since I was a child. It's an absolutely phenomenal film that brings so much more than any Disney princess movie before it. Its soundtrack is one of the greatest I've ever heard, the animation is stunningly beautiful, the character's are hilarious and interesting, and the story is just so grand in scale. There are two things in this movie that make it stand as one of the all time greats of animation. One is its leading character Mulan, who goes through what I consider the greatest challenge any female Disney character has ever had to face. The other is her mentor and friend, Mushu, who is by far the funniest Disney character I've ever seen. This exquisitely crafted film deserves to be praised as one of the all time greats of animation.
Set during the Han dynasty in China, Mulan is the story of a young woman who doesn't know what her own identity is. It was a time where the primary role of a woman was to become a perfect wife and bear children to uphold the family honour. No matter how much Mulan tries to please her family and uphold tradition, she just can't seem to fit that role. When the Hun's invade China, the Emperor requests that one man from every family serve in the imperial army. Mulan's slightly crippled father is conscripted, which would mean certain death for him. In an act of bravery and stupidity, Mulan sheds her womanly image and pretends to be a man so that she can take her father's place in the war. She soon finds herself in many comical and death-defying situations, all of which help her find her true identity.
The sequence where Mulan transforms herself into a man is spine-chillingly epic. It's one of the coolest montages I've ever seen in a film. One of the major reasons for this is Jerry Goldsmith's perfect score. It was a mixture of Eastern style instruments, and Western 80s montage music. The animation and symbolism in this sequence were powerfully beautiful. It's the highlight of the film for me. This scene alone makes me respect Mulan more than any other Disney princess. The score to Mulan was beautiful beyond words.
One of the greatest aspects of this film is its soundtrack, which has tender and sweet songs, as well as hilariously epic songs. My second favourite Disney song of all time is 'Reflection' from Mulan, sung by the phenomenal Lea Salonga. I personally connect with this song. It really helped me get through high-school, making this one of the most important movies in my life. I always sing "I'll Make a Man Out of You" at the top of my lungs whenever it comes on. It's one of the funniest, most inspiring sequences in the film, for it signals the point where Mulan gains her strength and starts finding her identity.
I truly loved the friendship and romance between Mulan and Shang. For most of the movie, he knows her as Ping, the absolute worst recruit in the whole garrison. As weird as this may sound, I just felt the chemistry between these two animated characters. Shang is one of my all time favourite male leads in a Disney film, and Mulan is my absolute favourite female lead. Their sequences together were hilarious, touching, and in the end, beautiful. It just made me happy to see such an odd couple in a Disney film!
I don't know about you, but Mulan is the ultimate Disney 'hero's journey' to me. It has everything! One of the most entertaining elements in this movie is watching her grow with the hilarious characters around her. Her three army friends, Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po, were an absolute laugh riot! They provided some of the funniest moments in the film, particularly during the "Girl Worth Fighting For" song. While comedy is the greatest strength of Mulan, the thrill of the battles make it a unique and stunning experience. I adored the fight sequences on the snowy pass, and the epic-showdown between Mulan and Shan Yu (the leader of the Hun's). These moments were unforgettable, and extremely different to what we usually see from Disney. Mulan didn't have to wait for a prince to save her, instead, she saves all of China! How's that for a female lead huh?
Mushu is the best mentor/sidekick in Disney history, hands down! Eddie Murphy voicing a Chinese Dragon should have been a recipe for disaster. Instead, it was the very making of comedy gold! There was not a moment in this movie where Mushu didn't make me laugh. I'm finding it hard to articulate the words to describe how funny he really was. In the end, all I can say is that the hilarity he brought to the film left me practically speechless. The funniest scene for me would be when he was disguised as a commanding officer riding a panda. That bit had me in stitches! His relationship and spiritual journey was also very touching.
I love Mulan for so many different reasons. It had a huge impact on me when I was a kid, and it's just as powerful today. For once Disney gave us a female character that goes out and controls her own destiny, fights for what she believes in, and never gives up. Mulan was an absolute inspiration for me, so regardless of what others might say, this is one of the most important children's movies ever made. As an adult, Mulan made me roar with laughter, and thrilled to the core with the action and beauty of it all. I would not call it the greatest film Disney has ever made, but it will forever be my absolute favourite.
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