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(Best sung to the tune of “A Girl Worth Fighting For”)
When the Huns invade and China is in peril
From the dark Shan-Yu who’s merciless and feral,
The threat’s appraised; an army’s raised
And every man must serve,
But a lone girl reports and proves her nerve.
Though Fa Mulan is quite the awkward beauty,
She won’t let her father lose his life for duty.
She impersonates the manly traits
And gallops off to war,
Hoping to save the man she’s fighting for.
Her ancestors send out a guarding spirit,
But who she gets is frankly nowhere near it:
The small Mushu, a dragon who
Just wants his honored shelf
And has arrived to help her prove herself.
The Captain Shang is tough on all the rookies
And teaches things unknown in fortune cookies.
He trains them hard as China’s guard,
And when he’s satisfied,
Mushu ensures they’ll fight to turn the tide.
While marching through a mountain pass while singing,
The army sees the death the Huns are bringing.
They are ambushed and nearly pushed
Right off the mountainside,
But by Mulan the victory’s supplied.
An avalanche destroys the Huns while riding,
But Shang soon learns the truth that Mulan’s hiding.
The laws apply, and she must die,
But Shang won’t kill Mulan.
They leave her there, her family honor gone.
She sees Shan-Yu and others are still living
And warns her friends, but Shang is not forgiving.
The Huns attack and plan payback
Upon the Emperor.
When Mulan calls him, Shang then follows her.
With female charm, they fight into the palace
And save the Emperor from Shan-Yu’s malice.
Up on the roof, the fiend goes POOF
When Mushu’s rockets shoot,
And fireworks eliminate the brute.
With China saved and Shan-Yu now a goner,
The Emperor grants Fa Mulan much honor.
Back home they ride with newfound pride,
And Dad and Shang agree
This lovely girl is just as she should be.

Ignoring the earlier-reviewed Hercules, here begins the Disney Renaissance on my list in earnest. Mulan was yet another feather in the cap of Disney’s animation department, with memorable characters, enjoyable music, and impressive animation. Inspired by the ancient Chinese poem Hua Mulan, who fought in the army in her father’s stead, the animation style emulates aspects of Chinese art, much like Hercules reflected Greek art. The filmmakers also pioneered some CGI elements to produce huge crowd scenes, such as the amazing mountain charge of the Huns.

Of the voice cast, Ming Na Wen as Mulan and Eddie Murphy as Mushu are the standouts, and James Hong and Harvey Fierstein also lend their distinctive voices to the film. (I still think of Donkey from Shrek when I hear Murphy’s voice, even though Mulan came first.) The songs are not as plentiful as in other Disney films, but they’re still outstanding. “Reflection” is beautiful (and helped start Christina Aguilera’s career), and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” is just perfect, ranking among the best of Disney’s musical numbers.

Though the film wasn’t as successful in China, Mulan is a marvelous Disney classic that exceeds the silliness of Kung Fu Panda. With a strong female role model and humor and fun to spare, Mulan may not be my favorite of the Disney Renaissance, but it easily surpasses most of today’s animated films.

Best line: (Mushu, after roasting the Huns’ falcon) “Now, that’s what I call Mongolian barbeque.”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 9
Originality: 7
Watchability: 8
TOTAL: 45 out of 60

Next: #173 – Rudy

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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