Legacy Content

Toon Talk: Mulan Special Edition DVD
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by Kirby Holt (archives)
November 4, 2004
Kirby reviews the Special Edition release of Mulan.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

(c) Disney
Special Edition DVD

Ancient Chinese Secrets
The very first full-length animated feature to be produced at the now defunct Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida studio (inside the Disney-MGM Studios theme park), Mulan also bore the distinction of starring Disney’s first full-fledged action heroine, a young Chinese girl who disguises herself as a man and ends up saving a whole country.

Far from a Far Eastern Yentl, this film was based on the ancient Chinese legend of Fa Mulan, who lived in a time when women weren’t expected to be anything more then wives and mothers. But when China is threatened by the invading Huns and the Emperor (voiced by Pat Morita) calls on each family to volunteer a man for his imperial army, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen), risking certain death if she is discovered, takes her ailing father’s place. With the help of her ancestral guardian dragon Mushu (a wise-cracking Eddie Murphy), Mulan manages to infiltrate the army of Captain Li Shang (B.D. Wong), and eventually leads the men to victory over the murderous Shan-Yu (Miguel Ferrer).

Originally released in 1998, Mulan remains entertaining, if uneven; first-time feature directors Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook are quite deft in handling the story’s more dramatic moments, most notably in the riveting ‘transformation’ sequence and quieter moments between Mulan and her father. Yet they also had to shoehorn in the requisite comedic bits (in addition to Murphy’s pre-Donkey Mushu, we also get a chirpy cricket, a dim dog and an unlikely trio of would-be he-men) and musical numbers (both good - “Reflection? - and bad - “A Girl Worth Fighting For?), which in and of themselves are adequate, but mixing all these elements together results in a film as schizophrenic as its cross-dressing protagonist … is it a historical epic? An action drama? A musical comedy? In the end, the sum of its parts outweighs the whole.

Mulan was previously released on DVD at the ‘dawn’ of Disney DVDs in a bare-bones single disc, an edition now replaced in the catalog by the recently released special two-disc edition, which culls together mostly new material on the background and making of the film. And while there is nary a peep from the film’s voice actors, the supplemental features offer an in-depth look into how the film was created, with particular emphasis on how the filmmakers brought a foreign culture to life through animation.

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