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20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Mulan’

Mulan, the thirty-sixth film in Disney’s animated canon, arrived in theaters on June 19, 1998. The 21st century was just around the corner and with each animated film from the studio, they were stepping farther and farther away from those which had kicked off the period known as the Disney Renaissance. This was true for almost every facet of Mulan: the source material, the animation and the box office.

Most people are now familiar with the story. In ancient China, young Mulan takes her father’s place in the war by disguising herself as a man. Though it is based on ancient Chinese folklore, there was a lot of new material and “Disneyfication” added to the final film. Characters such as Mushu were created by the filmmakers, as was the romantic subplot with Li Shang.

Like the prior Disney films of the 90s, Mulan was a musical. The music and lyrics were originally to be written by Stephen Schwartz but backed out after agreeing to do The Prince of Egypt for DreamWorks. Instead, Disney hired Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, to write music and lyrics, respectively. The music in the film is beautiful and includes several memorable songs, most notably “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”

I must admit: Mulan is a movie that never grabbed me. This was true as a kid, and my feelings haven’t changed as an adult. However, there is indeed a lot to like here and I absolutely can understand why it has developed such an impressive fan base. The songs are well-written, the humor is effective, and Mulan is a wonderful heroine who has impacted audiences everywhere and continues to do so today. For that, it should be applauded.

Live-action remake: This film was originally scheduled to release on March 27, 2020 but due to COVID-19 shutdowns, was eventually moved to Disney+ and debuted via their Premiere Access platform later in the year. Though visually stunning, the live-action remake of Mulan barely resembles the story told in the original 1998 film. For my full thoughts, check out my review here.

Mulan in the theme parks: Mulan has been incorporated in the theme parks primarily via parades. Characters from the film can also be seen walking around the parks.

Sequel: Mulan II, a sequel from DisneyToon Studios, was released directly to home video in 2004. Most of the voice cast returns for the film, with the notable exception of Eddie Murphy, who played Mushu. This time around, Mushi is played by Mark Moseley, a voice double and impressionist for several celebrities, with Murphy among them. For my detailed thoughts on the film, check out my 25 Weeks of DisneyToon Sequels.

Mulan is available to stream on Disney+.

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