Mulan (1998)



Director:      Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook.

Starring:     Miguel Ferrer (Shan-Yu, voice),  Harvey Fierstein (Yao, voice),  Freda Foh Shen (Fa Li, voice),  June Foray (Grandmother Fa, voice),  James Hong (Chi Fu, voice),  Miriam Margolyes (The Matchmaker, voice),  Pat Morita (The Emperor, voice),  Eddie Murphy (Mushu,voice),  Marni Nixon (Grandmother Fa, singing voice),  Soon-Tek Oh (Fa Zhou, voice),  Donny Osmond (Shang, singing voice),  Lea Salonga (Mulan, singing voice),  James Shigeta (General Li, voice),  George Takei (First Ancestor, voice),  Jerry Tondo (Chien-Po, voice).

the Disney version of the Mulan story


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

An attack at the Great Wall of China comes.  The guard there is able to start a beacon fire to alert other guards along the length of the wall.  He shouts to the enemy:  "Now all of China knows you're here!"  News is brought to the Emperor that the Huns have crossed their northern border.  The Emperor's counselor, Chi Fu, says that's impossible.  Leading the enemy is Shan-Yu, a huge hulking presence.

Fa Mulan is at home playing with her dog.  Her father is praying to his honorable ancestors.  He asks them to help Mulan to impress the match-maker today.  Mulan goes into town.  Her mother Fa Li waits for her.  Mulan is late.  When Mulan arrives she is given a bath.  She is then, together with four other young women, taken to stand before the match-maker.  The match-maker examines Mulan first.  She comments that Mulan is too skinny.  Through a series of mishaps, Mulan manages to set the match-maker on fire.  The match-maker is really angry at her and shouts:  "You are a disgrace!  You will never bring your family honor!" 

When Mulan returns home she cannot show her face to her father.  Dad comes to her later and sits with her on a bench under what looks like a saucer magnolia tree in full bloom.  He comments on one of the flowers that is going to be a late bloomer.  Dad says it may be late but he bets it will be the most beautiful of all the magnolia flowers. 

Chi Fu and some members of the military come to Mulan's villages.  Chi Fu announces that the Huns have invaded China.  Each family will donate one male to the fight.  Mulan's father proudly steps forward, but he has a definite limp.  Mulan, knowing her father would die before it ever getting into battle, begs Chi Fu not to take her father.  But dad tells Mulan that she dishonors him.  Chi Fu tells everyone that the men are to report to the Wu Zhong camp. 

Father goes into the house to examine his old military equipment.  He picks up his sword and starts to practice with it, but it is obvious that he does not yield it with much ability anymore.  Mulan tells dad that he shouldn't have to go, but dad insists:  "It's a matter of honor." 

Mulan is very worried about her father.  So she comes up with an idea.  She puts on her father's armor and grabs his sword.  She takes her black stallion named Khan and leaves for the military camp.  Grandmother reports that Mulan is gone.  Now it's time for father to be worried.  He goes to talk with his ancestors.  He asks them to protect Mulan.  If the military finds out that she is a woman and not a man, she will be executed. 

The head ancestor tells the small dragon Mushu about the situation and Mushu wants to go personally to save Mulan.  But the head ancestor reminds him that he is just the gong ringer.  His job is to wake up the other ancestors.  So Mushu wakes the others.  Head ancestor tells him to wake-up the huge stone dragon and he will rescue Mulan.  But when Mushu rings the gong to awaken the statue, he does not wake up.  Mushu gets so frustrated that he pulls on one of the stone ears and it breaks off.  Then the whole statue cracks and falls into a heap of rubble. 

This only leaves Mushu to save Mulan.  He starts off for the military camp.  Grandmother's lucky cricket goes with him.  Mushu says he will save the day by making Mulan into a war hero.  Then she will not only be saved, but will be a hero and honor the Fa family. 

The Chinese Imperial scouts are discovered.  Shan-yu tells them congratulation for they have successfully found the Hun army. 

Mulan arrives at the camp.  Mushu soon arrives and speaks with Mulan.  The men are busy trying to determine who is the toughest soldier.  They don't think much of the new fellow, who they think is too young and too skinny to do much on the battlefield.  A small but husky soldier gets in a scrap with Mulan and he says he is going to hit her.  She is saved by a huge fellow soldier named Yao. 

The Chinese general plots his strategy.  He will head into the Tung Shoo Pass.  He tells Captain Li Shang to stay behind to train the new recruits.  Once Chi Fu thinks they are ready, they can join the rest of the army to fight.  The general leaves with the army and Shang says:  "Good luck, father."  The new recruits tell the Captain that Ping (really Mulan) is the cause for all the fighting.  The Captain is none too pleased with Ping. 

Shan-Yu and his army discover that the Tung Shoo Pass will be the place to confront and destroy the Chinese Army. 

Mulan bathes by herself in a lake.  Suddenly a bunch of soldiers jump in the lake with her.  With the help of her horse she is able to shield her identity from the men and get out of the lake.  Chi Fu says that the Captain is just no good and the same is true about his troops.  Mushu notices that Mulan really likes the Captain. 

Urgent news arrives that the Captain and his soldiers are needed on the battlefield.  But when they arrive at the village rendezvous point where the troops are supposed to be, all they find are the charred ruins of the village.  The Captain says that his father should have been here.  He is.  He and the rest of his unit are all found dead on the other side of a hill.  The Captain has to bury his father.  Ping (Mulan) tells her Captain:  "I'm sorry." 

Captain Li decides that they will head through the Pass.  He tells the men:  "We are the only hope for the Emperor now."  As they travel through the snow in the mountain pass they are discovered by the enemy.  Hundreds of arrows come showering down from the top of one of the mountain peaks.  The Captain and his men answer with their rockets that forces the enemy away from the mountain peak.  But the danger is far from over.  Hundreds of Hun soldiers on horseback cover the top of a ridge.  Suddenly they come riding down the ridge heading straight for the Chinese force. 

Mulan comes to the rescue.  She grabs the last remaining rocket and heads toward the enemy.  As Shan-Yu gets closer and closer she fires the rocket into the upper part of a nearby peak.  It explodes and starts an avalanche.  The avalanche sweeps down upon the enemy covering them with snow.  It keeps coming and the Chinese troops have to run for their lives.  Mulan is able to save the Captain from death as the avalanche takes him over a cliff.  She and her horse are able to pull the Captain up by rope.  They are greatly helped by the huge Yao. 

When the Captain is safe, he tells Ping that he owes his life to him.  Now the soldiers shout:  "Let's hear it for Ping!  The bravest of us all!"   He then discovers that Ping has been wounded.  He calls in the military doctor and he examines her.  When he comes out from the tent where Ping lays in bed, he whispers something to Captain Li.   The Captain goes in to check if what the doctor told him is the truth.  He is able to confirm that Ping is not Ping but a girl. 

Chi Fu demands that the Captain execute Mulan by beheading her.  The Captain grabs the sword and goes over to the kneeling Mulan.  But instead of executing her, he throws down his sword in the snow in front of her.  He says:  "A life for a life!  My debt is repaid."  The unit moves out, leaving Mulan, Mushu, the cricket and Khan behind.  Mulan is sad and says that maybe she should never have left home.  She did it for her dad, but it was also for herself.  She wanted to prove she could do something to bring honor to the Fa family.  She reasons that she will go home, saying:  "I'll have to face my father sooner or later."

But the immediate danger is not over.  Shan-Yu and many of the toughest of his soldiers manage to free themselves from the storm.  Mulan sees the surviving Huns below her looking to head for the Imperial village in the valley.  Mulan immediately heads down to the village.  In the village itself the Captain and his troops are welcomed with great enthusiasm.  The crowd shouts:  "Make way for the heroes of China!"  Mulan arrives and shouts:  "The Huns are alive!  They're in the city!"  But no one believes her.  She still shouts:  "Keep your eyes open.  I know they're here!" 

The Captain is going to present Shan-Yu's sword to the Emperor, but Shan-Yu's giant falcon suddenly descends, grabs the sword and flies off with it.  The falcon drops the sword to Shan-Yu.  The Huns grab  the Emperor and take him into the palace.  The huge main door is closed and secured.  The Captain and his men grab a huge statue and try to knock the door open.  No use!  Mulan has an idea.  She and four of the soldiers climb up the large columns and gain access to the palace.  The falcon is going to warn Shan-Yu, but the dragon uses his fire breath to burn all the feathers off of the bird.  The Chinese soldiers are able to overcome the Huns until only Shan-Yu is left.  But he's a big threat to everyone.  The men are able to get away from him by descending down a rope, but the Captain and Mulan are still exposed to Shan-Yu's wrath. 

The giant roars to the Captain that he took away his victory!   The Captain tries to fight him, but is soon subdued.  That's when Mulan springs into action.  She is able to divert the giant's attention and he goes after her.  Mulan is able to get onto the palace roof.  She knows that just across the way is a tower top filled with explosives.  Shan-Yu gets up on the roof too and starts for Mulan.  The dragon, however, is able to use his fire breath to light a rocket which barrels into the huge man and takes him all the way over to the tower where a big explosion destroys the tower top and Shan-Yu.

Everyone is thrilled with Mulan.  That is, everyone but Chi Fu.  He says that Mulan is just a woman and will never be worth anything.  But the Emperor tells everyone that Mulan has saved them all.  He then fires Chi Fu and asks Mulan to be his counselor.  But Mulan says she just wants to go home.  

Mulan returns to her home.  She brings her father the sword of Shan-Yu and the crest of the emperor.  She tells dad that these are gifts given to honor the Fa family.  Grandmother says Mulan brings back a sword.  Why couldn't she have brought home a man?  Just then Captian Li Shang shows up.  He tells Mulan that she forgot her helmet.  Mulan asks the Captain if he would like to stay for dinner?  Grandmother asks him if he would like to stay with them forever?  Yes, the Captain will stay for dinner. 

The dragon Mushu goes over to the ancestral temple.  He asks the head ancestor:  "Who did a good job?"  The head ancestors says:  "All right.  You can be a guardian again."


Cute cartoon.  And it was funny, with Eddie Murphy being the voice of the crazy dragon.  It's better to watch "Mulan Joins the Army", but for kids it's an entertaining film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.





Historical Background:


See Mulan Joins the Army (1939)


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