Monday, February 18, 2013

Chinese Firecracker

Directors: Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook
Voice Talent: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Pat Morita
Released June 19, 1998

Oscar nominations:
Best Score,  Comedy or Musical - Jerry Goldsmith (lost to Stephen Warbeck for Shakespeare in Love)

If you remember, when I wrote my review for The Lion King, I said that Beauty and the Beast was my favorite animated Disney movie and I couldn't decide between The Lion King and The Little Mermaid for third place. I didn't tell you what my second favorite was because I would be reviewing it shortly and here you have it! Mulan is my second favorite animated Disney movie. It is one of the last Disney movies from the '90s just right before Pixar started to take over.

Let's first start with the fact that Mulan is the coolest Disney "princess" ever. She's technically not really a princess, but whatever. Actually, heroine would be a more accurate word. Mulan is the coolest Disney heroine ever. Sleeping Beauty? She spends the majority of the movie SLEEPING! And her name is Aurora and who can pronounce that? Cinderella? She does nothing but clean and whine to her Fairy Godmother about meeting her Prince Charming. Snow White? She has to depend on seven small men, for God's sake! Ariel? Great swimmer and pretty hair, but spends way too much time wanting to be a human only to impress the cute guy she saw on a boat. Belle? Love the voracious reader Belle, can't say anything bad about her, but she's nowhere near kick-ass as Mulan. Jasmine? Not even her movie. She's just arm candy for Aladdin. Pocahontas? People, the real Pocahontas did not look that good in real life, plus she also moons over some guy.

Let's make a top ten list of why Mulan is the coolest Disney heroine, shall we? (I looked to the Disney Wiki for some help on these).

Mulan as Ping
1. While all the other Disney heroines wear gowns and have flowing hair and worry about whether their true love will ever arrive, Mulan is willing to risk her life to disguise herself as a boy and serves in the Chinese Army so her father won't have to. (One male from each family in their village is ordered to serve by the Emperor).

2. Mulan's journey isn't about finding her one true love. She doesn't sing a lovesick song to some prince-in-waiting. She doesn't get married at the end of the movie. She does have the hots for Shang (voiced by BD Wong) who is the commander of the camp Mulan belongs to, but their relationship is one that goes from him being disgusted by Ping, Mulan's wimpy alter-ego, to respect for Ping when Mulan shows that his training has helped her become a worthy warrior to anger when he learns that Ping is actually Mulan and she has been lying to him all this time to friendship when he visits Mulan at her home to thank her for what she did and she invites him to stay for dinner. (Grandma approves of him!) There is a little hint that there is a chance of romance, but it's not until the last few minutes of the movie. I think they get married in the direct to video sequel, but I've never seen it. (I stay away from direct to video Disney sequels!) A romance is the furtherest thing from the movie.

3. Mulan saves the Imperial City from the Huns and gets bowed to by everyone in the city (a moment similar to that scene in Return of the King) and is thanked personally by the Emperor himself (voiced by Pat Morita aka Mr. Miyagi!) She's also offered the position to become his advisor, but turns it down because she wants to be with her family.

4. Mulan is the first Disney "Princess" who isn't an actual princess because she wasn't born or married into royalty. That right there makes her much more compelling.

5. Mulan gets her own bad-ass montage when she makes the decision to leave her family and serve in the Chinese Army as she cuts her hair with a sword and leaves her family a token of herself as a way to say goodbye. It's been awhile since I've seen every Disney movie, but I don't remember anyone else having a cool montage like that with serious music in the background.

6. Mulan is not shallow about her appearance. She cuts her hair (it's still long enough to pull back, but still) and pretends to be a guy for god's sake. She is also the first Disney Princess to wear shorts and a tank top! The very first time we see her that is what she's wearing. She does wear dresses in the movie, but for most of it she's wearing pants which is highly unusual for a Disney Princess!

7. Mulan is the first Disney Princess to kill the film's villain - which I did not know until I read it on the Disney Wiki. You have to admit that's pretty impressive! Now she did have the help of her dragon guardian, Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy), but still pretty impressive.

8. Mulan is the first Disney Princess to be visibly wounded which means she is not afraid to get hurt and she is one tough (fortune) cookie! Haha.

9. Mulan is the only Disney Princess who can do both martial arts and archery.

10. Mulan depends on her wit and intelligence to solve problems and does not rely on her beauty or a man like most of the other Disney Princesses because Mulan is awesome! She used her mind when she used the weights to climb that long pole, when she caused the avalanche that killed all those Huns, and when she killed the main villain. Mulan is one smart (fortune) cookie!

If that's not enough to convince you that Mulan is by far the best, coolest Disney Princess ever, then please state your case for who you think deserves to be #1. I will say that Belle is a close second. I do love Belle.

Mulan is voiced by Ming-Na Wen who, besides voicing Mulan, is best known for being on ER. Lea Salonga does Mulan's singing voice and she also did Jasmine's singing voice in Aladdin. 

The songs in the movie are pretty solid. I don't love all of them, but they're all good. There are only four songs with the rest of the music being a score. "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is one of my favorite songs from a Disney movie...ever! And if you saw my movie montage, you'll notice that I had that song playing during stills of Kill Bill. The scene in Kill Bill 2 where Uma Thurman is being taught martial arts by Pai Mei reminds me of the scene in Mulan where all the characters in the Chinese Army are training in that song montage. So you have a Disney movie on one end of the spectrum and a Quentin Tarantino film on the other!  "Reflection" is the big song from the movie that was made into a single by Christina Aguilera and it's a very pretty song, but not my favorite to become a radio single.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie and one that always makes me laugh is when we are first introduced to Mushu and he's trying to make himself appear larger than he is using his shadow. When Mulan and her horse see it's just this tiny little dragon that she mistakes as a lizard, her horse just starts stomping on it and while brutal, is it the funniest thing and always makes me laugh!

No comments:

Post a Comment