Solid entertainment from a new group of Disney animators. The story source is a Chinese fable about a young girl who disguises herself as a man to help her family and her country. When the Huns attack China, a call to arms goes out to every village, and Mulan’s father, being the only man in the family, accepts the call. Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na Wen, sung by Lea Salonga) has just made a disastrous appearance at the Matchmaker and decides to challenge society’s expectations (being a bride). She steals her father’s conscription notice, cuts her hair, and impersonates a man to join the army. She goes to boot camp, learning to fit in with the other soldiers with some help from her sidekick, Mushu, a wise-cracking dragon (voiced by Eddie Murphy). She trains, and soon faces the Huns eye-to-eye to protect her Emperor. The film is gorgeous to look at, with a superior blend of classic and computer-generated animation. Directors Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook make the best of it: a battle in the snowy mountains is as thrilling as the best Hollywood action films. The menacing Huns are not cute but simple and bad. The wickedness is subtle, not disturbing. The film is not a full-fledged musical, as it has only five songs (the best, "Be a Man," is sung during boot camp). Eddie Murphy is an inspired choice for the comic-relief dragon, but his lines are not as clever as Robin Williams’s in Aladdin. These are minor quibbles, though. The story is strong, and Mulan goes right to the top of Disney animated heroines; she has the right stuff. —Doug Thomas (Amazon.com)
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
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Acceptable Family Film for the Classroom
Disney's "Mulan" tells the story of Fa Mulan and her journey from a woman who "may look like a bride, but will not bring [her[ family honor" to the woman who saves China from the Hun attack. After an unfortunate series of events with the matchmaker, Mulan's father is approached to return to the Imperial Army to fight against the Huns. Mulan worries for her father's health, and decides to take his armor and sword, disguise herself as a man (Ping), and take her father's place in training and recruitment. She eventually becomes one of the top soldiers in her group.
She stops the initial Hun attack on the Tung Shao Pass and is given praises for her efforts. However, her injuries from the battle lead to the truth of Ping being Mulan, and at the time, women were not allowed to serve in the Imperial Army. Mulan is abandoned by the troops. Mulan discovers that the Huns survive the avalanche she created, and she follows the troops to the Emperor's Palace where the final battle between Mulan and the Huns ensues. The result is a victory for Mulan, and more praises are given to her, this time from the Empror. Mulan returns home safely and her family his happy to see her home.
This movie is full of action, adventure, and a touch of Disney magic through fantastical characters like Mushu and various musical numbers scattered throughout. Although this movie is directed towards younger children and families, Disney's "Mulan" can be applied to lessons in almost any age group. At the elementary level, students can learn about the legend of Mulan through animation and song, while also diving into some overarching ideas related to culture. As the students get older, teachers can put more emphasis on cultural elements (ex: patriarchal society, relations between China and the Huns during the time period of the story, comparison of other variations of Mulan's story to the Disney re-telling...) which can be modified to the age group as needed. I have seen this film used at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels, all with great success.
Chances are the students have seen this movie as a child, which helps with the application of the film in older grades. Because students have most likely seen the film before in their younger years, it may be easier for the student to focus on the cultural elements and items you want them to search for. Rather than just observing the movie at face value, the students can push the familiar content aside in order to find more about the movie they may not have noticed before.
The plot in this story is about a young farm girl Fa Mulan. It begins with her in her room writing cheat words on to her arm in ink before she is to visit the matchmaker. Her parents have arranged a suitable husband for her to marry. She hurries to the temple to give her father his medicine and he tells her that he will be praying for her not to disappoint the family by not keeping the tradition. Mulan hurries in to town where her mother and grandmother are waiting to get her ready to visit the matchmaker. When she arrives to see the matchmaker things go wrong. The matchmaker is suspicious about the answers she is giving him about her wifely duties, grabs her arm and takers her to the other room to pour tea. As he does, Mulan rubs her face and the ink from her arm rubs on to her face. Mulan yells that she may look like a bride but she will never bring her family honor. Mulan returns home and tries to figure out what she wants to be in her life.
Just then the drums sound the approach of the Emperor’s counsel and his arrival to hand out notices demanding able males report to camp the following morning to train for war against the Huns. Mulan’s father practices for war but an injury from the past finds him not fit enough to enter battle. Mulan, fearing that her father may have to go comes up with a plan to take his place in the army. She steals her father’s armor and conscription. When the family realizes what she has done they send someone to find her. There was a misunderstanding about what he was to do and they thought he was there to enroll her in the army. Once she enters the camp some trouble erupted among the recruits. She struggled with her training but finally she was able to train with the best of them. As time goes on Mulan is able to save all of China from the Hun threat.
Once Mulan reveals that she is a girl the Emperor insists that Mulan face the consequences of her actions. Once it is revealed that she saved China, the Emperor bows down to her and he offers Mulan a job within his counsel. She respectfully wants to return home. The Emperor gave her his imperial crest a sword. As she returns home she gives her father the gifts hoping that she has brought honor to the family. Her father tells her that hi is honored just having her for a daughter.
I would give this film a 5 star rating. It was very well produced and was very well adapted for children ages preschool through elementary school. It would hold the interest of elementary school-age children also.
I could use this film in my classroom to teach bias. Boys are looked at as men and are classified as the strong and the tough while women are looked at as the weaker of the two and she would be best suited to be married and have children. Mulan proved that just because she was a woman she was able to carry out the expectations of a soldier. In today’s society men and women can both carry out the jobs without any bias. This is what we need to teach our children.
Ann Marie Kern
Chartiers Valley Intermediate School
Movie Review: Mulan
Running Length: 1:25
MPAA Classification: G
Featuring the voices of: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, B.D. Wong, Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein, Pat Morita, Soon-Tek Oh, George Takei
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
Suitable for: All ages
This movie is an adaptation of a poem written by a woman that dates back to 420 A.D., when the northern kingdoms of China were at constant war with the northern nomadic tribes. This poem was popular among Chinese girls for generations and made into several children’s books. More were exposed to this story when Disney used it for the plot in its’ movie version.
The setting is China. An army of Huns under the command of Shan-Yu has invaded the country. The Chinese Emperor commands that one able-bodied male from every family must serve in an emergency army. Mulan’s family does not have any able – bodied males with the exception of her father, who is much older and his movement is restricted. To save him from the decree, Mulan cuts her hair, dresses like a man, and enters the army in her father's place. Mulan’s ghostly ancestors assign a guardian to help her in her travels. Her overseer is a ting dragon named Mushu. Mushu guides Mulan through her concealment to win the confidence of her captain, Li Shang. At the same time, Mushu must also prove his adequacy to the ancestors to be given full guardianship with the family of ancestors. Mulan blends in with the other soldiers by modeling and copying their mannerism. Soon they think of her as one of the peasant-turned-warriors as they are. Mulan proves her intelligence and strength only to get hurt in the process. That injury reveals her secret; this unravels all of her plans for her future and that of protecting her father.
Disney has a general script that they follow to appeal to audiences -introduction of an independent loveable character, a wise cracking sidekick, a love interest, secrets, feats to overcome, etc. The basic idea of the original poem is embedded into the movie, but not followed exactly. However use of this movie in a classroom can be used in a variety of ways.
• Basic structure of a story can be diagnosed.
• Compare and contrast original story to the movie
• Folktale/Folklore reading and writing
• Cultural beliefs
• Cultural Stereotypes
• Chinese Technology and Inventions
• Philosophy and Religion
• Woman’s roles in society