Welcome to the next entry in the Rotoscopers’ Canon Countdown! Leading up to the release of Moana this November, we’re going through the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios, film by film. Today, we give you the heroine that saved all of China: Mulan.
Now, this might be controversial, but I’m ready to argue with anyone that Mulan is the best movie Disney has ever made. This statement is highly subjective though. There’s so much to enjoy and celebrate that it’d be pointless to try and choose just one. I only say it to illustrate my love and respect for this story.
Mulan is arguably the culmination of a process that started with The Little Mermaid, where Disney Princesses started to be more proactive and decisive. Well, even though there’s nothing that makes Mulan a princess, she’s definitely one of the most heroic. She’s brave, witty, and strong (she’s also one of only two Princesses that wear pants. Can you name the other one?). And she does everything in a society that doesn’t value her.
There’s a lot to love about this movie. Every character is memorable, from our protagonist to her animal sidekicks to the hilarious friends Mulan (or rather, Ping) makes during her training. The story moves swiftly and changes from comedy to drama to action without missing a beat. It’s got a great antagonist, gorgeous animation, and a soundtrack that includes a couple of Hall of Fame songs.
It’s all based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, but originally, it was supposed to be a romantic comedy where she got engaged to Shang before meeting him, and then shenanigans ensued. But Chris Sanders, the story supervisor and future director of How To Train Your Dragon, convinced everyone to go back to the original legend and stick closer to it, which resulted in the best action movie Disney has done.
The movie just works beautifully in its blend of genres. Even when things get dramatic (and the burnt village can show you how dark this is supposed to go), you have Mushu there to lighten things up. Edie Murphy was cast in search of replicating the Robin Williams energy of Aladdin, and he’s truly hilarious in the role, particularly when he’s talking about the cow.
Ultimately, I think what makes this movie shine is the heroine at its center and how hard she works to stand out. She’s facing new challenges all around, and yet she’s determined to succeed so she uses her wits and her decisiveness to get where she wants. And this is all encapsulated in the following three minutes, which is what makes this one of the best Disney songs ever. It’s the whole movie in a nutshell:
So, what do you think about Mulan? What’s your favorite song? Are you also terrified of Shan Yu?
Edited by: Kelly Conley