Mulan  is a Disney film based on the Chinese legend ‘Hua Mulan’ as she steals her ailed father’s military enlistment and poses as his son. Aided by a lucky cricket and a tiny dragon (Eddie Murphy) acting as a family guardian, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) must serve the Emperor and save all of China from the invading Huns.
Not Your Typical Disney Princess: This character brings something new to the Disney realm. Well, more than one thing. The most obvious, Mulan being a princess no-one has ever heard of. That, in itself, is a risky move by Disney. Then we add on the fact that she is a Chinese cross-dresser. Additionally, Mulan isn’t a story about seeking love which seems to be the core of many Disney films. Also, we can’t forget to mention that she isn’t an orphan! Mulan has a mother, father and grandmother. Total shocker. To be fair, she does have some typical Disney princess traits, however, unlike some other Disney princesses (who shall remain unnamed), Mulan is resourceful, independent, courageous, determined, and real.
A Humble Heroine: Mulan is braver than any Disney princess you’ve seen before and yet she comes from a family of peasants. If that isn’t inspiring enough for all the young girls watching this, she also happens to not be the usual damsel in distress. Instead, the princess is saving the prince in this witty, comedic, and uplifting film. Everything she does is for her family, and the only person she cares to impress is her father. Furthermore, when given arguably the highest honor from the Emperor, Mulan refuses, wishing only to go home and be with her family once again.
The Villain: The villain, Shan Yu, is possibly one of the most effective Disney villains. Knowing that Shan Yu is a man that could have existed, makes the destruction he leaves behind much more menacing. Moreover, knowing the man has no magic or special abilities, but seeing the strength of not only himself, but his army too (and the influence he has over them), creates a massive threat to all of China. Unfortunately, Shan Yu was never given much depth story-wise, but in a way, it creates a sense of mystery about him.
The Reality of It: What makes this movie what it is, is how genuine it is. This film captures a very real past for China, right down to their values and landscape. Most importantly was family and personal honor, closely followed by family duty and love. Mulan fulfills each of these traditions in an unselfish manner. The animated features are captivating and true to the conventional iconography of Chinese history, particularly impressive coming from Western animators. The music is appropriately relative and unabashedly parodic (because let’s face it, sometimes Disney can make you cringe and feel second-hand embarrassment).