The Huns are invading China, and the Emperor makes the decision that one man from each Chinese family must join the Chinese army to help fight the invasion. Mulan is worried about her elderly father Fa Zhou who, as the only man in the family, will have to step up and fight once more. After a disastrous meeting with the Matchmaker where she becomes convinced she'll never be a bride as she just wants to be her own person, not a typical Chinese bride, Mulan decides to join the army in her father's place, cutting off her hair and disguising herself as a man named Ping. As Mulan learns to fight amongst the men of her village, she's shocked by the devastation she sees the Huns leaving across China, and is worried about whether they can win. The Fa family ancestors have sent their "Great Stone Dragon" to protect Mulan, but unknowingly, a small dragon, Mushu, has taken the deed upon himself, and is determined to save Mulan. Will Mulan be able to keep up the deception of Ping, and will the Chinese army beat the Huns once and for all?
I will start off talking about the animation, because that is really what people have come to talk about when they see Disney films, as well as the story and the songs of course, but it's the animation which makes them so special. Although the film is now 14 years old, the animation still looks amazing and flawless. The Chinese characters are portrayed accurately, and the sweeping Chinese landscapes, battle scenes and family scenes are all given that Disney touch and look spectacular, even on a small TV screen. The characters themselves look wonderful, from the beautiful Mulan to the strong General Li Shang and are all animated to perfection. Visually, this is a masterpiece and will certainly have children glued to the screen to watch.
The cast do a wonderful job with their roles as well. While Eddie Murphy is probably the biggest and most well-known name of the cast, it does boast some other big names including Ming-Na (best known as Dr Chen from ER) as Mulan, George Takei (Star Trek) and Miriam Margoyles in a small role as The Matchmaker. While there are voice actors for the speaking parts, the singing voices of the main 2 characters, Mulan and Li Shang are done by someone else. The wonderful Filipino singer Lea Salonga, who also voiced Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, is the voice of Mulan, and as ever delivers a stunning vocal performance, especially in the song 'Reflection'. Donny Osmond is the singing voice of General Li, and while I didn't recognise his voice, he was pleasant enough to listen to and he did a good job.
I felt Ming-Na as Mulan's speaking voice was very good, giving across a certain innocence associated with the character, but not afraid to have a bit of fun with it, especially when Mulan is being Ping, her male counterpart. Eddie Murphy was fantastic as dragon Mushu, and puts in a typically funny comedic performance. It's very much like his performance as Donkey from the Shrek movies, and the dragon on screen so much suits his voice which is fantastic. Many of the other main actors are Chinese stars, and I haven't heard of them or seen them in anything, but as as ensemble cast, they do a great job in voicing the characters and bringing to life a community in turmoil. The songs in the movie are fantastic, as usual the Disney score writers have produced a soundtrack which is in keeping with Chinese music and sounds authentic, and the original songs written for the movie, Reflection in particular, are wonderful, and add a real sense of occasion to the film.
The story itself is very touching, and causes some issues to come up that you wouldn't perhaps talk about with your children. Harry was very curious about why Mulan couldn't just join the Chinese army as herself, instead having to disguise herself as a man, and it provoked a nice discussion between us about why it wasn't fair, and it shows how much our children do take in without us realising! I didn't know much myself about the rest of the plot, but found it interesting to read more about the Legend of Mulan online, and it's nice to see China and its history in a mainstream film. I can't help but think this film didn't get the recognition it deserved as it is a wonderful movie that highlights not only the plight of women and girls in China, but also how Mulan was strong enough to stand up for what she believed in, and against the odds, makes a success of herself - pretty girls aren't just for marrying and being a good wife it would seem! Harry and I really enjoyed Mulan, and we'll be looking out for more Disney classics, as this one is a triumph. Brilliant.