1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Review #36: Mulan

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Disney Animation Review #36: Mulan

Disney Movie Review: 36/52 - Mulan

Ryan Dosier- While not a total misfire and not a bad movie by any means, Mulan (1998) is not nearly as entertaining or moving as its two predecessors, Hunchback and Hercules. For the most part, Mulan is a relatively weak film with disappointing writing and storytelling that never lives up to the great Disney standard. 

The first 15 minutes or so of Mulan are really, really boring. Mulan (the character) never shows any appealing traits other than wanting to break the traditional Chinese woman mold. Perhaps she didn’t resonate with me since I’m a guy… but I still connected with Ariel and Belle, so that can’t be it. The opening of the film is dark, serious, and straight-laced, making for an awkward transition when the Eddie Murphy-voiced Mushu appears. Thanks to Murhpy’s brand of humor, Mushu tries to pull the film in a whole new tonal direction that never works. Mulan never finds its balance between the silly and the serious moments.

This isn’t to say that Mushu isn’t a fantastic character, because he is. The little red dragon is hysterical and by far the most entertaining and engaging part of the film. Murphy must have eaten most of Mulan's voice acting budget, because he is the only standout voice in the piece. Mushu delivers the funniest lines and snappiest quips—which is probably mostly Eddie Murphy ad-libs. I say this because Mushu's lines are very funny and don't match the rest of the slow film.

Again, I found Mulan herself to be terribly dull. She does have some extremely heroic actions throughout the film, but nothing about her makes her standout like Ariel, Belle, or even Pocahontas. Mulan’s voice actor, Ming-Na Wen, seems like she is bored the entire time and never breathes any real life into the character unless she is singing--which is probably because her singing voice is provided by someone else, Lea Solanga. That said, her song “Reflection” is wonderful and one of the few great moments for the character.

The music in Mulan is notably, painfully weaker than anything else from Disney in the 90s. “Reflection” is the song that stands out the most, but the upbeat “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” is more enjoyable and is easier to listen to again and again. The only other song is “A Girl Worth Fighting For” and it never accomplishes anything but being awkward in both its music and lyrics. Mulan's soundtrack leaves so much to be desired. 

The artwork put into Mulan is wonderful. The set pieces, such as the impressive Emperor’s Palace, are wonderful. The designs of the characters and the objects they interact with are very clearly inspired by the ancient Chinese. Even the smoke and the fire in the film curls and twists like an elegant Chinese water painting. If nothing else struck me about Mulan, then the designs certainly did.

Mulan suffers from many things and unfortunately becomes the weakest Disney animated feature released in the 1990s. The characters are poor, the music is forgettable, and the story is dull. Mushu and the wonderful design work make Mulan worth viewing, but your attention won’t be held too steadily.

2.5/5 Lucky Crickets


  1. I liked Mulan better than Hercules from a purely entertaining aspect, but whatever. I did agree with you that the beginning is boring and that they never found a balance between silly and serious. I will say I love Shan Yu, and you didn't even mention him.

  2. Hunchback is entertaining? Dark, intriguing, deliciously creepy? Yes. Entertaining-not so much.

    I think Disney always hits a snag when they "dont follow their formula" for leading lady characters. They're just too serious and too focused on a struggle that most of the audience has a hard time connection with. Mulan and Tiana have this problem, and at times Merida. Most audiences can and do identify with the struggle of not fitting in/wanting to be understood by someone; like Belle, Ariel and the other princesses. The contrasting struggle of wanting to break out of the mold and proclaiming that fitting in with society will not happen just alienates the viewer.

  3. I disagree with Tiana. I thought she strong character because of that.