Mulan (1998 film): Wikis

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Mulan

Promotional Poster For Mulan by John Alvin
Directed by Tony Bancroft
Barry Cook
Produced by Pam Coats
Written by Robert D. San Souci
Rita Hsiao
Philip LaZebnik
Chris Sanders
Eugenia Bostwick-Singer
Raymond Singer
Starring Ming-Na
Eddie Murphy
B.D. Wong
Miguel Ferrer
Harvey Fierstein
Beth Fowler
George Takei
Music by Score:
Jerry Goldsmith
Songs:
Matthew Wilder
David Zippel
Studio Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Release date(s) June 19, 1998
Running time 90 minutes
Country United States
Language English, Mandarin
Budget $70,000,000[1]
Gross revenue $304,320,254
Followed by Mulan II (2005)

Mulan is a 1998 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation, and released by Walt Disney Pictures on June 19, 1998. The thirty-sixth animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics, and a part of the Disney Renaissance, the film is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan.[2] Mulan was the first of three features produced primarily at the Disney animation studio at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida. [3] It was directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, with story and screenplay by Robert D. San Souci, Rita Hsiao, Philip LaZebnik,Chris Sanders, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, and Raymond Singer.

Contents

Plot

The film opens when the Huns, led by the ruthless Shan Yu (Miguel Ferrer), invade China. The Chinese emperor commands a general mobilization in which each family is given a conscription notice. The story then switches to the Fa family where the only child Fa Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) is preparing to meet the matchmaker that day. She gets ready and meets the matchmaker only to make a spectacle of herself and fail miserably. Later, at home her father Fa Zhou (Soon-Tek Oh) comforts her just as Imperial forces arrive to give out conscription notices. Fa Zhou, having no son to fight, is forced to enlist despite his age and disability (a limp from a previous war). Mulan poses as a man and flees to join the army in his place. The Fa family ancestors, in a bid to protect Mulan, attempt to send the 'Great Stone Dragon' to protect her. Instead, Mushu (Eddie Murphy), a small dragon, ends up travelling with her, in an attempt to regain his position as family guardian after failing to protect an earlier member of the Fa family. He, in turn, is accompanied by a dubiously "lucky" cricket named Cri-kee.

Mulan proceeds into camp and meets fellow soldiers, but under advice from Mushu on how to act like a real man, unwittingly starts a camp-wide brawl. In one of the tents, General Li (James Shigeta) promotes his son Captain Li Shang (B.D. Wong) to Captain and orders him to train new troops while the General attempts to stop Shan Yu at a nearby mountain pass. Outside, Li Shang stops the brawl and questions Mulan, who manages to pass herself off as 'Ping,' the son of the fabled Fa Zhou. Shang begins a grueling training schedule and is visibly disappointed at his new troop's lack of abilities. He is most disappointed by Mulan, whom he eventually orders to return home. She instead succeeds in impressing him by retrieving an arrow from a tall pole while weighed down with brass amulets. The troops, inspired by this, all improve and become good soldiers, particularly Yao, Ling and Chien-Po, who become Mulan's "buddies".

Mushu forges a letter from the General, ordering Captain Shang to meet him at the pass. The troops set out to meet General Li, but find the village at the pass razed and the Imperial Troops slaughtered. After pausing to mourn, they make their way to the Emperor. As they journey, Mushu accidentally fires a cannon, giving their position away to the Huns. Shan Yu and a massive force begin stampeding down a snowbank towards the outnumbered troops. Mulan races to a snowbank and fires the last cannon at the mountain above, causing an avalanche and burying the Huns. Shan Yu, outraged at the loss, critically wounds Mulan before being overcome by snow. Mulan and the troops barely escape the snowbank, with Mulan saving Shang in the process. She succumbs to her wounds shortly after, and while in care, is discovered to be a woman. When Chi Fu, the Emperor's advisor (who had hidden beneath a rock while the others fought) demands she be killed, Shang relents and spares her for saving him, but banishes her from the army as they head to the city. Mulan and Mushu discuss the true reason why they are there: he to get back in the good graces of the ancestors, she to prove she can do something right for a change. As they prepare to leave, Shan Yu and half a dozen of his best warriors emerge from the snow, and head towards the Imperial City. Mulan quickly decides to follow them and warn Shang.

In the Imperial City, the troops are part of a parade in their honor as the 'Heroes of China', but none except Chi Fu are enjoying themselves, as they are in shock about Mulan. Shang is surprised when Mulan rides up, but dismisses her warning. Mulan pleads with the members of the crowd to believe her, but they shake her off. Mushu reminds her she is a girl again, and they will not listen. Shang presents the Emperor with the sword of Shan Yu, but Shan Yu's falcon snatches it from his hands and carries it to his master on the roof of the palace. Shan Yu and his troops reveals themselves, abducting the Emperor and sequestering themselves in his palace. Mulan leads Shang and her three "buddies" (comically disguised as concubines) in a ploy to rescue the Emperor. After a struggle, Mulan eventually overcomes Shan Yu by luring him into the path of fireworks to his apparent death. The Emperor and others in the Imperial City all pay their respects to Mulan by bowing to her. The Emperor presents her with his crest, intending for her to be his successor, technically making Mulan "Princess of China." She also receives Shan Yu's sword to prove her deeds to anyone. He also offers her a position in his cabinet (Chi Fu's position, since none others are open), but Mulan refuses and asks for permission to return home.

Mulan travels home and presents the gifts to her father, but he throws the priceless treasures aside and embraces her, calling her his 'greatest gift and honor'. Shang, having been advised by the Emperor that 'you don't meet a girl like that every dynasty,' has followed her under the guise of returning her helmet. He gladly accepts her invitation to stay for dinner. In return for helping Mulan, First Ancestor Fa gives back Mushu his job as a guardian. Soon, Mushu, Cri-Kee and the ancestors celebrate in a very modern day American way.

Production

Mulan originally began as a short, straight-to-video film titled "China Doll" about an oppressed and miserable Chinese girl who is whisked away by a British Prince Charming to happiness in the West. Then Disney consultant and children's book writer Robert San Souci suggested making a movie of the Chinese poem, "The Song of Fa Mu Lan" and Disney combined the two separate projects.[4]

Development for Mulan began in 1994, after the production team sent a select group of artistic supervisors to China for three weeks to take photographs and drawings of local landmarks for inspiration; and to soak up local culture.[5] The filmmakers decided to change Mulan's character to make her more appealing and selfless[6] and turn the art style closer to Chinese painting, with watercolor and simpler design - opposed to the details of The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.[7]

To create 2,000 Hun soldiers during the Huns' attack sequence, the production team developed a crowd simulation software called Attila. This software allows thousands of unique characters to move autonomously. A variant of the program called Dynasty was used in the final battle sequence to create a crowd of 3,000 in the Forbidden City. Pixar's photorealistic RenderMan was used to render the crowd. Another software developed for this movie was Faux Plane which was used to add depth to flat two-dimensional painting. Although developed late in production progress, Faux Plane was used in five shots, including the dramatic sequence which features the Great Wall of China, and the final battle sequence when Mulan runs to the Forbidden City. During the scene in which the Chinese are bowing to Mulan, the crowd is a panoramic film of real people bowing. It was edited into the animated foreground of the scene.[8]

Cast

From left to right: Cri-Kee; Mushu; Fa Mulan; Kahn

Reception

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Critical reaction

Reception of Mulan was mostly positive, gathering a 86% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.[9] Additionally, the film was ranked seventeenth out of the forty-eight canon Disney animated features in a 2009 countdown at the same website.[10] Kyle Suggs described the visuals as "breathtaking,"[11] and Dan Jardine described the visuals as "magnificently animated."[12] Film critic Roger Ebert gave Mulan three and a half stars out of four in his written review. He said that "Mulan is an impressive achievement, with a story and treatment ranking with Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King". Negative reviews described it as a "disappointment." The songs are accused of not being memorable, and slowing down the pace of the movie.[13] Some reviewers suggest that the film is "soulless" in its portrayal of Asian society.[14]

This movie was also the subject of comment from feminist critics. Mimi Nguyen says the film "pokes fun at the ultimately repressive gender roles that seek to make Mulan a domesticated creature."[15] Nadya Labi agrees, saying "there is a lyric in the film that gives the lie to the bravado of the entire girl-power movement." She pointed out that she needed to become a boy to do it. Kathleen Karlyn, an assistant professor of English at the University of Oregon, criticizes it suggesting "In order to even imagine female heroism, we're placing it in the realm of fantasy". Pam Coats, producer of Mulan, aimed to produce a character that exhibits both masculine and feminine influences, being both physically and mentally strong.[16]

Box office performance

Mulan's opening weekend box office figures were $22.8 million,[17] placing it as the second highest grossing movie that week to The X-Files.[18] It went on to make $120 million domestically and $304 million worldwide, placing it the second highest family film of the year, behind A Bug's Life, and the 7th highest of the year overall.[19] While Mulan outgrossed the two Disney films which preceded it, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules, its box office returns failed to match those of the Disney films of the early 1990s such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.[20] Top international releases include United Kingdom ($14.6 million) and France ($10.2 million).[21]

Awards

Mulan won many Annie Awards. The film itself won the award for Best Animated Theatrical theatres. Individual achievement awards were awarded to Pam Coats for producing; Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft for Directing; Rita Hsiao, Christopher Sanders, Phillip LaZebnick, Raymond Singer and Eugenia Bostwick-Singer in Writing; Chris Sanders for Storyboarding; Hans Bacher for Production Design; David Tidgwell for Effects Animation; Ming-Na for Voice Acting Mulan; Matthew Wilder, David Zippel and Jerry Goldsmith for music and Ruben A. Aquino for Character Animation. Tom Bancroft and Mark Henn were also nominated for Character Animation.[22] The music score also received significant praise. Jerry Goldsmith won the 1999 BMI Film Music Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score in 1998. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Original Music Score in 1998, but was beaten by Stephen Warbeck's score for Shakespeare in Love.[23] Matthew Wilder and David Zippel were also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song the same year for "Reflection". They were beaten by The Truman Show and "The Prayer" from Quest for Camelot respectively.[24]

Reception in China

Disney was keen to promote Mulan to the Chinese, hoping they might replicate their success with their 1994 film The Lion King, which was one of the country's highest-grossing Western films at that time. Disney also hoped it might smooth over relations with the Chinese government which had soured after the release of Kundun, a Disney-funded biography of the Dalai Lama that the Chinese government considered politically provocative.[25] China had threatened to curtail business negotiations with Disney over that film and, as the government only accepts ten Western films per year to be shown in their country, Mulan's chances of being accepted were low.[26] Finally, after a year's delay, the Chinese government did allow the film a limited Chinese release, but only after the Chinese New Year, so as to ensure that local films dominated the more lucrative holiday market.[27][28] Kelly Chen, Coco Lee (Taiwan version) and Xu Qing (Mainland version) voiced Mulan in the Cantonese and Mandarin dubs of the film respectively, while Jackie Chan voiced Shang in all three dubs.

Chinese culture in Mulan

The Legend of Hua Mulan

The Chinese legend of Hua Mulan centers on a young woman who disguises herself as a man to take the place of her elderly father in the army. The story can be traced back to The Ballad of Mulan. The earliest accounts of the legend state that she lived during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534). However another version reports that Mulan was requested as a concubine by Emperor Yang of Sui China (reigned 604–617).[2] The film may take place even later, as it prominently features landmarks such as the Forbidden City which was not constructed until the 15th century during the Ming dynasty. On the other hand, at the time of Northern Wei, the Xiongnu (Huns) had been already absorbed into Chinese culture. However, according to the style of dress (traditional Han clothing, also known as Hanfu), the film takes place sometime in the 15th century or before. The fireworks featured in the movie indicate that the movie is set during the Sui dynasty. Though Mulan is set in north China, where the dominant language is Mandarin,[29] the Disney film uses the Cantonese pronunciation, "Fa", of her family name. Disney's Mulan casts the title character in much the same way as the original legend, a tomboy daughter of a respected veteran, somewhat troubled by not being the "sophisticated lady" her society expects her to be. In the original Mulan legend, Mulan uses her father's name Li and she was never discovered as a girl, unlike the film.

Language

When Mulan masquerades as a man, her name is a pun in Chinese. Her first name is "Ping" (瓶), meaning vase, and her surname (placed first using Chinese naming conventions) means Flower (花). Together they make "Flowerpot", a Chinese term meaning eye candy, decorate-only things or persons, something or someone has got the gift of appearance (usually i.e. a woman or a product etc.) or gab (i.e. a person), but has no wisdom or ability or practical utility. According to Orpheus in Mayfair and Other Stories and Sketches by Maurice Baring, "Ping" in Chinese means soldier-man.[30] But in Chinese dub versions, they chose to use "平"(flat, peace, safe, etc.) for "Ping" instead of "瓶" (vase), to avoid "花瓶's" derogatory sense. Chi Fu's name literally means, in Chinese, "to bully" (欺负).

Music

Mulan features a score by Jerry Goldsmith and five songs by Matthew Wilder (music) and David Zippel (lyrics), with a sixth originally planned for Mushu, but dropped following Eddie Murphy's involvement with the character.[31] The movie's soundtrack is credited for starting the career of pop singer Christina Aguilera, whose first song to be released in the U.S. was her rendition of "Reflection", the first single from the Mulan soundtrack. The song, and Aguilera's vocals, were so well received that it landed her a recording contract with RCA records.[32] In 1999, she would go on to release her self-titled debut album, on which Reflection was also included. As well as her own, the pop version of Reflection has 2 Spanish translations, because the movie has separate Spanish translations for Spain (performed by Malú) and Latin America (performed by Lucero). Other international versions include a Brazilian Portuguese version by Sandy & Junior ("Imagem"), a Korean version performed by Lena Park and a Mandarin version by Coco Lee.

Lea Salonga, the singing voice of Mulan in the movie, is also the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin. The music featured during the haircut scene, often referred as the Mulan Decision score, is different in the soundtrack album. The soundtrack album uses an orchestrated score while the movie uses heavy synthesizer music. The synthesizer version is available on the limited edition CD.[33] Salonga, who enjoys singing movie music in her concerts, has done a Disney medley which climaxes with an expanded version of 'Reflection' (not the same as those in Aguilera's version). Salonga also provided the singing voice for Mulan in the movie's sequel, Mulan II.

The song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" was performed by Donny Osmond, who commented that his sons decided that he had finally "made it" in show business when he was in a Disney film.[34]

References to other media

  • When Mulan sings Reflection, in her father's shrine, her reflection appears in the polished surface of the temple stones. The writing on the stones is the names of the Disney animators who worked on the film written in ancient Chinese.[35]
  • In the scene where Mushu awakens the ancestors, one set of grandparents worry that Mulan's quest will ensure her family loses their farm. This couple appears to be the couple on the farm in Grant Wood's famous painting American Gothic.
  • There are a number of Hidden Mickeys in this film, including the spots on Shang's horse's neck and rump and in the training sequences, the first time the soldiers use their rockets.
  • When Mushu wakes Mulan in her tent, he tells her to show him her 'war face'. This is a reference to the movie Full Metal Jacket.

References to Mulan in other media

References to Mulan in Disney media

Mushu in the game Kingdom Hearts.
  • Although she is technically not the daughter of a king or other form of royalty, nor married to a prince or the equivalent, Mulan is often regarded as one of the Disney Princesses.[3]
  • In the film Lilo & Stitch, Nani has a poster of Mulan in her room.[36]
  • Mulan is present in the Disney and Square Enix video game series Kingdom Hearts. In the first Kingdom Hearts and in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Mushu is a summonable character,[37] and in Kingdom Hearts II, the movie is featured as a playable world named "The Land of Dragons", with the plot being changed to accommodate the game's protagonists (Sora, Donald and Goofy) and Mulan (both as herself and in her Ping identity) able to join the player's party as a skilled sword fighter.[37]

References to Mulan in popular culture

  • The British sitcom Spaced referenced Mulan in the second episode of the second series. In the show, characters are frequently hard-pressed to draw a line between fantasy and reality, and in this scene the character Daisy recalls Mulan as someone she has met "when she was traveling" until another character reminds her it was 'a Disney film'. Daisy also sings a very badly-remembered line of 'Reflection'.[38]
  • In the television show Firefly, Shepherd Book mentions a Chinese warlord named Shan Yu who purportedly believed you could only truly know a man by torturing him.[39]

See also

References

  1. ^ Mulan (1998) - Box office / business
  2. ^ a b J. Lau. "Ode to Mulan". http://www.yellowbridge.com/onlinelit/mulan.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  3. ^ a b "Disney Princess Official Homepage" (SWF). The Walt Disney Company. http://disney.go.com/princess/html/main_iframe.html. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  4. ^ Brown, Corie and Laura Shapiro. "Woman Warrior." Newsweek. Jun 8 1998. Vol 131: p. 64-66.
  5. ^ "Discovering Mulan". Mulan DVD: Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2004. 
  6. ^ "Finding Mulan". Mulan DVD: Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2004. 
  7. ^ "Art Design". Mulan DVD: Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2004. 
  8. ^ Mulan DVD Commentary. [DVD]. Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2004. 
  9. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mulan/. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  10. ^ "Disney Animation Celebration". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/guides/best_disney_animated_movies/. Retrieved 28 November 2009. 
  11. ^ Suggs, Kyle (1998). "Review of Mulan". Christian Spotlight. http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/pre2000/i-mulan.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  12. ^ Jardine, Dan (1998). "Review of Mulan". Apollo Guide. http://www.apolloguide.com/mov_fullrev.asp?CID=549&Specific=1924. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  13. ^ "Review of Mulan". Need Coffee. 1998. http://www.needcoffee.com/html/reviews/mulan.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  14. ^ Gonzales, Ed (1998). "Review of Mulan". Slant Magazine. http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=1301. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  15. ^ Nguyen, Mimi. "Negotiating Asian American superpower in Disney's Mulan". Pop Politics Media LLC. http://www.poppolitics.com/articles/2001/01/05/Whos-Your-Heroine?. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  16. ^ Labi, Nadya (1998-06-26). "Girl Power". TIME Magazine. pp. 1–2. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,988643,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  17. ^ "Box Office Report for Mulan". http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=mulan.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  18. ^ "Box Office Report for X-Files". http://www.boxofficereport.com/byfilm/1998/xfiles.shtml. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  19. ^ "1998 WORLDWIDE GROSSES". http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?view2=worldwide&yr=1998&p=.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  20. ^ Corliss, Richard (2002-06-24). "Stitch in Time?". TIME Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1002724,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  21. ^ Woods, Mark (1998-12-01). "'Mulan' hits $100 mil". Variety. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb1437/is_199812/ai_n5940344. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  22. ^ "26th Annie Award Winners". 1998. http://annieawards.org/26thwinners.html. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  23. ^ "1998 Academy Award Winners". 1999. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0774113.html. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  24. ^ "1998 56th Golden Globe Awards". LA Times. http://theenvelope.latimes.com/extras/lostmind/year/1998/1998gg.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  25. ^ Fessler, Karen (June 23, 1998). "Will Mulan open China to Disney?". Bloomberg News. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4182/is_19980623/ai_n10118444. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  26. ^ Michael Fleeman (1998). "Hollywood hopes more movies will follow Clinton to China". The Associated Press. http://www.tibet.ca/en/wtnarchive/1998/7/12_2.html. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  27. ^ Kurtenbach, Elaine (February 8, 1999). "China Allows Disney Film Screening". Associated Press. http://www.tibet.ca/en/wtnarchive/1999/2/8_5.html. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  28. ^ Shelly Kraicer (August 14, 1999). "China vs. Hollywood : the BBC World Service talks to me". http://www.chinesecinemas.org/bbc.html. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  29. ^ "China Factbook". https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html. 
  30. ^ Baring, Maurice. Orpheus In Mayfair And Other Stories And Sketches. Mills & Boon. ISBN 1-404-32312-0. 
  31. ^ "Songs of Mulan". Mulan DVD: Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2004. 
  32. ^ Smith, Andy. "One talented teen". Providence Journal. 
  33. ^ Clemmensen, Christian (July 7, 2007). "Filmtracks: Mulan (Jerry Goldsmith)". http://www.filmtracks.com/titles/mulan.html. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  34. ^ Scheerer, Mark (1998-07-08). "Donny Osmond rolls with the punches for 'Mulan' success". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/Music/9807/08/donny.osmond/. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  35. ^ Mulan Easter Egg Archive
  36. ^ "Lilo & Stitch Easter Egg Archive". www.eeggs.com. http://www.eeggs.com/items/40473.html. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  37. ^ a b "Official Kingdom Hearts Website" (SWF). 2006-02-08. http://na.square-enix.com/games/kingdomhearts/index4.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  38. ^ Nick Lee. "Spaced Out - Episode Guide". http://www.spaced-out.org.uk/episode-guides/series-two/unofficial/e2.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  39. ^ Shack, Twop (2002-12-10). "Girl-on-girl action! Woooo!". Yahoo! TV. http://tv.yahoo.com/firefly/show/war-stories/episode/8926/recap. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 

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