Mulan – Special Edition

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Rating: G

Starring:
Ming-Na as Fa Mulan/Fa Ping (voice)
B.D. Wong as Captain Li Shang (voice)
Soon-Tek Oh as Fa Zhou (voice)
Eddie Murphy as Mushu the Demoted One (voice)
Harvey Fierstein as Yao (voice)
Gedde Watanabe as Ling (voice)
Miguel Ferrer as Shan-Yu (voice)
James Hong as Chi Fu (voice)
Pat Morita as The Emperor of China (voice)
June Foray as Grandmother Fa (voice)
James Shigeta as General Li (voice)
Freda Foh Shen as Fa Li (voice)
Miriam Margolyes as Matchmaker (voice)
Jerry Tondo as Chien-Po (voice)
George Takei as First Ancestor (voice)
Frank Welker as Khan the Horse/Little Brother the Dog/Cri-Kee the Lucky Cricket (voice)

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes — Never-Before-Heard Song; Alternate Openings

Music Videos Featuring Jackie Chan, Raven, And Christina Aguilera

“Discovering MULAN” — Embark On A Behind-The-Scenes Adventure With The Filmmakers

Early Presentation Reels

Progression Reels

DisneyPedia: “Mulan’s World” — Explore The Fascinating World Of Ancient China With Your Host, Mushu

MULAN Fun Facts

Audio Commentary

Storyboard-To-Film Comparisons

Songs of MULAN

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.66:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
THX Certified
Spanish, French, and Mandarin Languages
Running Time: 88 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally released in 1998. The following is the text from the DVD cover:

“Full of daring action and hilarious characters, the fun-filled MULAN SPECIAL EDITION celebrates honor, courage, and the importance of family. The Washington Post proclaims Disney’s MULAN is “gorgeously animated . . . stirringly told!”

Clever Mulan proves her worth outside of her tradition-bound society when, disguised as a male soldier, “Ping,” she bravely takes her father’s place in the Imperial Army. Helped by her outrageously funny guardian dragon Mushu and a lucky cricket named Cri-Kee, Mulan strives to earn the respect of her fellow warriors and their courageous Captain Shang. Mulan’s adventures lead to a climactic battle atop the Imperial Palace, where her family’s honor and the fate of the Emperor and all of China rests in her hands!

And now, this new 2-Disc Special Edition includes spectacular bonus features for families and collectors — deleted scenes, all-new music videos, games, and an exclusive sneak peek of the all-new movie MULAN II! “This warrior is a winner!” raves People magazine.”

Mulan is rated G.

The Movie:
I remember seeing Mulan in the theaters when it first came out. After being under-whelmed by The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Pocahontas, I was wondering if Disney animation had lost its touch. While Mulan wasn’t a homerun out of the park, it was a solid effort that restored my faith that they could deliver. Mulan had beautiful artwork, a strong voice cast, and memorable songs that came together into an entertaining family film.

The animation in Mulan had an eye catching Asian influence. The backgrounds were unique and beautifully painted. The characters featured a wide variety of shapes and sizes that were fun. Little touches of Chinese culture here and there were also memorable from the opening watercolors to the pink blossoms on the trees. This film also built on the computer animation used in other Disney films. The “Hun Charge”, while very similar to the wildebeest stampede in The Lion King, features hundreds of unique characters, sweeping camera angles, and a degree of detail not used before. All of this made for an impressively animated movie.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the music of the film. “Reflection” is a beautiful song that fills the typical moment of desire and longing for something better in the featured character. “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” is a stirring, testosterone filled piece that is sung by Donny Osmond. Some amusing training moments make a great backdrop for it. Finally, “True To Your Heart” sung by Stevie Wonder and 98 Degrees is also a great pop tune that is a fun conclusion to the film.

The voice cast is also great. Eddie Murphy obviously leads them as the little dragon Mushu. His performance is extremely similar to his role as Donkey in Shrek, but that doesn’t make much difference. He’s still fun and provides most of the comic relief for the movie. I’ll always remember Miguel Ferrer as the bad guy from Robocop, so I can’t think of anyone better to play the lead Hun Shan-Yu than him. He has a great, deep, evil voice. Ming-Na is also excellent as Fa Mulan. Character actors B.D. Wong, Pat Morita, and James Hong play many of the other roles along with Star Trek’s George Takei as First Ancestor.

The story itself seems to be a faithful translation of the original Chinese ballad, but it’s a little annoying that Western views of feminism have been imposed on the tale. There’s nothing wrong with the message that they’re portraying and it’s fine for American audiences, but I have to wonder what the Chinese thought of Mulan being turned into an American heroine.

Overall, though, Mulan is a fun family film filled with action, adventure, romance, comedy, drama, and music. It’s a required addition to the DVD collection of Disney fans and a film well worth checking out for new fans that didn’t see it in theaters.

The Extras:
Like the other Disney special edition DVDs, this release is jam packed with extras. The only thing it lacks is interviews with the voice talent from the film. There’s no footage of Eddie Murphy, Ming Na, or anyone else that had a role. I’m starting to think that they were left out because they would have to have been paid more. Anyway, there’s still enough here to keep you busy for hours:

Deleted Scenes – There are seven deleted scenes included here. The first is “Keep ‘Em Guessing”, a song sung by Mushu that was deleted from the film. It’s a jazzy song that seems to emphasize the whole cross dressing thing a little much. It’s not that great and probably better left out of the film. Then there are two alternate openings to the film. One is a shadow puppet play that briefly gave the history of the Great Wall, the Huns, and China. It has some nice animation. Another alternate opening shows Mulan dreaming of herself as a big adventurer. One of the deleted scenes shows Mulan’s family negotiating for her betrothal. You hear the fathers bartering over her and Mulan actually bumps into her fiancée while sneaking around. In another deleted scene Shan-Yu is shown violently ransacking a building and killing one of his men. While it makes him more evil, it’s a little intense for kiddies. Then there’s a scene where the Emperor dreams of the impending invasion and a hero rising to save them. There’s well over 20 minutes of material here to keep you busy.

Music Videos – There are five music video included. One shows Christina Aguilera singing “Reflection”. Interestingly, the Spanish version of “Reflection” is also shown with another singer performing in the exact same locations and sets as Aguilera. I guess the different music video versions were mass produced at the same time. Stevie Wonder and 98 Degrees (with Nick Lachey) sing “True To Your Heart”. It’s a fun video showing them all singing in and around Chinatown while Lachey stalks an Asian woman. This is followed up by former Cosby Kid Raven singing her version of the song. While she does a good job, I prefer the Stevie Wonder version. Finally, Jackie Chan (who was Li Shang in the Chinese version of the film) performs the Chinese version of “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”. The video alternates between scenes of him stiffly singing the lyrics and doing martial arts. It’s a fun addition for Chan fans.

Backstage Disney – This is the massive behind the scenes presentation on the making of Mulan. It is similar to the “making of” features on the other Disney Special Editions. They cover the creation of the story, the “artist’s journey”, design, production, the songs, and more. Along the way you’ll see the actual Ballad of Hua Mulan, early presentation reels, storyboard-to-film comparisons, galleries, and more. My favorite portions were where they described how they used computer animation to make the Hun Charge and other elements of the film. There’s also a really interesting feature on how they translated Mulan into other languages around the world. Everything but the voice cast interviews is included here.

DisneyPedia: “Mulan’s World” – Mushu spouts out facts about the characters, locations, and situations seen in the film. While it’s interesting, kids expecting games will be disappointed.

MULAN Fun Facts – With this feature turned on, you can have trivia pop up as you watch the movie. If you’ve seen the film before, you may find this fun to turn on.

Audio Commentary – This commentary by the directors and producers is interesting. They point out detail you might otherwise miss in the film and they have a lot to say about story development, the artwork, casting, and more.

The Bottom Line:
If you already own Mulan on DVD and you enjoyed it, you’ll probably find this Special Edition worth buying for the bonus features. With action, adventure, comedy, romance, and music, it’s a fun family film worth adding to your collection.

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