A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although Mulan is a decidedly Disneyfied take on a Chinese fairy tale, elements of Chinese culture and history ring true. It also offers kids a strong female character who (like Moana and Merida) stands out from the Disney Princess pack and offers a positive gender representation for young viewers (even though gender-related stereotypes are also sometimes played for laughs). Expect some scary/intense battle scenes, weapons use, explosions, sad moments, and a very menacing bad guy. The Huns destroy Chinese villages and kill people (not shown). There's a bit of flirting/romantic tension. While Mulan ultimately becomes a hero and helps her people, she does so by rebelling against authority, which is worth discussing. But in the end, this is a story about perseverance, teamwork, and courage that's bound to choke up dads and daughters everywhere.
What's the story?
Based on the story of China's legendary girl warrior, MULAN, this animated Disney film begins as the Huns invade China and the army calls up its best soldiers. Mulan's father is on the list, but she can see that he's too weak from an old injury to fight. So instead of staying home to find a husband, Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na Wen) dresses like a man and heads off to war, taking her father's place. Her ancestors try to send a powerful dragon to help her, but a scrawny dragon named Mushu (Eddie Murphy) sneaks off with her instead. Mulan struggles at first but becomes a brave and skilled fighter against the Huns -- and finds new friends in unexpected places.
Is it any good?
Disney took a gamble on Mulan -- she doesn't fit the princess mold, and most moviegoers had never heard of her -- and the end results are a bit mixed. The songs and supporting characters aren't particularly memorable, but the settings are gorgeous, and Mulan herself is one of a kind in the Disney canon (it's too bad that in the end she still needs to be married off to a "Prince Charming" who saves the day).
Still, many aspects of Chinese culture are incorporated into Mulan -- such as reverence to one's ancestors, the significance of dragons, and the importance of honor. The DVD includes a feature that shows how the filmmakers researched not only the Mulan legend but also Chinese art, architecture, history, and culture. There's also a feature for kids that explains the film's many cultural references, as well as deleted scenes and songs.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Mulan reconciles defying her parents' wishes and the law versus doing what she thinks she must. When should people follow their inner beliefs first and foremost?
Do you consider Mulan a role model? How does she compare to Disney's other heroes?
- In theaters: June 19, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: October 26, 2004
- Cast: B.D. Wong, Eddie Murphy, Harvey Fierstein, Ming-Na
- Director: Barry Cook
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses and Fairies, Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, History, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Courage, Humility, Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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