Many of Disney’s most popular animated feature films are the bright and cheerful ones that are filled with friendly colors and fairly agreeable themes. Films like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King are some of Disney’s biggest animated hits, but as the studio continued to turn out movies, they would progressively experiment with slightly more mature themes and stories. One of the most impressive examples of this is Mulan, which was a success upon its release, but wasn’t heralded with the same enthusiasm as Disney’s more “fun” animated films.
Mulan represents the changing sensibilities within Disney and in many ways the film marks the end of an era for the studio. Mulan still resonates with audiences and a live-action remake is on the way, but how well do you really know this under-appreciated Disney Princess? Accordingly, Here Are 20 Facts About Mulan That’ll Ruin Your Childhood.
20 Mulan Takes Nearly 4000 Lives In The Film
Mulan isn't just the first Disney animated film to have such a considerable body count and grapple with death, but it's also a rare exception where its heroine, a Disney princess, is responsible for a lot of the bloodshed. Of the thousands of Huns that attack, only six survive and then one is taken out later (by Mushu, no less). This brings Mulan's body count to a staggering 3994 if you count the horses that also perish.
19 Eddie Murphy Recorded Mushu's Line During Breaks And Spare Time
It's standard procedure for actors to record their lines in Disney's studios. Eddie Murphy was a big get for Disney so when he later pushed to record his lines within the comfort of the studio in his own home, they agreed. Allegedly, Eddie Murphy recorded his lines during his breaks between other projects at the time, like Holy Man.
18 Footage From Aladdin Is Reused In The Film
During the sequence in Mulan where the Forbidden City is visited, there's actually footage from Aladdin's "A Whole New World" number that gets repurposed in Mulan. Granted, changes are made to make this less obvious, but it's an example of the production being more frugal with their resources when they had so much to get done.
17 The Ancient Chinese Words In The Temple During "Reflection" Are Just Vanity Cards
There's plenty of inspirational phrases featured throughout Mulan, so it's not ridiculous to think that something similar would happen during the inspirational "Reflection" number. During this song, there's a scene where there's Chinese writing scrawled on the walls of the temple. Rather than sage advice, these are actually just the names of some of Disney's animators written in Chinese.
16 The Film Was Nearly Rated PG For The Use Of A Certain Word
It's very much the norm for Disney animated films to be rated G for all audiences, so a PG rating wasn't a huge obstacle, but it would have been something to consider. Curiously, while the film features depictions of warfare and death, it's the use of the word "cross-dresser" that caused the uproar and nearly got them the PG rating. It's the only Disney film to feature the word.
15 Part Of The Film's Goal Was To Repair Disney's Relationship With China
Disney had produced Scorsese’s Kundun, which had caused a lot of problems and led to bad blood with China. The animators were especially careful to not make things worse and to try and repair this relationship as best as possible. China only released ten Western films every year and Disney animated films always performed well over there, so it was very important for them to get the film released over there.
14 Lea Salonga Wasn't Allowed To Play Mulan, But Was Still Her Singing Voice
Lea Salonga auditioned for the role of Mulan along with many other talented actresses and while she did an impressive job, she wasn't able to make her voice get low enough for the scenes where Mulan has to pretend to be a man. As a result of this, Ming-Na Wen instead went on to play Mulan, however, Salonga still got to be Mulan's singing voice. It's a strange "reward" from all of this.
13 It Started The Szechuan Sauce Craze
Modern times and fandom are absolutely insane and it's possible for a show like Rick and Morty can incite a whole mob and get a major fast-food chain to revive a retired dipping sauce. Rick and Morty might have caused this fervor, but Szechuan sauce was created in the first place as a promotion for Mulan. So in a strange way, Mulan is responsible for all of that madness and history may repeat itself once again when the live-action remake comes out.
12 Mulan's Motivation Was Supposed To Be A Resentment For Her Society
Mulan paints the touching story of a woman overcoming adversity and beating a system to help save her father, but in the original draft Mulan's motivation for joining the army was so she could escape from her environment. Glimpses of that resentment are still there, but animators thought it made the character seem too disagreeable, so they went with a more emotional motivation.
11 Bruce Willis Was Originally Cast As Li Shang
At one point in Mulan's production it looked like the film was looking for some heavier hitters and more mainstream celebrity voice talents. Bruce Willis was supposed to play Mulan's love interest, Li Shang, before he was replaced by BD Wong. The situation here is that Disney likely determined that they should have as many Asian actors as possible playing these roles.
10 The Film Cribs Some Music From Peter Pan
Some very observant viewers may have noticed that the film's theme song over the opening credits and the melody in the number "Honor to Us All" is actually the same nameless tune that Peter Pan plays on his pan flute in his animated film. The Mulan numbers obviously add a lot to the simple melody, but it's a very surprising connection.
9 The Film Is Responsible For Christina Aguilera’s Success
Believe it or not, but Christina Aguilera’s first big hit is “Reflection,” which is featured on Mulan’s soundtrack. The song and Aguilera’s performance were so well received that this is what led to her recording contract with RCA Records. It’s there that she put out her first big release and found mainstream success.
8 The Film Was Largely Put Together By Disney's Fledgling Studio In Florida
Mulan was still a very intense production, but it was originally going to be even crazier and invite a much darker atmosphere. When Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney, the tone shifted to become lighter and the reins were handed over to the new feature film unit in Florida. At this point, Florida's division had mostly just worked on shorts, so taking on Mulan was a major responsibility.
7 Harvey Fierstein Was Reluctant To Voice A Chinese Character
Whitewashing of casts in movies it something that Hollywood and the public have gained an increased sensitivity towards, but things are still far from perfect. Curiously, Harvey Fierstein displayed this level of respect and foresight back in the '90s. He was asked to play Yao, a Chinese character, which he didn't want to do because he'd be taking a role from a prospective Asian actor. After Disney told Fierstein that the film would feature a cast full of Asian voice actors, he agreed to take on the role.
6 "Reflection" Was Originally A Much Longer Number
Christina Aguilera's "Reflection" was still enough of a banger to help put her on the map, but the original version of the song and the sequence that accompanies it was considerably longer. The animation featured more of Mulan decompressing from her disguise as well as a sequence where Mulan peacefully rides Khan. When the film was running on the longer side, "Reflection" seemed like a solid place for the film to save some time.
5 Cutting Edge Technology Was Used To Make The Film Possible
Disney experimented with a new computer animation software, "Atilla," in order to pull off the scene where thousands of Huns are riding on horseback. The same technology would help the film pull off the busy crowd sequences that sometimes feature as many as 30,000 individuals. Mulan had almost 700 animators and technicians working on the film to bring this feat to life.
4 Jackie Chan Made A Music Video Out Of "I'll Make A Man Out Of You"
It’s common practice for Disney films to get redubbed in other countries by the big actors of their respective region. In China, Jackie Chan not only voices Li Shang, but he also provides the character’s singing voice. However, Chan goes one step further and actually made a music video in China for one of the song's big numbers, “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You.” It’s a testament to Chan’s level of celebrity in his homeland.
3 It Was The Last Disney Animated Film With Musical Elements For Over A Decade
During Disney's renaissance, it was a foregone conclusion that their animated films would feature a number of fun songs. This was true for a while, but Mulan was the film that broke that cycle. They went a different route after Mulan and while the occasional film like The Princess and the Frog will return to Disney's musical roots, it's now no longer the norm.
2 It's The First Disney Animated Film To Tackle War
Disney animated films sometimes tackle more mature topics, but they usually don’t get so heavy as to venture into areas like conscription and warfare. Mulan covers dark territory and it’s full of a surprising amount of fatalities. Add to that the film’s themes about a patriarchal society that oppresses women and it’s a lot for the typical Disney crowd to take in.
1 It Was Supposed To Be An Animated Short
Mulan's life began as an animated short film called "China Doll," that looked at an unhappy and subjugated Chinese girl being taken away to find happiness in the West with a British prince-like figure. Eventually the idea of turning the Chinese poem, "The Song of Fa Mu Lan" into a movie came about and these two ideas were absorbed into one.
Sources: Disney.com, IMDB.com, Disney.Fandom.com