Directors Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook’s likeable, intriguing and attractively different 1998 Walt Disney animated feature retells an old Chinese folk tale about the story of Mulan (voice of Ming-Na Wen), a young Chinese maiden who learns that her lame father is to be drafted into the army to fight the invading Huns. So, to save her father from death, she secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China’s greatest heroines.
But her ancestors try to prevent it and command the tiny disgraced dragon Mushu (voice of Eddie Murphy) to join her so he can force her to abandon her plan. Instead, when he meets Mulan, Mushu finds he can’t talk her out of it and decides to join in helping her.
A slightly bold move for the studio out of its comfort zone, it’s entertaining and richly enjoyably, though it slightly lacks the charisma of the very best of the Disney animation classics – Snow White, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.
The appealing new songs by Matthew Wilder (music) and David Zippel (lyrics) and great orchestral score by Jerry Goldsmith are big assets. The trio were Oscar nominated for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score. And Goldsmith was Golden Globe nominated for Best Original Score, with the other two nominated for Best Original Song for the song ‘Reflection’.
Though Murphy’s voice can be a bit grating and abrasive, Disney carefully and painstakingly ensure that there are beautiful animation images. The strong story and cute characters are especially successful ones, capturing the attention and imagination, and there are lots of funny lines and scenes throughout the movie.
Lea Salonga is the singing voice of Mulan, B D Wong voices Shang, with Donny Osmond as his singing voice, June Foray voices Grandmother Fa, with Marni Nixon as her singing voice, Pat Morita is the voice of the Emperor, Harvey Fierstein is the voice of Yao, James Hong is Chi Fu and George Takei is First Ancestor.
© Derek Winnert 2015 Classic Movie Review 2219
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