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Mulan
DVD disk
11.08.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Mulan order
Director:
Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook

Actors:
Ming Na
B.D. Wong
Eddie Murphy

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
During a dynasty-era invasion by the dreaded Huns, Mulan, a young Chinese girl aching to prove her worth to her family cuts her locks and dons her armor when a conscription notice arrives addressed to her ailing father. Masquerading as a young male soldier named “Ping”, Mulan makes her way to battle in order to save her land and her emperor while protecting her true identity.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?

This is one of the very few Disney flicks which I had yet to see and boy was I glad I finally got the chance. The subject matter is much more mature than what is usually expected and the fairy tale elements were greatly reduced which made this a bit different from what the studio has gotten us sued to in the past. I still had a blast watching this and listening to some of the best film songs I've heard in a good long while. There's simply not a slow moment in this film which has a great balance of action, sentimentality and all-important Disney values. The bombastic score and fantastic musical elements notwithstanding, MULAN is also packed to the brim with some fantastic animation and a unique look that blends the old school forms with the emerging (at the time) more angular look of Asian style animation. Mixing in some traditional Chinese elements made this whole movie a wonder to look at. I'm that guy who usually scoffs at anything CGI but I'd be lying if I said the Huns' run down the mountain didn't get me going. There are a couple of scenes in there that fans of any large scale epic, be it animated or not, will get a definite rush out of.

Mulan herself is an engaging character, heroic, sensible and beautiful at the same time. The usual recipe is also applied to the supporting characters which provide comic relief, friendship and advice to the main character. Eddie Murphy is hilarious as Mushu, a pint-sized dragon assigned by Mulan's ancestors to protect her during her journey. I think it was actually Eddie's last good role before his descent into the seventh layer of hell, also known as THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. The one thing I can't really speak on for lack of knowledge is the factual resemblance to Chinese history which was a complaint many had about the film but I can't really say as I've ever slapped a Disney DVD in my player to get a history lesson. The one thing that bothered me a tad was that the film, at 88 minutes, is a bit too short and some of the scenes came and went a tad too quick. Nevertheless, MULAN is yet another well earned notch in Uncle Walt's bedpost, a fun, vibrant film with superb music and lots of laughs and emotional peaks. Make sure you catch this one for both yourself and your little ones.

THE EXTRAS

DISC 1

Deleted Scenes (22 mins): Seven deleted scenes, in various degrees of completion can be viewed here with intros by the filmmakers. The interesting thing in animation is that contrary to many live action movies, a lot of the deleted scenes included on DVDs are actually relevant. These are damn good, especially the one in which the villain is revealed a bit more than he was in the film (Shan-Yu Destroys the Village) although the scene is probably a bit more hardcore than would have been left in anyway in order to get the G rating since I'm not sure gut-stabbings qualify.

Music & More (18 mins): You can catch a few music videos of some tunes from the film, not necessarily by the artists who sang them originally. "Reflection" is performed by a pre-slut Christina Aguilera, two versions of "True To Your Heart", one by Stevie Wonder and 98° and the other by Raven. A Spanish version of "Reflection" appears on Disc 2. The unlikely highlight is a version of "I'll Make a Man Out Of You" sung by Jackie Chan. Strangely enough, I can actually understand Jackie Chan much better when he speaks Chinese than when he speaks English! The things you learn...

Games & Activities (25 mins): There's actually only one game here called DisneyPedia: Mulan's World and it's not even really a game. You can basically scroll over elements of the movie, such as the characters and some objects from the film and get a bit of an explanation as to what they are and what the history behind them is. Slightly educational.

Backstage Disney (Full Length): This begins with an audio commentary by directors Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook and producer Pam Coates. It's actually a very interesting track as they usually are for this type of film simply because the extreme amount of work required backstage makes for a ton of topics to discuss. You can follow this up with a two-minutes long Fun Fact track.

DISC 2

Story Artist' Journey (9 mins): You'll find two little featurettes in this section, the first one defining just how the filmmaker crew managed to pin down just what they wanted out of the Mulan character in order to make the film they wanted to make while staying relatively true to the true story of Hua Mulan form the Chinese poem that inspired the film. The second one is a section of storyboard-to-film comparisons.

Design (15 mins): Focusing on the artistic look and feel of MULAN, this section explores, through 3 different vignettes, the work that went behind the design of the characters, the background, and the color palette selected for the film. You can then have dessert with a few photo galleries representing all your favorite characters from the film.

Production (20 mins): A lot of info dished out here about how exactly this movie got made in technical terms. It's hardly anything new but as I always say about DVD features, you'll only like them as much as you liked the film. Here you'll get to see a  scene from its initial conception to its completion and travel through each stage of production, You can also do the same for  some of the CG work that went into MULAN. Good for a quick look.

Songs of Mulan (5 mins): This is a wonderful yet short explanation of how a song is introduced and eventually fitted into a movie of this type. A lot more work and heartache than most would imagine and with songs as effective as these, it's worth the time to quickly check out what the driving force behind them is and how it works.

International Mulan (10 mins): This is a look at the process of translating the movie for different international markets. The last time I saw something of this type was on the Special Edition THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY DVD which had to be translated from Italian to English. They basically have to rewrite the movie to make it fit with the lip movements, which is like making it backwards. You can check out a quick reel after that of "I'll Make a Man Out of You" in a few dozen different languages. The Stills Gallery of publicity shots is also in this section.

FINAL DIAGNOSIS
My increasingly mysterious infatuation with these Disney animation flicks just got that much more intense with MULAN, a fantastic movie with unbelievable rewatch value (try three times this week!). With a good DVD package to accompany it, it's definitely worth it to make this an addition to your top DVD shelf whether or not you have little tykes running around the house. Good for young and old, you'll get every penny's worth out of this baby.
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