Fun Facts about Disney's "Mulan"
- It is rumored that Mulan led to the Chinese government lifting a ban against all Disney movies that was implemented after the 1996 release of Kundun, a film that was sympathetic to the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama. Mulan was shown in over 100 cities throughout China when it was released in 1999.
- In 2013, Mulan was redesigned as being more light-skinned and with blue eyes. Her clothing didn’t match anything she wore in the movie. This sparked some controversy for Disney. People believed that the company was sending the wrong message that you had to have Caucasian features to be a princess or appear beautiful. Her original red and gold clothing were chosen because they represent luck and prosperity. They may have been changed because they could be interpreted as representing communism. Disney responded to the negative response by darkening her skin, changing her clothes to match the film more closely, and changing her eyes back to brown.
Origin of the Story
The film is based on the Ballad of Mulan, which was written in the 6th century. According to the legend, Mulan was a real woman (veracity unknown) who lived during the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) and fought against the Mongolian and Nomadic invaders with the Chinese army for 12 years. The setting suggests that she would have practiced in the art of kung fu and sword fighting. The story specifically describes Fa Mulan, also known as Hua Mulan, as a woman who was comfortable with archery and riding horses. This is at odds with the Disney adaptation; the titular character was unskilled with weaponry and clumsy in military drill exercises.
The Ballad of Mulan was lengthened into a book during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644.) It was unique for its time as it discussed gender equality. This commentary made the story popular over time.
How Mulan Is Different From Other Heroines
- She is left-handed, which is often a symbol of being different.
- She is the first Disney Princess to not be an actual princess as she wasn’t born to royalty. She also didn’t marry a prince.
- She’s also the first Disney Princess to be raised by her biological parents for her entire childhood and the second to have both of her parents alive during her childhood. The first was Aurora.
- She is the second Princess to be seen wearing pants. The first was Jasmine.
- She’s the first Princess to not sing about her love for a hero or prince.
- She is the first Princess to be seen getting a haircut in a Disney movie.
- She is the first Princess to be visibly, physically wounded.
- Mulan is the first Disney Princess to be seen in her undergarments and the third to be seen naked; the first two were Ariel and Cinderella.
- Of all the Disney Princesses, she spends the most screen time nude. The nudity is covered as it’s a family movie.
- She is the only Disney Princess to have a wedding dress that isn’t white; she wears a more traditional red dress. In Chinese culture, red represents prosperity and love.
- Many viewers confuse her outfit for a Japanese kimono instead of the Chinese hanfu she is actually wearing.
Keep 'Em Guessing
- A cover song made it higher on the charts than any of the original songs. No singles from the soundtrack made the Hot 100 charts, but Christina Aguilera’s cover of Reflection reached #19 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
- Two original songs were deleted from the soundtrack. Unlike other Disney films with deleted tracks, the soundtrack has not been re-released to include those tracks.
- Keep ‘Em Guessing was removed when Eddie Murphy was cast as Mushu. However, it was released as a special feature on the DVD release of Mulan II. Eddie Murphy couldn’t do the voice for Mushu in that film because of his contract for Shrek 2.
- The song Written in Stone was replaced by Reflections. It was released in the stage performance Mulan Jr.
Written in Stone
Tradition Behind Shang's Military Techniques
- The act of punishing the entire camp for a single soldier’s mistake is a common technique used to prevent sympathy for a soldier if they were singled out. It taught recruits that troublemakers were not welcome. This was used by Shang when he made the army pick up all the spilled rice, effectively turning the men against Mulan.
- It was also common for leaders to single out smart mouths and humiliate them. This was done to dissuade others from agreeing with them or befriending them. Shang does this by telling Yao to retrieve the arrow at the top of the pole.
Meaning Behind the Character's Names
- Mulan means magnolia blossom in Chinese. This makes the scene where her father compares her to a beautiful, but late blooming, blossom even more meaningful.
- Ancient Chinese legends describe three kings named Yao, Shun, and Yu. It’s no accident that the self-appointed leader of Mulan’s three friends is named Yao.
- Fa Ping, Mulan’s name when disguised as a man, means flower pot. This is slang for either eye candy or for an effeminate homosexual man. This explains the jokes the soldiers make in regards to Mulan and her lack of masculinity. It also adds comedy to Mushu’s complaint about his best friend, also named Fa Ping, stealing his girlfriend.
- Shang’s name in the Mandarin version is Xiang, which means to soar. It is pronounced like this by General Li in the original English version of the film.
- Khan, the name of Mulan’s horse, translates to prince.
Shang and Mulan's Yin Yang Necklace
In Taoist philosophy, yin represents female, darkness, earth, passiveness, tiger, winter, moon, cold, and death. Yang, the opposite of yin, represents masculinity, light, sky, activity, dragon, summer, sun, heat, and life. Together, they represent balance. The symbols for yin and yang includes a small piece of the other. This represents the idea that nothing is entirely its own self but rather a balance of both.
When Mulan and Shang share a yin yang necklace, Mulan actually keeps the yang, or masculine, half. This may have been done to show that Shang’s gentle nature and Mulan’s tomboyish personality complement each other.