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Hollywood Rewind | Mulan: An unlikely Disney tale of courage, conviction and female power

Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Mulan was released during the period of 'Disney Renaissance,' a time when after years of slump, the brand was reinventing itself by churning out commercially viable and critically acclaimed movies.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: November 30, 2020 2:32:15 pm
disney's mulan Mulan is a path-breaking Disney film.

Mulan movie cast: Ming Na-wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong
Mulan movie directors: Barry Cook and Tony Bankcroft
Mulan movie rating: 4 stars

Over the years, I have watched Disney’s 1998 classic Mulan many times, and the one lesson and one quote from the film that has remained with me all this time is — “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

Disney movies, animations in particular, are often preachy by nature. However, the makers know how to mix things up. Add songs, a hero (and in Mulan’s case, a heroine) that everyone looks up to and some comic relief. When put simplistically like that, it becomes easy to decipher why these features work. But Mulan was more than a bunch of stereotypes put together. Especially considering the year it was released, it’s significance in cinematic history takes a serious turn.

Up until Mulan’s release, Disney barely had any path-breaking female characters leading their team fearlessly, and the kind of women who were portrayed as ‘different’ or ‘bold’ always needed a prince charming to rescue them in some capacity. And here is where Mulan turned things on its head, as far as a Disney movie is concerned. For here was a woman who not only ended up saving ‘a man,’ but the pride and dignity of her nation altogether.

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Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, the film was released during the period of ‘Disney Renaissance,’ a time when after years of slump, the brand was reinventing itself by churning out commercially viable and critically acclaimed movies.

Hua Mulan’s legend is based on a ballad of the same name where a female warrior takes her father’s place in the army by disguising herself as a man. Of course, when the premise is such, you go in with the expectation of being struck dumb by the patriarchal tone of the movie. But looking at the period the film is based in, it is important to keep in mind what must have been the societal conditioning and thinking at that point. Songs like “Honour to Us All” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” reek of entitlement. But the most beautiful thing about Mulan is that not only the titular character, but people around Mulan evolve as the feature progresses. Towards the end, we see that Mulan earns the respect of the emperor as well as people of her nation, as they bow down to honour her. Moments like these are thrilling to watch and must have been more so two decades ago when the film had first released. It is post this sequence that the emperor tells Captain Li Shang that he should think about approaching Mulan romantically, and he chooses to espouse her qualities in the lovely quote that was mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Hollywood Rewind: Ratatouille | Shutter Island | Her | Dead Poets Society | Sleepless in Seattle | Waitress | Pride and Prejudice | The Dark Knight | Before Sunset | School of Rock | About a Boy | A Few Good Men | 50/50 | Begin Again | Brooklyn | Drive | Chocolat | Batman Begins | 10 Things I Hate About You | The Departed | Freedom Writers | Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | TangledMeet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles

Helmed by Barry Cook and Tony Bankcroft, Mulan featured voices of Ming Na-Wen, Eddie Murphy and BD Wong among others. Like many other Disney productions, Mulan too has got a live-action remake. Featuring Yifei Liu in the lead role, the film will begin streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar from December 4.

Mulan is available for streaming on Hotstar.

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