AFI Movie Club: MULAN – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: MULAN

MULAN is an animated tale of a spirited, young woman who disguises herself as a man to fight in the army in her father’s place. The film began in development when AFI Honorary Degree recipient Jeffrey Katzenberg was Chairman of Walt Disney Studios and was released to critical and commercial acclaim.

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MULAN – Reelgood

Watch MULAN co-writer Lorna Cook talk about the film in this exclusive AFI Archive video:

Movie Trivia about MULAN

DID YOU KNOW? The film is based on the Chinese legend of “Hua Mulan” – a female warrior who disguised herself as a man to prevent her father from being conscripted into the army. The earliest record of her story appears in the poem “The Ballad of Mulan,” which has been passed down for generations. 

DID YOU KNOW? Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida – a satellite animation studio located in Walt Disney World in Orlando – produced three feature-length films, starting with MULAN in 1998. 

DID YOU KNOW? MULAN is the first Disney animated film to feature an Asian heroine. 

DID YOU KNOW? Mulan was voiced by two actresses – one for speaking and one for singing.  The speaking role went to Ming-Na Wen, but the songs were performed by Tony Award® winner Lea Salonga. You may recognize Salonga’s voice as she also performed the songs for Princess Jasmine in the Disney classic ALADDIN. Mulan was not the only character that was voiced by multiple actors. Actor BD Wong shared the role of Shang with Donny Osmond who sang “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” 

DID YOU KNOW? Disney animators often pull characteristics from the voice actors when designing their characters – and Ming-Na Wen, the voice of Mulan, was no exception. After noticing that Wen had a habit of touching her hair, the artists decided that Mulan would, too. 

DID YOU KNOW?  Jackie Chan did the voice for Shang and performed the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” in the Mandarin and Cantonese versions of MULAN. 

DID YOU KNOW? The character of Mulan is the only Disney Princess who isn’t actually royalty. She wasn’t born into royalty, nor does she marry a prince. 

DID YOU KNOW? Christina Aguilera, a former Mickey Mouse Club member, made her debut on the charts in 1998 at the age of 16 with the song “Reflection” from the MULAN soundtrack. 

DID YOU KNOW? The film’s directors, Barry Cook and Tony Brancoft, make a cameo in the film – they can be seen as the men lighting the fireworks near the end of the movie. 

DID YOU KNOW? Due to the success of the animated classic, Disney produced a live action remake of MULAN, set to be released in 2020. Its director, Niki Caro, is the second female director to helm a $100 million film for Disney after Ava DuVernay for A WRINKLE IN TIME.  

Learn more at the AFI Catalog

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Why is a film like MULAN important to the entertainment landscape? How is Mulan an unconventional Disney Princess? 

-What is the importance of familial honor in Chinese culture? Why do Mulan’s ancestors appear to her and try to help her along her journey? What does honor mean to you? 

-Explain the difference between loyalty to family vs. loyalty to one’s country? How does Mulan balance both? 

-How have gender roles changed since the story’s setting? Why was it a crime for a woman to enlist in the army? How have gender roles changed since MULAN was first released in 1998? 

-Have you ever gone against your family’s wishes for a higher purpose? Why does Mulan decide to risk her life by joining the army? 

-Why is Mulan worried about bringing dishonor to her family at the beginning of the film? Does her worry subside by the end of the movie? 

-What is the importance of Mushu in Mulan’s life? 

-How does Mulan earn the respect of the rest of the men in the army? How does Mulan retrieve the arrow from the post and what is her driving motivation? 

-How does Mulan’s self-confidence develop and how does she evolve into a leader? 

-What does Mulan’s father tell her when she returns home at the end of the film? Why is it important? 

– What aspects of Mulan’s personality do young women aspire to today? 

-How would you rate MULAN? 

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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