UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Disney Animated Classics | DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Mulan: Special Edition DVD Review

Mulan (1998) movie poster Mulan

Theatrical Release: June 19, 1998 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: G

Directors: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook

Voice Cast: Ming-Na Wen (Mulan), B.D. Wong (Shang), Eddie Murphy (Mushu), Miguel Ferrer (Shan-Yu), Harvey Fierstein (Yao), Jerry S. Tondo (Chien-Po), Gedde Watanabe (Ling), Soon-Tek Oh (Fa Zhou), Pat Morita (The Emperor), June Foray (Grandmother Fa), Frank Welker (Khan), James Shigeta (General Li), James Hong (Chi Fu), Freda Foh Shen (Fa Li), Miriam Margoyles (The Matchmaker), George Takei (First Ancestor)

Songs: "Honor To Us All", "Reflection", "I'll Make a Man Out of You", "A Girl Worth Fighting For", "True To Your Heart"

Buy Mulan from Amazon.com: 2 Movie Blu-ray + DVD 2 Movie DVD 2-Disc DVD Instant Video

Click to read our Mulan & Mulan II: 2 Movie Collection Blu-ray + DVD review.
In March 2013, Disney re-issued Mulan and Mulan II in a 2 Movie Collection Blu-ray + DVD. For our all-new review of this newer edition, click here. To buy that combo pack, click here.



The title protagonist of Mulan, a young Chinese woman, is having trouble finding her place. Despite the best efforts of her mother and the other women of her neighborhood, Mulan's meeting with the Matchmaker is a disaster, derailing her course, as the culture dictates, to marriage.
The natural disappointment that follows, though, is less about a desire to meet a man than it is about Mulan feeling uncomfortable with getting all decked up and looking pretty to be betrothed.

But Mulan needn't worry too much about that, since events beyond her control soon have her taking a much different path. The treacherous Huns, led by the imposing Shan-Yu, are wreaking havoc among China, burning villages whole. The Huns pose an undeniable threat to the Emperor, who passes an edict requiring one member from each family to join his army and protect the people of China.

Unfortunately, for Mulan's family, who are without a son, this means the father of the house would have to enlist. Fa Zhou is a very respected man in his village, but he is old and does not have the strength to engage in battle. Nonetheless, he is entirely commited to going, until Mulan takes matters into her own hands, cutting off her hair and running off in the night to join the Emperor's army.

Mike Seaver used his sneakers, Mulan uses her forearm. She's just your ordinary teenager looking for some help on an important test. Mulan goes for a walk to 'reflect' on things.

Mulan has to pass herself off as a man to be a soldier in the army. Her gender-switching show of independence has the potential to get her killed if she is found out. At the same time, her selfless actions are posing issues of the dreaded "dishonor" to she and the Fa family. As a result, her ancestors summon up a great dragon guardian to watch over Mulan. But through a turn of events, a much smaller, less powerful dragon goes off on the assignment.

Enter comic sidekick, Mushu, a wisecracking little red dragon in the vein of popular supporting characters from previous Disney films like Aladdin's Genie and The Lion King's Timon. Mushu looks for heroics from Mulan as the only way to make things right between him and the family's ancestors, and she and her living family.

But heroics seem a most distant thing for Mulan and the out-of-shape soldiers that make up the army, including the trio she befriends - the hot-headed Yao, the calm but massive Chien-Po, and the lanky Ling. The army is headed by Shang, a position he assumed more through nepotism than qualifications; he was appointed by a general, his father. Still, Shang seems fit to lead the troupe, and sparked by Mulan, the army shapes up in "I'll Make a Man Out of You", an invigorating musical training sequence (performed by Shang's singing voice Donny Osmond). Soon, they're ready to do battle with those nasty Huns.

Cri-Kee the lucky cricket, Mushu the wisecracking dragon, and Mulan the cross-dressing warrior. Shang wants to get down to business...to defeat...the Huns.

In the '90s, Walt Disney Feature Animation produced a diverse but uniformly strong group of films. Even though Mulan is one of the weaker efforts of last decade, there is still much to admire. For one thing, there is the strong female protagonist. Though she's depicted as much as a ordinary, down-to-earth girl as she is a warrior heroine, Mulan distinguishes herself as a kind of antithesis to the princess passivity that some have lamented in the films from Disney's yesteryear. The well-defined character evokes the viewer's care, but it's because she's likable and not desperately crying out for sentimental sympathy.

The film's music merits praise as well. There are just four songs plus "True To Your Heart", the catchy but out-of-left-field end credits tune. Each of the four holds its weight within the film, displaying a unique and compelling style, and always serving to advance the story, rather than act as musical detour or illogical pace-changer.

With a few notable exceptions, the voice cast is predominantly composed of Asian-American actors, several of whom have found success in live action films and television programs. Following this logic, Ming-Na Wen ("ER") and B.D. Wong (Jurassic Park) seem like good choices for the leads and each performs with the right tone. Particularly recognizable in supporting roles are Gedde Watanabe (Sixteen Candles), George Takei ("Star Trek"), and...Harvey Fierstein (who is as far from Asian as you can get, but somehow works for his irritable soldier).

The most flashy role is Mushu, the comic sidekick. As the voice, Eddie Murphy wavers between amusing and annoyingly out-of-place, but the blame probably goes to the filmmakers for not finding the right tone. Finding this right tone for comedy within a drama also proved difficult for The Hunchback of Notre Dame a couple of years earlier. Murphy's random comic banter works to a degree here, but it's probably better suited to Shrek where he essentially reprises the persona but as Donkey. Still, Mulan does an adequate job of balancing light and heavy material, the latter of which can be especially tricky for movies that are looking to embrace young viewers.

Chien-Po, Yao, and 'Ping' (Mulan) get wet in their journeys. Oh, Hun! Shan-Yu tries to intimidate the Emperor.

Against expectations, Donny Osmond shines as Shang's singing voice and "I'll Make a Man Out of You" may be the most enjoyable song in the lot. Lea Salonga is as perfectly cast as Mulan's singing voice as she was for Aladdin's Jasmine, and her vocals match well with Ming-Na's. Salonga delivers with "Reflection", a nice contemplative number that adheres to the "character aspiration song" prototype.

In addition to the aforementioned training scene, two sequences stand out as particularly well realized. One is the montage showing Mulan's decision to join the army. The other is a genuinely thrilling battle in the snow,
in which the filmmakers seamlessly integrated computer animation depicting the massive crowd of Huns. This well-crafted action sequence illustrates just how cinematic the so-called '2D' animation can be, and it's nearly as hauntingly rendered as the wildebeest stampede from The Lion King (which utilized the same technique).

It is worth noting that Mulan is steeped in culture, at least more so than most other animated Disney films. While these have consistently made an effort to create worlds which can immerse viewers, Mulan goes just a bit farther, as it should seeing how the setting figures so largely in the story. Chinese audiences will note that it is a more a general Asian culture that is present in the film; Japanese elements figure perhaps as prominently as Chinese. The Asian flavor of the film finds its way into a unique score by the recently-deceased Jerry Goldsmith.

With Mulan, Disney takes a Eastern legend and makes it fit into their Western fairy tale formula, with reasonable success. Though not as quick-witted or dramatically affecting as some of the other films Disney released in the surrounding years, Mulan is a film that wins you over on its own merits, even if it does not stand up to direct comparison to other animated triumphs.

Buy Mulan: Special Edition from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Mandarin)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Release Date: October 26, 2004
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 + DVD-5)
THX-Certified with Optimizer tests
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99

VIDEO and AUDIO

Mulan is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen (the aspect ratio of this and other animated films created with Disney's CAPS system), a step up over its 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen treatment as a Limited Issue/Gold Collection DVD. While video quality is not perfect, it is for the most part, pretty good.

The print in this digital presentation is immaculately clean, but the transfer showcases several of the DVD format's limitations in its compression techniques. Color banding seems to be an issue, as backgrounds often break up into segmented gradients. A couple of night scenes seemed most problematic. Usually, there was a good range of detail and nice depth to the colors, which remain accurate and do not otherwise bleed. Edge enhancement seemed minor, but it stands out in a few places.

A moment of silence in the snow. Heads up!

Even if this transfer offers significant improvement over the previous nonanamorphic release, it is not as unanimously pleasing as brand new films or other meticulously remastered DVDs such as the Platinum Editions due to a considerable amount of minor flaws. All things considered, video-wise, Mulan falls short of the usually high Disney standard, but will certainly satisfy the general public.

In the sound department, Mulan is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1, with four languages to choose from (English, French, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese!). The audio is a little subdued, and certainly not as active as an Enhanced Home Theater Remix (which was mentioned in its press release, apparently in error). But there's definitely some power to this track. There's a good amount of bass present. Dialogue sounds full and entirely natural. The songs are crisp and often the most lively parts of the soundtrack. Even if the audio seems dominated by the front speakers, this soundtrack does convey things strongly and exhibits satisfying detail.

BONUS FEATURES

DISC ONE

Mulan made its DVD debut in November of 1999 as part of Disney's ill-conceived first foray into the format. This "Limited Issue" DVD soon went out of print, but was simply repackaged as a "Gold Collection" in 2000, which itself went out of print in January 2003. The only bonus features on the previous DVD were a couple of music videos (both of which show up here) and a theatrical trailer featuring some in-progress animation (which is sadly not carried over).

With this 2-Disc Special Edition re-release, Disney has really poured out the substance-filled "making of" material with significant bonus features composing all of Disc 2 and also nicely rounding out Disc 1. In what's become a norm with Disney's newly uniform "EasyFind" menus, Disc 1's bonus features are split into 4 categories: Deleted Scenes, Music & More, Games & Activities, and our beloved Backstage Disney.

Mushu's deleted song, "Keep 'Em Guessing" Deleted scene: "Shadow Puppets Prologue" Deleted scene: "Shadow Puppets Prologue"

In Deleted Scenes, we find six sequences that never made the final film (including three alternate openings) and substantial discussion from the filmmakers. Director Tony Bancroft introduces each excised scene, putting it into context and explaining why it was cut. For the most part,
the scenes (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) are composed of nice-looking storyboards (usually in black and white) and voice cast recordings. The way, they have been edited, they do feel like scenes, not just scrapped material. It's easy to consider how they would have looked were they finished and used in Mulan.

"Keep 'Em Guessing" introduces Mushu to Mulan in a different way, letting the wisecracking dragon sing a song (with a catchy jazz number).

A brief featurette, "The Prologue Chronicle", follows. This explains with interview clips from Bancroft, as well as co-director Barry Cook, and story man Dean DeBlois, the challenges the makers of Mulan faced in creating a sequence that they felt properly opened their film. Their discussion mostly centers on the "Shadow Puppets Prologue", a 1-minute alternate opening which follows and contains some animation.

The Matchmaker takes a look at Mulan in "The Betrothal." Mulan and Shang meet in  "The Betrothal" deleted scene. Shan-Yu destroys the village in the deleted scene, "Shan-Yu Destroys The Village."

"The Betrothal" offers an alternate encounter of Mulan preparing for, and then meeting with the Matchmaker. Some elements remain in the final film, but this version offers a number of differences story-wise. After the Matchmaker looks over Mulan, the marriage is arranged, with Mulan's father receiving five pigs, and Shang receiving a new wife, whom he awkwardly meets.

"Shan-Yu Destroys the Village" presents a scene that occurs in Mulan, but is not explicity shown. "Mulan's Daydream" presents yet another alternate opening. This one is a likable fantasy which compellingly starts the film with Mulan talking of her great status and accomplishments. Last is "The Emperor's Dream", a collection of nicely-edited full-color storyboards and choral singing, offering yet another attempt to open the film on the right note.

These deleted scenes are more memorable than most, and it's really neat to see them reconstructed with care. Undoubtedly, they're the highlight bonus feature of Disc 1, and probably the whole set. Altogether, the excised sequences and accompanying discussions run 22 minutes and 47 seconds.

In the "Mulan's Daydream" alternate opening, Mulan fantasizes about being heroic. A storyboard still from the discarded opening "The Emperor's Dream." A fiery backstory is weaved in "The Emperor's Dream."

Music & More contains four music videos, putting Mulan above par both in quantity and (for the most part) entertainment value in the music video deaprtment. First is the Mandarin version of "I'll Make a Man Out of You" sung by Jackie Chan (3:21). Here, the world famous actor known for his stuntwork in action films shows off his vocals and, at the same time, performs an array of martial arts moves. Whether you view it as a sheer novelty or sincerely good number, one thing you can't fault Chan's video is for a lack of style, as it strays from the standard recording studio or movie clip conventions, and opts for an odd energy all its own.

The second video is for the pop version of "Reflection" performed by Christina Aguilera (3:33). This recording and music video predate Aguilera's real exposure as extreme celebrity. Here, before she was "dirrty" and the laughingstock of late-night television, Aguilera seems sincere in making this pretty standard Disney pop music video, and her rendition is passable.

Jackie Chan shows a softer side with his performance of "I'll Make a Man Out of You" in Mandarin. But he still knows how to strike an intimidating pose. A surprisingly down-to-earth looking Christina Aguilera performs the pop version of "Reflection."

Last are two versions of "True To Your Heart." The first one (4:22) showcases Stevie Wonder and 98, the performers of this end credits theme. Even if this soundtrack anomaly is pretty catchy, this music video does a good job at inspiring laughter. The short-lived boy band headlined by Nick Lachey rush out of the subway station to fawn over the sight of an Asian girl. Then Stevie Wonder is conjured up to sing with the boys of 98, whose fashions seem to already date it, and whose flair leads to the comedic reaction.

The second video features Raven (3:35) and will have you yearning for the wacky antics of 98. As if it's not abundantly clear what this remix is, the credits stay at the bottom left corner for the entirety. I gather this is supposed to make you want to buy the Disneymania 2 CD from Walt Disney Records, but as with most things featuring Raven, it will probably just rub you the wrong way, unless you're part of her small but devoted following. We're approaching double digits in the number of Raven Disney DVD appearances this year, and this is the second time she's tried to sing a Stevie Wonder song.

98 performs in their music video for "True To Your Heart." Jessica who? Nick dances it up with recording legend Stevie Wonder. The obligatory Raven take on "True To Your Heart."

Games & Activites houses just one entry, DisneyPedia: Mulan's World. This feature, narrated by Mushu (an actor attempting to sound like Eddie Murphy), strives to reveal information about the culture and elements of Mulan and the China depicted.
It's geared towards younger viewers and maintains an effective light-hearted tone to its lessons. Visuals are supplied by muted film clips. The insert gives a running time of 25 minutes, but by my count, playing the ten vignettes in a row, the feature runs just 7 minutes and 17 seconds.

Last, we come to Backstage Disney. As expected, there is an audio commentary. As usual, this isn't listed on the back of the package, but it is the bonus feature with the longest running time by far. The commentary brings together directors Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook with producer Pam Coats. In their separate appearances everywhere else on the DVD, this trio doesn't seem the most enthusiastic lot. But fortunately, together, they make for a spirited reflection on the film, lending insight to the scenes and discussing its visual and dramatic development. There is nice pacing to this commentary and practically no empty spaces.

In addition, this section also provides "Mulan's Fun Facts." This montage (2:12) compiles footage from the film's production (watermarked 'WDFA'), set to the end credits song "True To Your Heart." Text boxes and graphics pop up frequently to reaveal some tidbits and numbers about the making of Mulan. The piece tries to be witty with these fun facts, and while it contains interesting video footage, it's just too short and fast.

The menu for "DisneyPedia: Mulan's World." In this extra, Mushu talks about elements of Chinese culture seen in the film, with his trademark sense of humor. Mulan's Fun Facts Ming-Na Wen discusses "Mulan II" in a buried sneak peek.

Disc 1 opens with previews for Mulan II, Bambi, Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition, and Pooh's Heffalump Movie. From the Sneak Peeks menu, there are additional promos for Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, Eloise at Christmastime, the Disney Princess product line, and most notably, a Mulan II sneak peek. Running 3 minutes and 25 seconds, this shows more of the direct-to-video follow-up due next February, and includes some interview snippets from Mulan voice Ming-Na and director Darrell Rooney. There's even recording studio clips of Lea Salonga performing a song and Ming-Na and Pat "Mr. Miyagi" Morita reading lines.

The first disc's 16x9 menus find a way to be elegant and simple. In the main menu, line animation forms characters on an artistic Asian-looking layout in front of a fireworks backdrop. The line drawings and elegant layouts show up in the various submenus too, even though they are not animated. Each menu is accompanied by score selections. The simple text "Disc 1 & Disc 2 Index" again acheives little, by simply linking to the already broken-down categories exactly the way the "Bonus Features" menu does, but without sound. More useful are the "Play All" feature that shows up in most places, and Disney's providing of running times for the features when highlighted.

Disc 2's menus open with a brief animated intro into a Chinese house. Director Tony Bancroft turns up on the DVD more than anyone else, introducing interactive features, discussing deleted scenes, and reflecting on various other elements of making "Mulan." An uncredited Lucero performs in the music video for the Spanish version of  "Reflection."

DISC TWO

The majority of Disc 2's bonus features fall under the heading of "Backstage Disney." But the first feature listed is in a Music & More category of its own. Here is the Spanish music video for "Reflection" (3:33). It uses the same set and format for the Christina Aguilera video found on Disc 1, and in fact it's nearly a shot-for-shot recreation. But this version features an uncredited Spanish vocalist. With a little bit of research, I learned that this is a Mexican singer/actress named Lucero.

Unfortunately, in Backstage Disney, there is not one big "making-of" piece as there was on Brother Bear or at least a well-organized all-encompassing journey like on Aladdin. Instead, Disc 2's bounty of extras are split into six categories, which are made up of short, fast-paced features on specific elements. Within each section, a "Play All" option offers continuous viewing of video-based supplements, but you still wind up with a segmented behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mulan.

Video footage from the makers of "Mulan"'s three-week research trip in China, as seen in "Discovering Mulan." Artwork of Mulan's parents in "The Ballad of Hua Mulan." 1995 Presentation Reel

The Journey Begins

The first of several featurettes on Disc 2 is "Discovering Mulan" (6:47), which centers on a filmmakers' research trip to China in the summer of 1994. Producer Pam Coats recalls the trip, the different things that she and the group from Disney observed in their three weeks there, and how those observations directly made their way into the film, from the flags flapping against the silence on the Great Wall of China to designs in a pitch black cave that made their way into the Emperor's clothes.

"The Ballad of Hua Mulan" (5:16) is a reciting of the Chinese poem (that is the film's basis) set to Asian artwork and developing art from the filmmakers of Mulan. Unfortunately, no context is provided to this piece, so if I hadn't just told you what it was, you might have had to figure it out for yourself. This ballad works okay as a little story reel, but it would be easier to appreciate if they told us some more about it.

Rounding out this section are two "Early Presentation Reels", each running about two minutes. The first one, from 1995, depicts the sequence of Mulan leaving home to join the army, with detailed black-and-white storyboards which almost exactly make their way into the final film. The second reel (1996) showcases the visual designs for "The Legend of Mulan" (clearly a working title), in a neatly-edited collection of sketches and paintings that were done at the time. Again, an introduction on screen or in the insert could have shed some light on what exactly these reels are, and who they were made for.

Chen-Yi Chang's caricaturesque designs gave "Mulan" its look. Storyboard-to-Film Comparison Art Director Ric Sluiter comments on the film's developing look and story.

Story Artists' Journey

"Finding Mulan" (7:02) examines the story that the film tells, discussing changes that occurred over time to restructure Mulan's arc and to make her an appealing and selfless character. This is one of the better featurettes on Disc 2, as many of the filmmakers who appear elsewhere reflect on what works about the story. This is not an exercise of the crew simply patting themselves on the back, but they do make it easier to appreciate certain aspects of the film.

Also in this section is a Storyboard to Film Comparison, introduced by director Tony Bancroft. You can view the 83-second sequence of Mushu destroying the stone dragon in storyboards, as seen in the film, or in a split-screen comparison. This feature makes use of DVD's "Angle" function so that you can switch between the three modes at any point.

Design

Appropriately enough, the first entry in the Design section of Disc 2 is a featurette called "Art Design." In this 5 -minute piece, directors Bancroft and Cook, producer Coats, and several others working on the visual aspect of Mulan comment on the film's look. They reference their inspirations (Chinese art and locations), but note that they didn't start with a distinct style, instead letting the style (which they would come to dub "poetic simplicity") emerge on its own.

The second featurette is "Character Design" (3:47). The focus here is on the Taiwanese artist Chen-Yi Chang, who designed characters for the film. Chang discusses the two traits which most mark his artwork (and in turn, Mulan's): caricature and variety in shapes. "Ballad of Color" (4:27), the third and final design featurette, allows the filmmakers to point out significance in the colors that are used in certain sequences and characters.

Different shapes are seen in characters in the "Character Design" featurette. Character Design Gallery: Mulan A developing character design of Shang. This gallery still shows an early design of a blue Mushu.

The last area of "Design" contains the Still Frame Galleries. Artwork is divided into three sections: Character Design, Visual Development, and Backgrounds & Layouts. In Character Design, there are ten separate galleries (Mulan, Fa Zhou, Fa Li and Grandmother Fa, Khan, Mushu & Cri-Kee, Shang, Ling/Yao/Chien-Po, Emperor, Shan-Yu & Falcon, and Miscellaneous Characters) and the artwork ranges from line sketches to full-color visualizations. Those who were a bit miffed at Aladdin's somewhat light galleries should be more satisfied with the offerings here. Each character gallery hosts dozens of images; Shang has 60, and there are over 90 sketches of Mulan.

The Visual Development gallery--divided into Moments, Landscapes, and Architecture--offers just under 100 stills, and there are 13 images in Backgrounds & Layouts. Those who prefer the "Art Review" featurette that has been turning up on some recent Disney DVDs will be disappointed to find no such thing here, although art appears prominently in the featurettes of this section. The only way to enjoy the production artwork is to navigate through these galleries.

"Matchmaker Meets Mulan" progression demo, Story Sketch phase. Rough animation stage of the "Mushu Awakens" progression demo. "The Hun Charge"

Production

The first thing you'll find in this section are two progression demonstrations. With these progression demos, you get to view these two scenes ("Mushu Awakens" and "Matchmaker Meets Mulan) in four different stages (Story Sketch, Rough Animation, Clean-Up Animation and Effects, and Final Color).

You have the choice to "Play All" which plays director Tony Bancroft's general introduction and then the 1-minute sequences four times in a row, showing the different phases of production.
Walt Disney Collectibles and Gifts, Disney Figurin
Doing this on "Mushu Awakens", though, you'll miss Art Director Ric Sluiter's introductions to the different stages. At any time, you can toggle between the stages with the "Angle" button on your remote control. The scenes play in non-anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 surround sound.

Next is "The Hun Charge" (4:50), a featurette on the stunning, complex action sequence central to Mulan. Inspired by The Lion King's powerful wildebeest stampede, the filmmakers opted to also make use of computers to animate its daunting crowd of horse-riding Huns. The process to create the scene is not at all very different from the earlier work on The Lion King, so this will probably call to mind a featurette from that film's Platinum Edition DVD.

Rounding out this Production section is "Digital Dim Sum", a 4-minute featurette on how crowds were animated with the time-saving assistance of computers and how the filmmakers used a "faux plane" technique to add depth to visuals and sufficiently merge the computer and hand-drawn elements.

Animating crowds in "Digital Dim Sum." Song composer Matthew Wilder speaks in the "Songs of Mulan" featurette. Donny Osmond performs the singing voice of Shang.

Music

The only thing falling under this heading is a featurette titled "Songs of Mulan" (5:12). This brisk piece explains how songs figure importantly into the film's production. Interview clips with the crew (including producer Pam Coats, lyricist David Zippel and composer Matthew Wilder) shed some light, but the surface feels barely skimmed. Among the things quickly touched on here are Mushu's deleted song "Keep 'Em Guessing" (seen in whole on Disc 1) and the filmmakers' attention to having the songs serve story purposes (something aptly achieved in Mulan).

International Mulan

The featurette "Mulan's International Journey" (5:42) looks at the process of translating Disney films for audiences around the world, something that dates back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt's very first animated feature. This interesting piece covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, showing some clips from other Disney films in other languages and then focusing on the filmmakers' efforts to make sure the Chinese version of Mulan was done right. In addition to some recording studio clips (the only glimpses of the voice cast on the DVD), we hear from a couple of executives from Disney Character Voices International about the challenges of their behind-the-scenes work.

A Multi-Language Reel (3:10) offers the "I'll Make a Man Out of You" sequence from the film in fullscreen. Naturally, the attraction of this is that the audio of the song seamlessly cycles through a number of different languages, letting you hear verses in English, German, Castilian, French, Spanish, Japanese, Finnish, Thai, Portuguese, Italian, Mandarin, Swedish, Danish, French Canadian, Czech, and Cantonese. A subtitle informs you to the languages edited together, so your ears won't need to be so discerning.

Casting international personalities like Otto Waalkes is covered in "Mulan's International Journey." Publicity Art Gallery A newspaper ad from the Publicity Art gallery.

Last, there is the Publicity Art gallery, housing thirty-two stills which feature Mulan posters and promotional artwork, from America (mostly) and elsewhere. I found the three timely newspaper ads more interesting than the basic stills that mostly comprise this gallery. The gallery's highly cropped thumbnails don't give you a clear idea of what you'll see when you select to view them full-sized. But it's likely, that if you're interested, you'll just cycle through all of them one page at a time. Unfortunately, there are no Mulan trailers of any kind to be found in this Publicity section or anywhere else, which is less than the one that appeared on its earlier DVDs. Trailers have been one of the most basic extras since the DVD format launched; it's very disappointing to see Disney leaving them off major Special Edition releases like The Lion King and this.

Disc 2's 4x3 menus open with a little 3-D entrance into an Asian-looking room, where a scroll opens up to reveal the menu. While these menus are not animated, they are elegant looking (matching Disc 1's screenss) and accompanied by nice score selections.

Disc 1's Main Menu Disc 1's Bonus Features Menu

PACKAGING

Mulan is housed in a standard-width black dual keepcase, and housed in a cardboard slipcover which doesn't open up or serve any purpose other than decoratively duplicating all of the artwork and text from the case. Inside the case, you'll find a 4-page "DVD Guide" insert, which opens up to reveal a map of all the bonus features on both discs and provides chapter listings on the back.

You'll also find a double-sided ad for Princess Diaries 2 and Around the World in 80 Days, and a coupon booklet. Like Aladdin, the booklet flips over to double as a mini-storybook. This time, the subject is the upcoming Mulan II. In addition to the "Buy 3, Get 1 Free" mail-in offer form, there's a coupon for $2 off any one of the Disney Princess DVDs, plus ads for Home on the Range, Bambi, and a Mulan doll coming this December from Mattel.

Mulan watches her parents. Who is that girl I see?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Coming as it does on the heels of the overwhelmingly terrific Aladdin Platinum Edition, this 2-Disc Mulan Special Edition doesn't seem as impressive, since it falls short of that DVD in most regards. There's a lot of supplemental material,
but the segmented and very specific breakdown results in Disc 2 falling a bit on the dry side. Had it been organized better and it included a general look at the making of the movie, the bonus features could have been considerably more entertaining.

Still, on its own merits, this Special Edition treatment does satisfy. Considering this isn't one of Disney's most popular or most profitable animated films, this release points favorably to more mid-range animated features getting the type of special DVD treatment we love around here. There is no question that this blows away Mulan's underwhelming previous DVD releases, and fans should not hesitate to upgrade. The film itself receives a welcome (though short of excellent) anamorphic transfer and a solid (but not the most dynamic) audio presentation. The very strong deleted scenes on Disc 1 are a highlight, as are Disc 2's exhaustive art galleries.

Mulan: Special Edition takes its place among the solid 2-disc Disney animation sets, a once-fading class which now appears to be as popular and alive as ever, with many more to come. It may not be a grand slam, but this set still makes a fine addition to your Disney DVD collection.

Buy Mulan from Amazon.com: 2-Disc DVD / 2 Movie Blu-ray + DVD / 2 Movie DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews
Mulan & Mulan II: 2 Movie Collection Blu-ray + DVD
Pocahontas (10th Anniversary Edition) The Hunchback of Notre Dame Hercules Tarzan (Collector's Edition)
Mulan II Lilo & Stitch (2-Disc Big Wave Edition) Kung Fu Panda (with Secrets of the Furious Five)
Aladdin (Platinum Edition) The Lion King (Platinum Edition) Shrek the Third Shrek the Halls
A Bug's Life (Blu-ray) Air Bud: Golden Receiver (Special Edition) The Parent Trap (Special Double Trouble Edition)
Spirited Away Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams (Special Edition)

Related Pages:
Top 100 Disney Songs (featuring "True to Your Heart", "I'll Make a Man Out of You", and "Reflection")
Top 30 Disney Villains (featuring Shan-Yu) Top Disney Heroes & Heroines (featuring Shang and Mulan)

UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Disney Animated Classics | DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Search This Site:

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed October 12, 2004.