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Based on a Chinese folk-tale, Mulan is a young high-spirited girl who tries hard to please her parents but always feels like she is disappointing them. Her father is drafted into the army which amounts to certain death because of his old age. Mulan disguises herself as a man and takes her father's place in battle, guided by a guardian dragon, Mushu. At the height of her success her secret is revealed and she is banished from home. But, undaunted she fights and defeats enemy invaders and saves the Emperor, bringing great honor to her family.
For more about Mulan and the Mulan Blu-ray release, see Mulan Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 4, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Miguel Ferrer, James Hong, Pat Morita
Directors: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
» See full cast & crew
Mulan Blu-ray Review
"The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 4, 2013
Disney is keenly aware of the appeal and reach of its catalog, down to the best and worst films under the Mouse House banner. Titles like Cinderella and Peter Pan arrive separately and to great fanfare, while other titles shuffle onto shelves en masse, sans the red-carpet treatment afforded their Platinum and Diamond Edition brethren. Last year, it was The Aristocats, The Rescuers, The Rescuers Down Under, Pocahontas, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, The Tigger Movie and Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, all of which released in a single week in August. This year the mois du jour is March, and the releases include Robert Zemeckis's Who Framed Roger Rabbit (the fan-favorite odd man out in the March 12th lineup) and a trio of 2-Movie Collection Blu-rays: The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Mulan and Mulan II, and Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2. (Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Atlantis: Milo's Return were originally set for March 12th as well but were unceremoniously and indefinitely delayed without explanation.) And, once again, the deluge is another hit or miss affair, with a classic live-action/animation hybrid, three solid (or at least decent) animated features and a near-unbearable batch of direct-to-video misfires.
Mulan isn't the classic it could have been, and remains one of the lesser films in the Disney Renaissance. And yet it's still an exhilarating animated saga at times, with epic scope and battle-ready scale, and stands as Disney's first Princess venture with a full-fledged warrior princess.
When the Huns breach the Great Wall of China and push deep into the mainland, the Han emperor (Pat Morita, The Karate Kid) issues a decree: each family must send at least one man to aid in the fight. To prevent her elderly father (Soon-Tek Oh, The Man with the Golden Gun) from going to war, a young girl named Fa Mulan (Ming-Na Wen, Stargate Universe) defies her parents' wishes and centuries of tradition, disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Training under brave captain Li Shang (BD Wong, Jurassic Park), facing untold odds alongside new friends Yao (Harvey Fierstein, Mrs. Doubtfire), Ling (Gedde Watanabe, Sixteen Candles) and Chien-Po (Jerry S. Tondo, Nick of Time), and with the help of bumbling dragon guardian Mushu (Eddie Murphy, Shrek), Mulan must help Li Shang stop the invading Hun forces, defeat the enemy general Shan Yu (Miguel Ferrer, Robocop) and save her nation from a terrible fate.
Dangling precariously between Chinese legend and late-90s pop culture, Mulan struggles with as much of an identity crisis as its lovely heroine. The voice cast isn't as strong as it is in other Disney greats, and the supporting characters are either deadly serious or unabashedly silly. The musical numbers strive for poignancy but feel tacked on. And the comedy bounds from one sight gag to the next, ever competing for audience attention with the film's weightier, far more effective dramatic beats. There are a number of genuine laughs to be had -- kids in particular will roll on the floor -- but they rarely serve the story (a la Aladdin) other than to stretch the attention span of its already entranced young viewers.
Even so, Mulan rules with a firm fist. The avalanche battle is, to this day, one of the most breathtaking and exciting sequences in Disney animation. The blend of history, myth and Disney charm succeeds where it counts, and Mulan is one of the more nuanced princesses on Disney's roster. Moreover, the spectacle builds beautifully, with striking minimalistic animation, mounting action, an eerily determined villain and a surprising love story that would be utterly refreshing if it weren't such a Disney Princess prerequisite. Mulan never quite maintains a consistent tone, and tries too hard to replicate some of the elements that made Aladdin such a Renaissance keystone. But it has more than enough to offer, especially for those willing to overlook its shortcomings and follow Mulan wherever she leads.
Mulan Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mulan boasts a perfectly pleasant, wonderfully filmic 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer that comes to rest near the top of Disney Animation's Blu-ray standouts, particularly in terms of its faithfulness. The disarming watercolor palette evokes ancient Chinese art, yet still allows more vibrant sequences (the third-act celebration and kidnapping for example) to showcase rich primaries, vivid hues and deep, inky blacks. Detail is excellent as well, with crisp line art, gorgeous painted backgrounds and a fine veneer of well-resolved grain impervious to spiking and unevenness. Moreover, significant artifacting, banding and other anomalies are nowhere to be found, and the slightest hint of ringing and aliasing are the only issues of any note. Each instance is exceedingly minor, though, and only briefly appears in a small handful of shots. So rest easy, Disney videophiles. Mulan looks terrific.
Mulan Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Not to be outdone, Mulan's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is as refined and rewarding as its video transfer. Dialogue is clean, clear and perfectly intelligible, precisely prioritized and, above all, unwavering, even in the face of roaring avalanches and chaotic battles. The LFE channel joins the fight with bombast, throwing its power behind every horse charge, its weight behind every hoof-fall and its fury behind every blow. The rear speakers eagerly leap into the fray as well. Directional effects are convincing and accurate, pans are silky smooth and the soundfield is as enveloping as an animated feature should be. Impressive dynamics and fidelity round out the wholly satisfying results, and song lyrics are the only element that sound a bit disjointed from the soundscape. (Although it obviously traces back to the source.) All told, Mulan doesn't disappoint.
Mulan Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mulan Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mulan is a flawed but noble Disney Renaissance warrior, with a compelling empowered princess, invigorating battles and a blast-from-the-past Disney beastie by the name of Mushu. Fortunately, Disney's 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray release treats the first film with respect, presenting it with an outstanding video transfer, an excellent lossless audio track and a supplemental package of substance (even if, with no new content, it's merely a retread of old DVD features). My advice? Treat Mulan II as yet another special feature and add a very worthy Mulan to your collection.
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Mulan Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Mulan / Mulan II Collection Blu-ray - December 19, 2012
On March 12, 2013, celebrate the 15th anniversary of Walt Disney's 36th animated feature with the 2-Movie Collection BD/DVD Combo Pack release of Mulan and its direct-to-video sequel, Mulan II, both of which are making their Blu-ray debut.
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