This entry is about the Disney film. For the 2009 Chinese version, see Mulan.Mulan is an animated film released in 1998, as the 36th film on the Disney Animated Canon. It was inspired by the Ancient Chinesefolk legend of Hua Mulan (花木蘭), though Disney chose to romanize the heroine's name as Fa Mulan, in effect giving her family name the typical Cantonese pronunciation, but her personal name the normal Mandarin one.The film deals with Huns invading Imperial China, resulting in every Chinese family receiving a conscription order requiring one male from their household to serve in the army. The title character, Fa Mulan, has no brothers, but she doesn't want her aging veteran father to go to war again, so she steals his sword and armor, cuts her hair, and goes in his place, disguised as a man.Her ancestors ask the dragon Mushu (who is small and has a penchant for comedy) to wake up the Great Stone Dragon to go and bring Mulan home, but Mushu (accidentally) breaks the Stone Dragon's statue and, rather than own up to this, goes in his place to make Mulan into a war hero and earn some glory, so becoming Mulan's Non-Human Sidekick.Under the assumed name "Fa Ping", Mulan undergoes many hardships in basic training, but eventually wins the respect and friendship of her fellow soldiers, and marches with her battalion to confront the invading Huns in a cliff-top battle.
Tropes used include:
open/close all folders
Acrofatic: Chien Po, to the point where he can do flips across a series of poles.
Action Girl: After going through combat training, Mulan is perfectly capable of taking on Huns, and even manages to stand against their leader with a bit of cleverness.
Adult Fear: After an argument with Mulan, she runs away from home, taking her father's place in the army. Her parents could only helplessly remain silent, knowing their only child would be exposed to the horrors of war and could possibly die and unable to go after her out of fear that if Mulan was exposed, she would be executed according to imperial law at the time.
All Animals Are Dogs: Surprisingly averted for a Disney film that feature at least 4 animal sidekicks (if Mushu counts). Khan doesn't act much like a horse, but neither he nor Cri-kee act like dogs either.
The fourth, the villain's falcon, doesn't fare quite so well. After being torched by Mushu and rendered featherless, he starts blatantly acting like a chicken.
Always Chaotic Evil: Every Hun in the movie is a vicious solider. Justified, as we only see the army.
Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: The Emperor's statement starting with "I have heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan..." Bonus points for committing all of these.
Art Shift: The Gang of Three's Imagine Spots during "A Girl Worth Fighting For", which shifts to the style of brush paintings.
The billows of snow, smoke, and fire are noticably Eastern styled.
Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: After seeing Mulan rush towards Shan Yu with the last cannon, the Gang of Three follow her lead and also gallantly charge into battle... then they notice the gigantic avalanche that Mulan created and immediately flee back the other way.
Mulan wipes out the majority of the Hun army with a single rocket, defeats its leader with another, and then flashes Shan Yu a smirk when he has his Oh Crap moment. And, you know, saves China.
Shan Yu himself, who took the Great Wall as a challenge, deliberately challenged the Chinese Army and curb-stomped them, and when he was buried in the avalanche, he just burst right out! note Like daisies!!
The one who takes the cake is the Emperor. He's a noncombatant and the much younger and bulkier leader of the army that just crushed his own is swinging a sword at him. He doesn't flinch.
The soldier in the opening sequence. He knows he is going to die, but he still fights as hard as he can to use his last few seconds of life to set off the Great Wall's warning-torch-system, and then stands up to the scary Shan Yu before his death. Thanks to him, Shan Yu fails.
Soldier to Shan Yu: Now all of China knows you're here.
Mushu - though he's held back by Crickee several times - whenever anyone threatens Mulan.
He finally manages to kick some major bad guy ass when he uses a massive firework to blow Shan Yu to bits.
Badass Boast: "No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it".
Bat Deduction: Played with when Shan Yu and his men deduct from a small doll, which Shan Yu's pet falcon managed to obtain on a scouting trip, that the Emperor's army is in a village in the mountain pass. It's unusual for this trope in that their deductive reasoning is logical, and the fact that they can deduce something like this makes sense considering that they're experts in tracking and that they live in the mountains (or at least have spent a huge amount of time crossing them).
Mulan's male alias, "Ping", makes her full name "Hua Ping" (花瓶), which is Chinese for "flower vase" but also a figurative term for someone who is "just a pretty face" or, in other words, pretty but useless.
"Hua Ping" is also slang for "effeminate or homosexual man."
Chi Fu's name is a pun on the Chinese word for "to bully."
Chien Po's chant while trying to calm Yao down is a Buddhist prayer.
Blade Reflection: At several moments in the film, Mulan will look at her herself in her blade or helmet or the Family Ancestor Tablet. It supports the 'reflection' arc word.
The scene where Shan Yu cuts Mulan across the chest causing a wound so bad that she passes out (presumably from blood loss) the moment her adrenaline rush is over after saving Shang. We see a dark stain on her armor and she has blood on her hand and arm, but otherwise she seems to have bled out without damaging her armor.
The way Shan Yu is disposed of would have seen the rocket ripping him apart and ash and bloody/charred gibs raining over a small part of the Imperial City.
Blood Knight: Shan Yu is rather happy that China quickly becomes aware of his presence.
Boss Fight: The final fight with Shan Yu. The dude can punch through walls, cut through trees like butter, and power through hard-clay roofs through sheer force of will.
Break Up Make Up Scenario: Shang abandons Mulan after discovering her secret but they don't reconcile when she catches up to him. They reconcile, wordlessly, moments later during Operation Save-The-Emperor.
Remember how Mulan does her chores at the movie's beginning? At the end, we see that the chickens now associate Little Brother with food.
The decapitated ancestor makes a humorous comeback in the ending.
Burning the Flag: As the Huns attack the Great Wall, a Chinese soldier lights a signal fire as he is confronted by Shan Yu, and defiantly says, "Now all of China knows you are here." Shan Yu breaks a nearby flag off its pole and puts it in the fire. "Perfect!"
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp"/Translation Convention: The "Huns" referred to in the movie are almost certainly the Xiongnu, who were similar in many ways and often identified with them but different. This is presumably because 'Huns' is much easier to rhyme in English; the Mandarin version calls them the Xiongnu.
Cannot Spit It Out: Shang towards Mulan at the end. The emperor calls him out on this. Even when Shang later shows up at Mulan's house, he initially tries to claim it's only to return her father's helmet. Luckily for him, she invites him to stay for dinner anyway.
Cassandra Truth: No one believes Mulan about the still-living Huns, apparently because she lied about her gender. Justified when you consider Mushu's line, "You're a girl again, remember?" The implication, that no one in that time and place took women seriously, was probably one of the reasons Mulan felt uncomfortable with her proscribed role in society. Also, it wasn't necessarily because she lied about her gender specifically (though her being a woman probably did have something to do with it overall), just rather that she'd been lying to them period.
Chain of People: Mulan's troupe forms one after she falls off the cliff. Turns into a Self-Retracting Chain Of People immediately after, when Chien Po joins in.
Cheated Angle: The topknots on Shang and Mulan are cheated up slightly to keep them visible even when they would otherwise be blocked in a front angle view.
The skill of aiming and shooting rockets as Mulan first uses it to defeat Shan Yu's army, then to kill Shan Yu himself.
Pole climbing. The climactic scene from "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" returns as an instrumental part of Operation Save-the-Emperor.
Ling uses the brick-breaking headbutt he learned in training to take out one of the Huns.
Shoe throwing, of all things. Mulan uses it to catch Shan Yu's attention, stopping him just short of chopping Shang's head off. When we saw her do the same to Khan earlier, who knew it'd come in handy?
Mushu's firebreathing. Attempted when trying to impress the ancestors, later used to light the avalanche-triggering cannon, roast the feathers off Shan-Yu's pet falcon, and light the fireworks rocket that sends Shan-Yu to his death.
Cloudcuckoolander: "Ping" appears to be this to others, but it's caused by a combination of trying to act manly, having to hide her gender, and being sabotaged by the others after making an initial bad impression.
Chi Fu: The boy is an absolute lunatic!
Cooldown Hug: Chien Po's to Yao, on the first occasion when "Ping" ticks him off.
Couldn't Find a Lighter: During the battle with the Huns, Mulan is trying to light the last firework but she drops her flint and steel. She eventually resorts to using Mushu's dragon breath to light it at the last second.
Cover Identity Anomaly: Mulan does this when asked her name. Her family name (which she must use as part of the cover story) is Fa, but she hasn't thought of a personal name, leading to a very awkward conversation where Mushu tries to secretly help her come up with a name.
Creator Cameo: The film's directors are animated as the two guards in the fireworks tower.
Crying Wolf: After Mulan is revealed as a woman, she sees that the Huns are still coming. She heads to warn Shang, but he doesn't believe her, because she's a woman. Mulan says, "You'd trust Ping, why is Mulan any different?"
Cue the Sun: The climax of "Make a Man out of You". Ping/Mulan fails the whole training regimen and Shang tells him/her to go home. She then sees the arrow at the pole and decides to give it one last try. As she does, the sun rises and the other men start cheering her on. She succeeds and throws the arrow down to Shang's feet for emphasis, proving she canpull her own weight around.
Tranquil as a forest But on fire within. Once you find your center You are sure to win.
Heck, the chorus is not only this, but practically a Badass Creed.
Be a Man! We must be swift as a coursing river Be a Man! With all the force of a great typhoon Be a Man! With all the strength of a raging fire Mysterious as the dark side of the moon!
Darker and Edgier: The original poster (pictured above) in comparision to the VHS cover.
This film, unlike most Disney movies, thoroughly addresses the subject of war, and the grim consequences thereof, including the implied large-scale murder of the innocent and the grieving family members of those killed. This is softened somewhat through frequent comic relief.
Mulan's strategic avalanche-triggering makes her personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of men, something you cannot say about any other Disney Princess.
Shan Yu has his moments, such as just after his soldiers capture two Chinese scouts:
Shan Yu: "Good work, gentlemen. You've found the Hun army."
Debt Detester: Shang saves Mulan's life after she dishonors the Chinese army in return for her saving his life during the Mongol attack.
Defiant to the End: The unnamed soldier on the wall at the beginning. He desperately runs to the nearest signal, and when confronted by Shan Yu he lights the beacons knowing full well he's about to die.
Soldier: Now all of China knows you're here.
The emperor also counts, since he refuses to Kneel Before Zod and knows that he'll die for it.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: As mentioned above, several (but not all) male characters at least start out pretty sexist because, hey, it's ancient China. Also lampshaded when Mulan, after being honored as a hero, gives the Emperor a big hug; Yao asks, "Is she allowed to do that?" (No, it would have been punishable by death; then again, after all the rest that happened, the Emperor was perfectly fine with letting it pass). The other guys just shrug.
Additionally, Mulan's crippled father going off to war just because he was the only man in his family.
It's easy enough to miss, but Shang sends Mulan off midway through the "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" segment. That's right, he sent her home and relieved the Fa family of their war duty but she pulled through because of her pride!
The Huns who survived the avalanche and went right back to marching.
Dodge the Bullet: Part of the training for the new recruits is to learn to run through a hail of burning arrows without being hit. This is almost an inversion in that in the beginning when they are no good at it they do some actual dodging, but once he's got the hang of it, Yao runs through without being hit and without making any visible effort to dodge.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Shang has a song illustrating just how nasty he is and it sounds exactly like what a Drill Sergeant Nasty is supposed to sound like, with the language cleaned up. Besides the language it's downplayed in that he isn't that nasty - he's tough but good, and reacts with approval when he sees his band of miserable slobs becoming efficient and disciplined soldiers.
Mulan shows she is resourceful and clever by making a way for her dog to feed the chickens so she has time to get changed. Also, she is shown resorting to cheating and shows a lack of grace, even before meeting the matchmaker, suggesting that life as a trophy wife will not properly fulfill her destiny.
The Emperor, when told his armies will protect him, declared that the armies should go out to protect his people.
When Shan Yu is told all of China knows he's coming, he burns the emperor's flag in the signal fire, replying with a smile, "perfect".
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: An unusual antagonist example: if you match the story up to Real Life and accept that the "Huns" are in fact the Xiongnu, Shan Yu is not the Big Bad's name but his TITLE (also represented as Chanyu, and in either event roughly translates to "Majesty Son of Heaven").
Evil Laugh: Shan Yu, standing on top of the Imperial Palace's roof.
Evil Plan: Shan Yu invades China with the aim of taking it over and making the Emperor bow to him.
Exactly What I Aimed At: Instead of shooting at Shan Yu and killing only him, Mulan shoots at a mountaintop and creates an avalanche that wipes out most of his army, turning what could have been a rout for the Hun force into a victory for the Chinese.
Mushu:*flying towards the mountain* You missed!! How could you miss? He was THREE FEET IN FRONT OF YOU!!!
Shang, shirtless and swinging a pole around while singing "I'll Make A Man Out Of You". Hilariously reviewed by The Daily Show's Camp Gay film critic Frank DeCaro, who responded "Yes, PLEASE! ...And bring the pole."
Mulan also; it's notable that compared to other Disney princesses, she is the one that has the most nude scenes (two bath scenes, one of which is fairly extensive), except perhaps for Ariel.
Faux Action Guy: Shang. He's introduced as a badass, fights circles around his recruits, trains them to perfection... and from that point on becomes consistently less competent than Mulan. Subverted in that he is still a good warrior, but his lack of success with brute force to defeat the Huns shows that the Chinese will have to use guile and cleverness to win. He provides perfect timing in disarming Shan Yu and even lands a few good hits on him in the ensuing fight. The problem is that Shan Yu is bigger, meaner, and devastatingly good at headbutts—it takes more than being a Badass Army Captain to beat this guy.
Faux Affably Evil: Shan-Yu, depending on how you take his mild tone of voice. When the Huns catch two Imperial scouts, he kneels down and adjusts one of their scarves and compliments them for finding the Hun Army. He even lets them go to tell the Emperor he's coming. Then he has one of them shot In the Back. Also when he says that they should go through the village to 'return' a doll to a little girl.
Follow the Leader: Averted. Mulan zigs on almost every point that the Disney Princess formula zags. She has both parents living (and a grandmother thrown in for good measure), is obedient and respectful toward her father, is pretty without being drop-dead gorgeous, isn't looking to expand her boundaries, she never becomes a princess (by birth, marriage, or anything else) and wants nothing more than to be like any other Chinese girl she knows. Although, you wouldn't know any of that by looking at her Disney Princess merchandise...
During the matchmaker song, Mulan saves a girl's doll from two boys with toy swords. Later she was able to save a doll, but not the girl....
At the end of "Honour To Us All", Mulan closes her umbrella a second after the rest of the girls, foreshadowing the disaster of her meeting with the matchmaker.
During the military's training session, Shang instructs his troops to climb a pillar in order to reach an arrow, a task at which Mulan succeeds. After Shan Yu and his troops lock the military outside the Imperial Palace, our heroes all use some nearby pillars to sneak their way inside.
Forged Message: Mushu gets Mulan's force into the war by having Cri-kee write a fake letter from the general urgently ordering the new recruits into action.
Fruit of The Loon: The boys stuff their dresses with a variety of fruit, including... a banana.
Generic Doomsday Villain: If there's any popular complaint about the movie, it's that Shan Yu is a threatening yet forgettable villain without much personality.
Genre Shift: Starts out as a typical Disney musical, but once the real consequences of war set in, the singing stops and doesn't return until the end credits. In fact, the last song is cut off abruptly when the characters encounter the razed village.
When Mulan gets slashed across the chest, she's clearly bleeding.
GPS Evidence: Shan Yu's falcon brings him a doll from a village to which they are en route. The doll has evidence on it — pine tar, a white horse hair, and gunpowder — that tells him the Imperial Army are there.
Grin of Audacity: Shan Yu is about to cut Ping down, but stops when the helpless solider in front of him smiles at something behind him.
The name Mulan uses disguised as a boy is Fa Ping.A homonym term with two P's got popular about a year after Mulan's release, when a webcomic used it. The name is a pun in Chinese as well for a pretty flower vase, as in eye candy; something pretty and useless.
Heroic BSOD: Mulan shuts down after her cover is blown and doesn't boot back up until a handful of Huns prove themselves not quite deceased.
Hero's Muse: The soldiers discuss this trope in the song "A Girl Worth Fighting For".
Hit You So Hard Your X Will Feel It: Mulan was told that punching and butt-slapping is a form of friendly gesture. Mulan did this to Yao in the wrong way and naturally, it caused a stir in Yao's rather short temper.
Yao: I'm gonna hit you so hard; it'll make your ancestors dizzy!
Human Ladder: The soldiers form one to try and find Mulan during the avalanche.
Human Traffic Jam: In the Training Montage, when the soldiers are jumping along some poles jutting upwards in a line, Chien Po falters and stops moving forward. Shang, coming behind him, defies the trope by stopping in a controlled manner before running into him, but that just makes the jam form behind him when everyone else fails to do the same.
Hypocritical Humor: Chi Fu: "...And I do not squeal like a girl!" (Panda eats Chi Fu's slipper and he squeals like a girl)
I Am Your Opponent: When Mulan reveals herself to Shan Yu. Impressively, he doesn't seem to care that she's a girl. He simply recognizes that she's the one who defeated him.
Shan Yu:(preparing to kill Shang) You! You took away my victory!
Mulan:(throws a shoe at him) No! I did. (holds her hair the way it was as a soldier)
Shan Yu:The soldier from the mountains.
Important Haircut: Part of Mulan's soldier transformation is to cut her long hair so that she can more easily pass for a man.
Instant Roast: Shan Yu's falcon was intimidating... until Mushu barbecued it to look more like a comical chicken. It even appears headless for a moment, as it had tucked it into its neck. A few scenes later, Mushu rides the same deformed bird.
Now that's what I call Mongolian barbecue.
I Owe You My Life: Shang to Mulan. This life-debt becomes immediately useful when Mulan is found out, and the punishment for a woman joining the army is death. Instead of killing her, Shang lets her go free. In the next scene, we're shown that he did leave her a good amount of provisions and her horse, which she promptly rode back into town after learning the Huns were alive.
Ironic Echo: A reprise of "Make A Man Out Of You" plays with unabashed glee while Mulan's friends are getting tarted up in full concubine drag to infiltrate the palace. Later, all four of them use the combat moves they were shown learning during that musical number against the Huns...while still dressed as women.
Jerkass: Chi Fu is a chauvinist prick who condemns Mulan with the death penalty once her gender is found out, despite the fact she saved them all from the Hun army in the mountains. He tries this again after she and the others saved the Emperor and all of China from the Huns. Some gratitude...
Karma Houdini: No one seems to notice (or possibly care) that Mushu accidentally killed the Great Stone Dragon, though it is possible that A. it was dead to begin with or B. it was the wrong statue, or C. the statue is just a vessel to incarnate in the mortal world. The dragon got stuck in the astral plane, but he is all right and the ancestors cut him some slack because he helped save China. note It has been interpreted before that the Great Stone Dragon's spirit has already left the statue. Mulan did sit right under it before lightning flashed and she suddenly decided to go in her father's place. Perhaps it went with her?
Knight of Cerebus: Shan Yu and the Huns. They are treated with colossal degree of seriousness and, seeing as they managed to invade China's borders and slaughter the Emperor's best armies, there's a very good reason why everyone (except the Emperor himself) fears them.
Chi Fu: Order! People, order! Recruit: I'd like a pan-fried noodle! Chien-Po: Ooh, ooh, sweet and pungent shrimp. Recruit 2: Moo goo gai pan. Chi Fu: [amid laughter] That's not funny.
Ling: Wish that I had... Crew: A girl worth fighting— [All catch sight of blood-red sky and village burned down to the ground. Music echoes then dies.]
A smaller example occurs in the middle of the song, when Mulan suggests that a girl worth fighting for is one "with a brain, who always speaks her mind". Her fellow soldiers don't see the appeal, and apparently neither does the BGM.
Longing Look: What totally gives away Mulan's crush on Shang to Mushu.
Love Makes You Dumb: Shang is an incredibly competent and professional soldier, not even letting his father's death distract him from the task at hand. Then he starts talking to Mulan while she's a girl but that point he didn't really need to be focused on Huns.
The Makeover: Twice; once in "You'll Bring Honor to Us All" and when she "becomes" a man.
Shortly after the above example comes a double-whiplash: somberness turns into hilarity when a rocket fires out of Mulan's cart, having accidentally been lit by Mushu (who weakly tries to blame Cri-Kee); and THEN hilarity turns into panic as the Huns take notice and attack.
Mortal Wound Reveal: Mulan is revealed to be injured after the initial defeat of the Big Bad but not mortally so. Although it could have been had she not received medical attention.
Mulan: But you know how it is when you get those manly urges, and you just gotta kill something— [tries to punch Shang on the shoulder and hurts her hand] ...uh, fix things... cook outdoors...
Motivation on a Stick: Mulan uses a dog and bone to feed the chickens. The bone-on-a-stick is tied to the dog's back so the bone is always in front of the dog, and the dog runs around with a feedbag leaking grain behind him.
Never Trust a Trailer: The teaser trailer makes the film seem more like an action-adventure drama. The movie itself turns out to be a kids' musical with bits of action.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Played with. Mulan's grandmother gives her a cricket to give her luck in order to help her with the matchmaker. While Mulan wasn't performing well to start with, it's obvious that the cricket is the direct cause for her failing the matchmaking. Had she succeeded, she might not have joined the army in her father's place and the Huns would have succeed in their invasion. She also would not have won the heart of Shang, who is a better match than the matchmaker could have arranged for her. It's possible that Mulan still would have taken her father's place in the army had her meeting with the matchmaker been successful. It would have, however, introduced a complication in her relationship with Shang.
The Chinese soldier patrolling the Great Wall during the film's introduction. His facial expressions when the Huns start to scale the walls and his first sighting of Shan Yu says it all.
Shan Yu gets several. He gets one when Mulan sets off the avalanche and an even better one when she launches him into a tower containing what seems to be half the fireworks in the country.
Shang's army when they find the mountain village has been utterly destroyed and that the Imperial Army led by Shang's father has been wiped out along with it. Second time comes when they find out just how large the Hun army really is.
Mulan gets one when Shang enters her tent after she's bandaged up and she realizes that he knows she's a woman.
Oh Crap Smile: During "I'll Make A Man Out Of You", Shang caught Mulan cheating by putting apples on her arrows (courtesy of Mushu). Mulan reacts with an awkward smile pictured in the trope page.
Mushu: Ling! How about Ling? Mulan:His name is Ling. Shang: I didn't ask for his name; I asked for yours.
Our Dragons Are Different: Mushu is an Eastern dragon, but he is small and has relatively few powers. This may be because he was demoted from a family guardian after he he he failed. He can, however, breathe fire, a trait more typical of Western dragons.
Outdoor Bath Peeping: Inverted and Gender Inverted. Mulan is mid-bath when Ling, Yao and Chien-Po decide they want to wash up. The sequence is marked by Mulan sinking as low in the water as possible, desperately trying to make a hasty exit, maintain her disguise and avoid getting an eyeful of her nude comrades, who are guilelessly trying to befriend "Ping" with a little good-natured water fight.
Out-Gambitted: General Li had everything planned: By praising his son he'd make Chi-Fu suspicious of him, so Chi-Fu would stay back and make sure Shang never marches off into battle. (Which would likely mean old war hero Fa Zhou would have been safe.) Not having to worry about either Chi-Fu's obstruction or Shang's wellbeing, Li would lay a trap for the Huns with the main army. Then Shan Yu finds out where Li is waiting - and decides not to avoid the battle.
Outrun the Fireball: Mulan's "Get off the roof. Get off the roof. Get off the roof!" as Shan Yu is about to be blown up.
A colder variant occurs earlier when everyone's outrunning the avalanche.
Pandaing To The Audience: Mushu disguised as a messenger delivers a fake message to Chi-Fu riding on the back of a panda, after Khan refuses to cooperate.
Mushu In Disguise: What's the matter? Never seen a black-and-white before?
Parental Abandonment: Averted. Mulan is one of the only Disney protagonists to have both parents living. She even has a grandmother as an added bonus.
Plucky Comic Relief: Mushu to Mulan, and Cri-kee to Mushu. Mushu seems to have the ability to break the rules of reality for his gags, brushing his teeth with a standard modern toothbrush and toothpaste, and referring to a panda as a "black-and-white", a reference to a police car.
Plucky Girl: Mulan doesn't let a little thing like a bleeding chest wound stop her from saving Shang's life. Hell, aside from the initial pain, she doesn't even seem to notice it until things have calmed down. Gotta love that adrenaline, eh?
Politically Incorrect Villain: Averted. Shan Yu is one of the few male characters in the movie to never say anything sexist against Mulan. This could be because the Huns were less sexist against women than the Chinese.
Chi-fu plays this straight however, to the extent that he can be considered a villain.
Politically Correct History: Averted, many of the male characters are extremely sexist or prejudiced. Mulan herself is in no way rebelling against the prospect of arranged marriage or Ancient China's idea for proper feminine behavior at the beginning of the film and is significantly upset because she wants to fit into that role but can't manage it.
Reflections are a motif in the movie - the pond at her house, the multiple ones in the ancestors' shrine (where she wipes off her makeup), the song, her helmet (which she throws to the ground), and the iconic sword.
The Emperor of China: I've heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father's armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and... you have saved us all.
Shout-Out: The families Chi-Fu calls to claim their conscription notices are the names of Disney animators, Mulan's alter-ego is named after Sai Ping Lok, another Disney Studios who did background work and research for the movie.
Shown Their Work: Shan-Yu doesn't even question that "the soldier from the mountains" would be a woman when Mulan reveals herself to him. In Hun society, women were equal with men in many ways, including eligibility to join the army and hunting. It didn't matter that she was just a woman; to him, she was just another soldier.
The Smurfette Principle: Mulan herself is the only woman with any importance. Her mother and grandmother feature prominently at the start. In this case it's probably justified since there aren't supposed to be any women in the Chinese army.
Talking Is a Free Action: Averted. Just as Yao is on the verge of saving Mulan and Shang from getting knocked off the cliff by the avalanche by firing a rope-tied arrow to them, he takes the time before grabbing the rope to say out loud that he should grab it, causing him to just miss it.
When preparing Mulan to see the matchmaker, her grandmother sings:
Grandmother Fa: Beads of jade for beauty / You must proudly show it / Now add a cricket just for luck / And even you can't blow it!
Later, after narrowly escaping the lake with her disguise intact:
Mulan: I never want to see a naked man again. [Cue the stampede of naked men]
Testosterone Poisoning: Mulan's portrayal of Ping is a hilariously bad attempt to be a stereotypical manly-man.
Third Act Misunderstanding: When Mulan's true gender is revealed, her friends aren't willing to trust her word when they really should. However, it's mostly Shang who carries a grudge over being deceived, and even he is shown looking warily to either side as he approaches the palace - as soon as the crisis breaks out, the other soldiers are quick to follow Mulan's lead, and Shang is only a little behind them.
Through His Stomach: The song "A Girl Worth Fighting For" references this. Ling's ideal girl has pale skin and bright, shining eyes; Yao's will be wooed by his great strength; Chien-Po only cares if she's a good cook.
Throwaway Country: The village that was razed to the ground to demonstrate Hun viciousness.
Took a Level in Badass: This is the point of the "I'll Make a Man Out of You" sequence; turn rowdy recruits into polished soldiers.
Twelfth Night Adventure: Notice that the character is drawn differently when she pretends to be a man. Look at the movie poster where half of her face is reflected in a sword. Notice her nose and jaw. Disney Adventures pointed this out at the time of the movie's release, and the DVD Commentary flat-out admitted it. The Nostalgia Chicknoticed that her eyelashes disappear whenever she's disguised. Looking closely, you can see that they even momentarily vanish when she draws her hair back up to reveal her identity to Shan Yu.
Uncle Tomfoolery: Mushu. Roger Ebert said it best: "a black dude in medieval China?" This is more a function of Eddie Murphy's standard roles than anything else.
Villain Song: Averted; Shan Yu one of the more well-known Disney Villains to never have gotten one. One of the things the animators were going for with Shan Yu was to make him a man of few words and let his actions carry the character. Giving him a song would have derailed that.
Villainous Valour: There's a reason why Shan Yu is nowadays considered one of the most badass of Disney villains: he's strong enough to easily break down a barricaded door or effortlessly slice through a massive pillar with his sword. He's also very proud of his army, as shown at the beginning when he thought it was perfect that all of China knew they were coming after the signal fire was lit, and when he flatly refused to avoid the Imperial troops and instead opted to take them head on, knowing that they are the elite of China's armies.
Weapon Tombstone: When the General — who also happens to be Shang's father — dies, Shang buries him. In the absence of anything else that hasn't been burned or destroyed, he marks the grave with his father's helmet, placed on his own sword.
"Well Done, Daughter" Girl: Both as a bride-to-be and as a soldier Mulan seeks to make her father proud. This is her driving motivation thoughout the movie.
Wham Line: More like a wham silence at the end of "A Girl Worth Fighting For". Everyone's happily singing about that certain girl that's waiting for them at home (or not!) and then... wham. Pillaged village.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Mushu accompanies Mulan rather than facing the ancestor spirits when he destroys the statue holding the spirit that was *supposed* to follow her. When they return as heroes no mention is ever made of the destruction of the other (apparently much more competent and powerful) guardian spirit.
Also the falcon.
Who Are You?: Mushu heads over to the fireworks area during the final battle, and is asked by the guards there, "Who are you?" He responds, "Your worst nightmare," and they flee.
Mulan's three friends make "Concubines." "Ugly Concubines."
Worthy Opponent: Towards the climax, when Mulan reveals that it was she who destroyed the Hun army, Shan Yu isn't at all shocked and calls her "the soldier of the mountains." Then he comes at her without wasting any time with the usual "I've been beaten by a woman" stuff villains usually spout when facing a female opponent.
Wuxia: Set in an indeterminate era of medieval/ancient China, in an indeterminate part, with several fantastical elements such as dragons and ancestral spirits, this movie fits this to a T, though nobody generally thinks of it as one.
Yamato Nadeshiko: Mulan herself plays with the trope. She has the looks, is extremely devoted to her parents and desperately tries to fit in as a perfectly feminine and demure daughter... without much success. However, when she learns that her already old father will have to go to war with the Huns, she shows the core of steel part by dressing up as a male and taking his place, not for glory or to rebel against her family but to save her dad's life and the family honor.
You Shall Not Pass: Shang's troops, heavily outnumbered with almost no cannons, face the entire Hun army at the Tung Shao Pass. They fully expect to be slaughtered, as the rest of the Chinese army was, and without Mulan using their last cannon to trap the troops in an avalanche, they would have.
Shang later attempts a one-man version of this against Shan Yu in the imperial palace. He fails.
Arranged Marriage: The axis of the whole plot is for the Chinese Emperor to make an alliance with a neighboring kingdom that will discourage Mongol invasion.
Deus ex Machina: Employed in the original style as Mushu climbs into an idol of the Unity Dragon and makes supposedly divine pronouncements (punctuated with a bit of fire-breathing) that neatly resolve what has become a very tangled situation.
Disney Death: Shang. It is easy to infer that he survived but the characters believe he was dead.
Heroic Sacrifice: Shang. The princesses can also be seen as performing this, as they risk their happiness for political alliance.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lampshaded with Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po after having been told by the matchmaker that none of them would ever find matches for themselves:
Chien-Po: I guess I'll spend my life with you two. Ling: Pass the hanky.
Honorable Marriage Proposal: A very rare female case: Mulan proposes to a prince of Qi Gong to satisfy the requirements of alliance which she threatened by persuading the princesses to follow their desires.
Pass the Popcorn: Mushu sits in a tree eating popcorn after Shang approaches Mulan to confront her about how she got the princesses to follow their hearts.
Politically Correct History: Mulan 2 in regard to its "arranged marriage = bad" campaign and the fact that Mulan got away with practically kidnapping the princesses and allowing them to marry commoners.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Mushu becomes selfish and demanding. This is because the ancestors did the same, the marriage threatened to separate him from Mulan so he tried to prevent that with sabotage.
Training from Hell: Averted by Mulan, who begins teaching the girls to fight by telling them that one should be gentle and kind to others. It's a possible inversion of the scene with Shang from the first part of the film and part of the 'yin-yang' motift of this movie.