So it's easier to retrieve the arrow without strength and discipline?
It's a pretty neat analogy, actually—"strength" and "discipline" seemed like burdens until you figure out how to use them.
It's also possible that the wood was too smooth to climb up without resorting to Mulan's little trick.
For some reason, I got the idea that oil was smeared on the wood.
Even if it wasn't unusually smooth or slick, climbing a featureless pole which provides no hand- or foot-holds is hardly an easy feat. Used in combination, the "strength" and "discipline" weights make the process easier than it would be without them.
Yes, but it would mean cheating (either by not using the weights, or by dropping discipline to make up for a lack of strength). So still a pretty neat analogy. And you literally need strength and discipline to retrieve the arrow, since no matter how disciplined you are and figure out the trick of it, without enough strength to lift the weights in the first place, you're not going anywhere. This is a pretty neat analogy.
While we're on the arrow scene: Shang basically kicks Mulan out of boot camp, until she proves her worth by retrieving the arrow. But couldn't she just have gone home then, since her whole reason to join the war was to save her father? I doubt they would have bothered to go back and draft her dad...
At that point it wasn't just about saving her father, it was also about bringing honor to her family. You don't do that by getting kicked out of the army for being too weak.
In Chinese society, serving in the war was not just a duty - it was an honour. Honour was highly regarded in those days. Mulan being kicked out during the training stage would have brought even more disgrace on her family. Plus on a personal level, Mulan had already made a spectacle of herself at the Matchmaker's and again when she spoke out of turn in public. Going back home when she had tried to save her father would mean that she had frelled it up again. She wanted to prove that she could do something right.
Because they already knew what she looked like dressed as a man and would have recognized her.
Troper was probably referring to the crowds around the palace - people who would not have recognized her. This troper suspects it has more to do with Mulan becoming too familiar with the respect and attention given to her as a man, the scene in the city being a rather unfortunate reality check.
I always thought they didn't believe her because they just thought she was some crazy chick running around.
Either she left her "man" disguise on the mountain, or she was too panicked to find another.
This Troper always thought it was because her "man clothes" were bloody, torn armor. Her priority (and that of the soldiers in their original journey) was speed, so they packed as little extra clothing as possible.
Also, it's very likely that the soldiers took her male clothing away so she couldn't trick anybody else by posing as a soldier again.
Isn't she still wearing the tunic and pants when she first gets to the capital, though? They might have taken her armor away, but she still had some of her man clothing. All Mulan would have had to do is put her hair back up.
They wouldn't have cared. Even in disguise, they'd assume she's just one panicking guy.
A minor problem with Mulan's overt motivation presents itself when you think about it: Any competent commander/officer/NCO would look at her father and stamp R.E.M.F. on his file, if not his forehead, due to his injury and age so the odds of him ending up on the front lines are pretty low.
It's possible the severity of Fa Zhou's injury may not have been well known beyond his home town, and considering Chi Fu was the "competent" officer who arrived...
Averted and Justified when you study Middle Age militaries, who had an ENTIRELY different concept of "combat-ready" than we do, what with intense press scrutiny and electorates to please. And even now, if the threat was perceived to be great enough (say, a bunch of genocidal maniacs have been cutting a swath through the country and defeating the regular military at every turn) we today probably WOULD be scrounging REMFs, NFFSMFs, and any MF we could find to throw into the battle line and HOPE they do something. And given that this is Imperial China- which decidedly does NOT have such issues- and the apparent ease at which the Huns cut the regular army to pieces coupled with the fall of at least a large section of the Great Wall and the fact that even after the mountain pass they STILL made it to the Imperial City, the truly amazing thing is that they ONLY conscripted one man per family (indeed, in the historical Xiongnu conflicts, the Emperor often went even further). That, and they were recruiting for the Imperial Army in general rather than merely combat units, and the Imperial Army doubtless had support units- we just don't see them- which would include the need for REMFs, and...
When the crossdressing attempt fails, the three guys take out their "busts". Ling takes out apples. Chien Po takes out watermelons. Yao takes out an apple...and a banana?
Considering he didn't even bother shaving off his beard, the banana was the least unconvincing part of his getup.
Not to mention it was lampshaded in movie. Ling glanced at Yao baffled at his choice of food boobs, if you recall.
In the reprise of "Be A Man," when Yao, Chien Po, and Ling dress as concubines - where did they get those clothes? And wigs? And fruit, for that matter?
Stuff they found lying around the palace? There probably were rooms set aside for the real concubines that would be stocked with stuff.
No, they were outside the palace at the time (hence the need to break in). Maybe they found a few street vendors in the crowd?
"Special discount! China is about to fall to the Huns! Everything must go! Buy now!"
However, as funny as that is, remember that at this point everyone in the capital thinks the Huns are dead and defeated. So in the midst of all that celebrating, it'd be more likely for there to be fruit vendors and clothing merchants around to take stock from.
They're Imperial troops acting at a time of extreme national emergency. Surely they had the authority to commandeer whatever resources their mission required from the civilian populace; this time, it was just a more unusual seizure than the usual food and barrack-space.
When Chi Fu is giving the enlistment notices to the Fa Family and Mulan tries to stop her father from being enlisted, it's made quite clear to that she has no other male relatives to take his place. Yet when she shows up as Ping to the training camp Chi Fu merely comments that he didn't know Fa Zhou had a son. Chi Fu isn't stupid yet the thought never occurs to him that maybe the daughter is the son that no one's ever heard about.
It's not made clear, all that they know is that there wasn't another male relative in the streets at that time. Shang comments that he didn't know Fa Zhou had a son, and Chi Fu's reaction to Ping's reply of "he doesn't really talk about me much" seemed to imply that he figured that there was a son who was so much of an embarrassment that he was hidden away. As for why they didn't suspect crossdressing, the penalty for what Mulan did would have been certain death. Probably "Fa Zhou has a crazy, little-known son" seemed more probable to them than "Fa Zhou's daughter is actually insane enough to dress up as a man and go to war, risking her entire family's honor and her life".
Also note that Chi Fu simply announces each family's name and hands out conscription notices to whoever steps forward. There's no indication that he had any information about the number or gender of children in each family.
True. Before he calls for the Hua family, Chi Fu hands a conscription notice to son who explicitly says "I will go in my father's place." Chi Fu obviously didn't care who accepted the notice so long as each family sent someone, so his willingness to accept "Ping" may just have been a result of the dire situation, where any warm body was appreciated.
Small one: During the Honor To Us All montage, one of the women fixes a very tight sash around Mulan's waist like a corset, specifically saying, "With good breeding and a tiny waist, you'll bring honor to us all." Later, when Mulan is being examined by the matchmaker, the matchmaker says, "Too skinny. Not good for bearing sons." Um, what?
The previous girls were skinny, the matchmaker was fat. Their differing standards of beauty are very convenient.
Also, a tiny waist doesn't mean you're skinny. *pats her trusty old hips*
That makes a lot of sense. Hips are important for *ahem* child-bearing.
I'd always assumed that it was to emphasize how hard it was to please the matchmaker. She might have called Mulan "too fat" without the sash.
Also the overall hypocrisy of treating girls like marriageable property, in whom the only traits of value are superficial physical qualities that aren't even consistent.
Why is Mulan's group so small? I don't think I ever saw more than 20 soldiers onscreen at once. Such a ridiculously tiny number of reinforcements wouldn't have had an impact one way or the other in the war if it hadn't been for Mulan's cannon trick; even the assassination of the emperor, while tragic, wouldn't have been such a big deal for the country. And before anybody mentions Thermopylae as an example of small troop numbers making a huge difference, that was several thousand men with superior armor and weapons deliberately holding a choke point. It could be an animation simplification, but they were able to animate the hundreds/thousands of Huns descending down the snowy slope to kill them all, so I doubt it.
The animation for the thousands of Huns probably cost enough as it was.
I thought they were just supposed to get trained in a small group, and later join the bigger group (led by Shang's father, the General). Meeting the Huns was an unfortunate coincidence.
This. Her group was supposed to just be a small force of reserves to be used as backup (particularly since Chi Fu had been made suspicious of Shang and so was determined to keep him and the men he trained out of the war), and the rest went with General Li's army, where Shan-Yu killed them.
I remember seeing a piece where they talked about the "horde of Huns" animation sequence. Long story short, they cheated, using a few tricks of animation to make it a lot easier than it should have been (such as looping sequences of animation) in ways that an audience generally won't notice.
It's possible that there are more, and they weren't cut for animation issues but for time issues.
In the "I'll make a man out of you" song, there were quite a few of them, although not as many as there were Huns. Most of them mysteriously disappeared after they encountered the Huns, leaving just the main characters. My theories are that either they ran away after seeing the Huns, or they were killed in the avalanche.
There still seems to be a pretty decent number of them during the "A Girl Worth Fighting For" sequence, so some of them running away and/or being killed by the avalanche does make a lot of sense...
There's also a good chance a few of them died, either due to the avalanche or injury/illness. Keep in mind, the movie makes it seem short, but to trek that much land back in those days would've taken days if not WEEKS at a time. They had limited supplies, food, water, etc. Not unlikely a few of them just dropped on the way.
Since I can't quite pin this on a conventional timeline, I have to ask: if Mulan is old enough to pose as a man, shouldn't her feet have been bound for many years at this point? Her family is also clearly a family of means, so wouldn't she be expected to have bound feet? Or is it too early for that? Footbinding started around the 10th century.
Depending on when the story actually takes place, this could be during the Tang dynasty proper, or Mulan could be descended from some of the northern families that founded the Tang dynasty. Some Chinese groups didn't favor footbinding, since it basically incapacitates the woman.
The legend of Hua Mulan was commonly accepted as written in the 4-7th centuries, and that was a few centuries before foot-binding appeared.
I think I recall reading somewhere that foot-binding was only practiced among the wealthier classes. Even if this was set in a time period when feet were bound, wouldn't Mulan have been spared anyway on account of her being the only child of a farming family?
"only child of a farming family?" They live in a pretty fancy house, with the pond and statues and all...I figured that was some benefit Mulan's father got after working in the army.
Probably not. This isn't the Dirt Ages (which weren't like that either). The premise that being a peasant/non-upper class child and thus required to do some sort of labor is probably the best rational.
At the beginning Mulan is shown as performing chores around the household. A) Foot binding would obviously not allow her to perform those chores B) If Mulan's family was rich enough to bind her feet they wouldn't have needed her to perform chores in the first place having the money for servants and such.
irrc the Hua Mulan story is supposed to be set in northern Wei dynasty (386–534).
Critical Research Failure here. The earliest evidence of the practice comes from the 10th century, while Hua Mulan at the latest the 6th century. And it took centuries to spread to anything approaching universal even among the upper classes.
Actually I always assumed it was a noble family who fall on hard times. They're rich enough to have a place to worship their ancestors (and that would mean they could recite ancestors or have a written record somewhere). Actually footbinding broke one's toes since it made the toes got very bent.
Well, given the implication that Fa Zhou is a war hero/Living Legend, it's possible that their estate was granted to them as a reward for whatever deed(s) Fa Zhou did. They probably ONLY got the land, though, so that's why Mulan still does chores.
Mushu. Dragons in the East are generally associated with yin energy and water - see Tiger Versus Dragon. Wise, patient, calm and wet. Mushu breathes fire.
This gets kinda-sorta addressed in Disney's Hollywood Studios where Mushu is (as of last visit) the focus of their segment on character design. Mushu is a Composite Character of several potential companion dragons, and Mushu at least has the overall shape of a classic Chinese dragon.
Actually, Eastern Dragons can be associated with any element.
At one point, Chi Fu makes it clear that he intends to send a failing report about the unit's training so that Li Shang's soldiers will "never see battle." Overhearing this, Mushu takes the initiative and delivers a fake message claiming that the unit is needed on the front lines... Isn't that kind of a stupid idea? Mushu's job is to make sure that Mulan is kept safe, so shouldn't it be a good thing that her unit is being kept out of the fighting?
The unit being unfit and never seeing battle would dishonor everybody in it. That's a big thing.
Plus although Mushu was ordered to keep Mulan safe, his personal goal is to help her win honor and glory so that he can regain his place as one of the family's guardians.
Also if you recall, Mushu said something along the lines of "I have worked too hard to get Mulan into this war."
Mushu's job wasn't to keep Mulan safe. It was to awaken the Great Stone Dragon so that the Stone Dragon could bring her back before she got herself killed or brought dishonor to the family. When Mushu broke the statue, he said that he'd "have to bring Mulan home with a medal to get back in the temple;" his main reasons for going were to act as Mulan's guardian and, more importantly, to try fixing his own screw-ups.
I haven't thought of this until now, but what happened at home when Mulan was in the army? Wouldn't anyone have found it weird that Mulan seemed to have just disappeared randomly, and that her father still seemed to be around?
The father could have stayed inside and away from people, and they could say Mulan was sick, working in the house, or recovering from humiliation and dishonor.
Also she had made a spectacle of herself at the Matchmaker and again when Chi-Fu came with the conscription notices. The family could say that she was being kept in hiding because she had publicly disgraced herself.
So... Shang seemed pretty upset that Mulan lied about being a man and snuck into the army. However, if they all knew that the penalty for revealing that she was a woman equaled death, shouldn't he be a lot more understanding?
Just as everything seems to be going well, Shang is suddenly thrown into a situation where he has to either execute a person he likes and respects, or disobey the law. His reaction is quite natural.
Having "Ping" exposed as a woman also disrupts the cohesion and morale of Shang's other troops, at a time when they really need to work together effectively if they're to survive the war at all. He'd have been upset about any stunt one of them could've pulled, that had such an effect.
What bugs me about the sequel is two major things;the anti-arranged marriage aesop and the Critical Research Failure on the Mongolians. For one thing, in the first movie we see Mulan getting prepared to enter into an arranged marriage without any complaints, while in the sequel she is obviously against arranged marriages. That's an obvious example of character derailment on her part and the fact that the arranged marriage would have saved the country from war. Besides, Mulan in the first movie would have understood the happiness of the majority outweighs the happiness of the few. Also another thing; they have the Mongolians in the movie which if any one did any research came after the Huns. Also the Mongolians in the movie are dressed similarly to the Chinese when they would have been dressed and be culturally like the Huns.
The arranged marriage thing actually seems more like Character Development to me: having been burned by the system during that disaster with the matchmaker in the first movie, and at the same time land an extremely good catch like Shang on her own, Mulan might very well decide to be against matchmaking. She was clearly already conflicted about having to act all delicate and demure when it goes against her character like that, so having her want to protect other girls from that kind of situation doesn't seem too out of place.
There's rumors that that the Huns and Mongols were related, since they were known to occupy the same regions, but they left no written records so it's impossible to know. Anyway, mixing the two is nothing new. In Night at the Museum, Attila the Hun is made to look East Asian when he, by best guesses, was Caucasian. Possibly they confused him with Genghis Khan.
"Mongolian" doesn't rhyme with anything so it'd break the song.
Interesting note, some parts of the Great Wall of China were built to keep out the Huns but, if memory serves, the Huns came much later in Chinese history (it was some time in the AD era about the fifth to seventh centuries). Also the Huns were actually a nomadic group believed to have come from that particular area (there is evidence to suggest otherwise, as there is to suggest a connection).
One more thing about the sequel.... Was that whole issue with the alliance ever resolved? There was never a marriage to solidify that.
The Great Golden Dragon of Unity showed up and declared that everyone should get along and be friends. At that point, at least with the sliding scale of idealism vs. cynicism set to "Disney," the marriages are kind of a moot point as long as nobody figured out it was Mushu bullshitting everybody.
Why didn't The Emperor have any bodyguards around him during the finale? That would've stopped Shan Yu and his men from kidnapping him. Even if everyone thought all the Huns had died, surely the ruler of China would have bodyguards protecting him anyway when he's visiting a huge gathering of people, as there would be plenty of other potential threats besides invading Huns.
Who says he didn't, and that the Huns didn't just kill the bodyguards?
When he is kidnapped, the Emperor has come down from his palace to a long and wide set of stairs, with no bodyguards in sight. If there were guards, they were either so far away that they were effectively useless, or the Huns had killed them before he came down the stairs. But if it's the latter case, why would the Emperor have come down the stairs at all, since his life was obviously at risk? Also, it would've meant the Huns were already in the palace, so they could've kidnapped the Emperor before he even came down the stairs.
The bodyguards were part of General Li's army that was slaughtered in the Tung Shao pass. After being informed of the Hun invasion the Emperor discounts his own security and allocates all military resources to the defence of his people.
General Li: We'll set up defenses around your palace immediately
Emperor: No! Send your troops to protect my people
I can see how the Emperor wouldn't want a whole army to protect him, but I can't imagine he would send his own personal bodyguards away alongside the troops. In a army of that size, a handful of men wouldn't make any difference, but alongside the Emperor they would make all the difference if someone, say, wanted to assassinate or kidnap him. The Emperor is depicted as a good king who cares about his people, but he isn't depicted as stupid. More importantly, by the time the finale happens, everyone thinks the war is over. Even if the Emperor was stupid enough to send his own bodyguards with General Li, and they died when Li's army was slaughtered, you'd think the Emperor could get some other men to replace them now that the Huns have (supposedly) been defeated?
As the Emperor said himself:
Emperor: A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.
Yes, and apparently the Emperor doesn't subscribe to his own wisdom, because if he'd had just a handful of men to guard him, that would've ensured some solitary enemies can't just attack him and take him as hostage (or worse, kill him) in his own palace.
The answer is actually given by the OP: the war was over and the Huns were all dead, as far as the Emperor knew. So he would have no reason to be afraid or feel bodyguards were needed. By all accounts the people in the city loved him and were simply happy to celebrate the Chinese victory, so why would he be worried someone in the crowd could or would kill him? Plus for all his wisdom he seems the sort to be trusting and expect the best of people.
He'd have guards for the same reason there are soldiers at the gates of Buckingham Palace and Marines or members of the US Secret Service outside the White House (not American, so I don't know who keeps security there): provide security, police the area, and keep out whoever would interfere with the workings of the government and generally cause disruption (this last one used to be quite an issue at the White House, back when there still was almost unrestricted access). And given among the possible intruders there have always been hitmen, rebels and other assorted criminals those guards have to be soldiers and/or police (here in Italy it's the Carabinieri who do the job, and they are trained as both policemen and soldiers). So, no, some guards should have been there anyway, at least to prevent some people from annoying the Emperor.
How did Shan Yu and those last few Huns survive being buried in the snow for hours? Even if they didn't die from being suffocated, they'd at least have frostbite or something. But the survivors look no worse for the wear.
Either 1) they weren't buried for as long as it looks like, or 2) they'd been struggling to get out for a while and managed to make some air holes for themselves. Note that when we see Shan Yu burst out of the snow, we can see a good part of his wrist, instead of just his hand or fingertips, so they were probably at least close enough to the surface for this to be (somewhat) hand wave-able. Though I still question those two who weren't even wearing shirts.
This might be a stupid question since Mulan is an anachronistic movie, but are the cannons used in the movie historically accurate? (in the sense that any of the dynasties that inspired the movie might have had them?)
The first real gunpowder weapons were "Fire Lances". They were bamboo tubes filled with gunpowder and a projectile and tied to the ends of Chinese-spears. They were mainly used in close-combat to give the wielder an edge, and had an effective range of about five feet. These were created around 900CE. Fireworks were created to ward of evil spirits and were created around 600-700CE, being used in combat around 900CE. The Han Dynasty, where the movie was set, was between 206BCE to 220CE and the Legend of Hau Mulan is set, according to the earliest accounts, in the Northern Wei dynasty around 386CE–534CE. The use of gunpowder weapons in Mulan is about 100-800 years out of date.
Judging by the clothing and building styles I would have guessed Tang dynasty. The audio commentary admits that they seemed to be going with the most recognizable images, so dating the film isn't easy. For example, the Great Wall is drawn as it was in its final incarnation, since that is the most recognizable to audiences.
It's mentioned that the Emperor portrayed in the movie was the one who built the Great Wall (Shan-yu says at one point "By building his wall he challenged my strength"), which means this is Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, who unified the country in 221BC. If we date the movie based on his appearance, then no, the cannons are absolutely not historically accurate. But as the OP says, Mulan is an anachronistic movie at the best of times.
Was the Great Stone Dragon just an ordinary statue and not supposed to come to life or was Mushu just banging the gong the wrong way?
Given how Mushu was the dragon guardian at some point, it's pretty likely that the Great Stone Dragon was just a normal statue (and maybe even a fairly new one at that).
The Great Ancestor referred to him as the most powerful one. I doubt they'd just tack that title on a statue because it's new and spiffy looking. Mushu was quite indignant and probably wasn't ringing the gong properly.
While we're on the subject, did the Fa family ever notice their giant stone dragon statue suddenly crumbling into itty bitty pieces?
On the Fridge Brilliance page (and the main one) it's been suggested the Stone Dragon's spirit left with Mulan, after she sat under it and was inspired to have the courage to go to war in her father's place. It's also possible the Stone Dragon knew Mulan would only succeed the way she did, with Mushu's help, so rather than go with her and be forced to bring her home (and let China be doomed to invasion), it didn't answer the summons so that Mushu would be forced to go instead.
Chi Fu calls Mulan's act "high treason". This has never made sense to me. The definition of treason is to plot against one's government or country. Um, excuse me? There's a difference between illegally joining the army and betraying your country. Yes, joining the army disguised as a man was breaking the law, but I'd hardly call that treason.
Remember how the girls in "Honor To Us All" said that it was (literally) their job for the emperor, as Chinese women of child-bearing age, to bear sons to be soldiers? Depending on the era, and the imperial decrees that happened to be standing at the time (even implicit "in times of war" bureaucratic decrees), it could have technically been high treason.
Or, since Chi Fu is a sexist jerk, he could have just been shouting random crimes out of anger and/or to give reasons to execute Mulan.
I have long had a problem with the "beads of jade for beauty" (which Mulan "must proudly show"). Would the very regular string of jade beads (especially in that colour) have clashed with the outfit Mulan was wearing for her visit to the Matchmaker in the time periods when that outfit would have been worn? Was Grandmother so obsessed with superstition (not an unreasonable explanation) that she would rather disrupt the flow and cohesion of the outfit with the expectation that the beads of jade would bring more beauty than they would disrupt? The cricket cage was also disruptive, but it was clearly separate from the outfit, and not intended to be an accessory. Would a different type of necklace, such as a string of small jade beads regularly broken by a larger or cylindrical jade bead, or jade of a pale or reddish colour, have been better (had it been available, and assuming pale green jade or red jade would have had the same effect in Grandmother's mysticism)? Long point short, that necklace seems like a bad choice, aesthetically, and I'm wondering if that's just me (from the perspective of my time period and culture) or... what?
Grandmother was referring to Mulan's natural beauty as being that which she must "proudly show," with the beads of jade being meant to assist her via Grandmother's mysticism. If you rewatch the matchmaker scene I believe the jade is beneath her dress.
I never saw a problem with it, aesthetically speaking... the outfit is multicolored, with pink-tending to mauve, blue-tending to indigo, deep red — nothing primary, so the bluish green jade isn't too out of place. And I think it provides a nice contrast. Or maybe, who knows, the jade beads were a family heirloom, traditionally worn at every matchmaking session, and Grandmother Fa brings them out because it's a family tradition! She's stubborn enough.
When did The Emperor get Shan-Yu's sword? It was last left on the roof where it pinned him, yet a few moments later he takes it out from nowhere to award it to her.
Watch the previous scene again. After Mulan ziplines off the roof to escape the explosion, she crashes into Shang on the way. As they collide, Shan-Yu's sword falls down near them, having been flung out from the blast.
What kind of injury did Mulan receive? It was from Shan-Yu's sword and was obviously bad enough to cause some severe bleeding and pain. Yet once she's bandaged up, she's in no pain whatsoever.
Been a while since I've seen the movie, but I think she recieved a blow to the chest area, and it was enough to take her out. As to how she is in no pain whatsoever once she's been bandaged? Simple, the medic did his job. He treated her wound and gave her something to drink, likely something herbal, to dull the pain. Leaving a patient in agony is...not what a medic is supposed to do.
This was partially addressed above, but with a different specific instance. "You're unsuited for the rage of war, so pack up, go home, you're through." "Okay cool. I was just here to replace my father, so I'll be off now." Oh wait, that's not what she did. There a reason she didn't just leave? I mean I get wanting to prove herself, but who cares enough to continue risking their life on two fronts?
Getting drummed out of the military like that would dishonor her family, and if you hadn't picked up on it, that's kind of a big deal in the movie. In a lot of ways, they'd have considered it worse than dying.
Said dishonoring would also probably have drawn attention, and opened up some questions they wouldn't be able to answer. "Where'd that failure son of yours' come from?"
At the very beginning of the movie, after the signal is lit, we cut to the Emperor's palace. Shang's father tells the Emperor that the Huns have crossed the "Northern border" (the Wall), and he says that Shan-Yu is leading them. How could they possibly know that Shan-Yu is the one leading them just from a fire signal?
The Emperor knows that Shan Yu is the leader of the Huns, and there isn't anyone else up in that area at the moment.
So... why exactly didn't Mulan's father go after her when she left?
Because 1. Mulan took his horse so he'd have to walk and get there a long while after her, and 2. he was afraid that getting her would publicly reveal that she was pretending to be a man and get her executed. So he decided to play it safe and count on her keeping her identity hidden rather than risk blowing everything.
How did Huns get into the Emperor's city before Mulan? They were walking on foot, she was riding a horse. And for that matter, how the hell did they manage to hide inside that dragon costume without anyone noticing?
Because the spot where the Huns popped out of the snow like daisies was between Mulan and the imperial city. The Huns had a head start since they were ahead of Mulan and she had to be careful since she was just one person trying to sneak ahead of them without being noticed so probably took a more cautious route to the imperial city whilst the Huns just headed in a straight line.
Mulan 2009 Movie
Who exactly is the Caucasian-looking man (Played by Vitas) who is serving the Rouran chieftain and how did he get there?