Mulan is an animated film released in 1998, as the 36th film on the Disney Animated Canon. It was inspired by the Ancient Chinese folk legend of Hua Mulan (花木蘭).note 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 (Ming-Na Wen), 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.
As Mulan is the only lineage of the Fa family, her ancestors order the disgraced guardian Mushu (Eddie Murphy), who is small and has a penchant for comedy, to send the Great Stone Dragon to fetch Mulan home safely, but Mushu accidentally breaks the Stone Dragon's statue. He then goes in his place, but rather than fetching Mulan, hopes to make her a war hero and bring himself to glory.
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 company to confront the invading Huns in a cliff-top battle.
It was followed by a Direct to Video sequel in 2005, Mulan II. A Graphic Novel, Mulan's Adventure Journal: The Palace of Secrets was published by Dark Horse Comics in March 2020. A live-action version was released on Disney+ in September 2020. A version of Mulan has also appeared in the live-action TV show Once Upon a Time, (which is also produced by the Disney empire) where she is played by Jamie Chung.
Mulan provides examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Shan Yu's sword can slash through almost anything including thick wooden columns sending them down like TIMBER!
- Accidental Hero: If Mushu hadn't decided to write the message to get Mulan into war, then the Huns would have made it to the capital city without a problem.
- Accidental Truth: Mushu writes a fake message from General Li saying that Shang's new troops are needed on the front lines. That message turns out to be desperately true: the village to which they arrive has been sacked by the Huns, leaving no one alive — not even the general — among the civilians or the Army.
- Acrofatic: Chien Po is a tubby guy but he can do flips across a series of poles.
- Action Girl: After going through combat training, Mulan is perfectly capable of taking on adult men hand-to-hand, and even manages to stand against Shan Yu with a bit of cleverness.
- Actor Allusion:
- BD Wong stars as Shang, whose love interest disguises herself as a man to join the army. His first film role was in M. Butterfly — as a man who disguises himself as a woman.
- Mushu jokes of "Ah-Chew" as a potential alias for Mulan. Pat Morita, who voiced the Emperor, guest starred on Sanford and Son as a character called Ah-Chew.
- Yao disguises himself as a woman towards the end. Harvey Fierstein is famous for drag queen performances.
- Actually Pretty Funny: During "A Girl Worth Fighting For," Chi-Fu joins in the singing. Yao jokes to "Ping" that "the only girl who'd love him is his mother." Mulan, who's been uncomfortable for most of the song, can't help but smirk as Chi-Fu glares.
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: The reason Mulan turns down a council position in the ballad is because her gender is still a secret, and her comrades don't discover this until they visit her years after the war. In the film, her gender is already known when the emperor makes the offer, and she gives no reason for her refusal except the desire to go home.
- Adaptation Personality Change: The original Hua Mulan is usually portrayed as quite serious and ambitious. Here she is portrayed as a devoted daughter with an awkward side, who matures over the course of the story.
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade: In contrast to Hua Mulan, who excels as a soldier and whose real gender is never even suspected, Disney's Mulan lives in tension because who she is — even as a woman — isn't what she's supposed to be. She eventually finds the confidence to be a hero and meet society's expectations in her own way.
- Adapted Out: Mulan had a little brother in the original ballad, and also a sister in some versions. She's an only child here, but her dog is named "Little Brother" as a nod to the mythology.
- Adult Fear:
- Mulan runs away from home to take her father's place in the army. Her parents can only remain silent, knowing that she might be killed in battle if she fights but most certainly will be executed if they expose her.
- The last thing Fa Zhou says to Mulan is "I KNOW MY PLACE! It's time you've learned yours," which piles on a bit more fear and guilt. When she returns, with Shan Yu's sword and the emperor's crest as "gifts to honor the Fa family," he tosses them away and hugs her tightly, telling her "the greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter".
- Aesop Amnesia: Despite Mulan ultimately returning home in triumph, proving that a woman can do more with her life than be a wife and mother, all the women of her village care about is that while singlehandedly saving the country, she incidentally caught the eye of a handsome suitor more to her liking than the local boys while doing so.
- All Animals Are Dogs: Surprisingly averted for a Disney film that features at least four 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.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version uses "Breathe" by Luna Sea as the theme song. The Korean version uses "Eternal Memory" by Lena Park.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Every Hun in the movie is a vicious soldier. Justified, as we only see their army.
- Amusing Injuries: During the Training Montage of I'll Make A Man Out Of You, Yao gets his buttock pierced by a burning arrow, which is played for laughs.
- Anachronism Stew:
- The Forbidden City (constructed during the Ming dynasty) is featured prominently in the finale, but the Huns were already integrated into Chinese society by the time of the Northern Wei.
- The use of fireworks suggests the Sui dynasty but their style of dress suggests a later date.
- Goofy Print Underwear with what appears to be an elastic waistband, and a modern toothbrush and toothpaste tube.
- During "I'll Make a Man Out of You," Ling claims to regret "cutting gym [class]," something few teenagers will start doing until the government-sponsored district schools of the Ming dynasty hundreds of years later (for those families which could afford it, which were few).
- See this article for more on historical/cultural accuracy, which is forced to conclude that Mulan is set in "an imaginary dynasty in an imaginary part of China, based on real customs and lands".
- In the German dub, Mushu compares Mulan to Lara Croft. Yes, as in he mentions the character explicitly by her name. Apparently ancient China had Tomb Raider. No, wait, forget that, more importantly: apparently ancient China had video games. Not that his Batman reference later in the movie made that much more sense, though.
- Annoying Arrows: Justified (while defying Armor Is Useless) when an arrow knocks Shang from his horse, but fails to penetrate his shoulder armor. Subverted for the Chinese Red Shirt Army.
- Answer Cut:The Emperor: A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.
[Cut to Mulan playing with some of the rice in her bowl and eating it]
- Arc Symbol: Reflections.
- Arc Words: "Honor".
- Armor-Piercing Question:Fa Mulan: You said you trust Ping. Why is Mulan any different?
- Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: The Emperor's statement starting with "I have heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan..." Bonus points for all of it being true.
- Artistic License Martial Arts:
- During the "I'll Make a Man Out of You" sequence they do deeds worthy of Bruce Lee.
- Take a look at when Mulan kicks Shang. She pivots on her toe — in martial arts, you typically pivot on the ball of your foot.
- Artistic License Physics:
- The lifesaving scene at the end of the avalanche sequence makes heavy use of this. When Yao and the others are having trouble pulling Mulan to safety, Chien Po steps in and lifts not only Mulan's weight, but also that of Shang, Mushu, the horse, all the other soldiers he's "helping" (they are no longer touching the ground at this point), and all the armor.
- Additionally, Khan the horse, Mulan, and Shang are all being held up by a single rope, implied to be tied in one knot somewhere on the horse's tack. That's an impressive rope to be able to pull something like 1400 pounds at a dead lift without breaking.
- According to this video from Film Theory, even if Mulan's rocket missed the mountain summit, the avalanche would have triggered anyway from the noise and shock made by the Hun army as they charged downwards. When Shan Yu orders his army to attack, somehow hundreds of screaming Huns on their galloping horses somehow didn't trigger the avalanche while a single cannon hitting the summit did.
- Artistic License Military: Why no, Yao and Ling's utterly obnoxious behavior does not count as hazing. Why? Hazing is done by more trained recruits to rookies, and Yao and Ling only precede Mulan in age and maybe half a day when arriving at most. Their obnoxious behavior is actually plain old obnoxious behavior.
- Art Shift:
- The Imagine Spot during "A Girl Worth Fighting For", which shifts to the style of brush paintings.
- The billows of snow, smoke, and fire are noticeably 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... until they notice the gigantic avalanche that Mulan's cannon has created and immediately flee back the other way.
- Attractive Bent-Gender:
- "I bet the local girls thought you were quite the charmer..." is sung for Mulan's male persona, and indeed the rice planters take a shine to "him".
- Averted/inverted later, when Mulan's friends sneak into the palace in disguise. "[It's only] Concubines." "Ugly concubines." Though one of the two guards seems to have a more favorable opinion.
- Award-Bait Song: Two of them:
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Shan Yu and his men deduce that the emperor's army are in a village in the mountain pass. They do this through nothing more than the GPS Evidence on a child's doll that Shan Yu's falcon retrieved.
- Badass Boast:
- Band of Brothers: Ping and the others grow on each other during the Training from Hell Montage — which is half of what boot camp is about.
- Bear Hug: Chien Po does this because he is a Gentle Giant.
- Beleaguered Boss: Shang is in charge of getting the new recruits into shape, over the course of "I'll Make A Man Out Of You". Though his efforts go unrewarded at first, the recruits finally shape up once Mulan (the least competent of them all) succeeds in getting an arrow down from a pole, inspiring them.
- Beneath Suspicion: Mulan takes advantage of the culture's gender politics by posing herself and her friends as concubines.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Mulan is the only Disney princess with a body count... in the thousands.
- The Big Board: General Li uses one to explain the war strategy to Shang.
- Big Shadow, Little Creature: During his salvation sermon, Mushu casts a towering shadow due to Cri-Kee fanning a small flame nearby. The illusion is broken when he steps out from behind a rock, and his true size is lampshaded by Mulan: "You're...tiny."Fa Mulan: My ancestors sent a little lizard to help me?
Mushu: Dragon, dragon! Not lizard! I don't do that tongue thing. [Does "that tongue thing" for emphasis]
- Big Sister Instinct: Mulan has this for the girls younger than her. She rescues a doll from some local bullies for its young owner. Later, at the burned-down village, she finds a similar doll and hugs it with a look of anugish.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- Mulan's male alias, "Ping", makes his 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. Another way of using the term is not derogatory, instead using it to refer to women who are required for a position to be pretty without considering capability.
- "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.
- "Hayabusa" is Japanese for falcon, making this a case of Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Blade Reflection: At several moments in the film, Mulan will look at her reflection in her blade or helmet or the Family Ancestor Tablet. It supports the 'reflection' arc word.
- Bloodless Carnage:
- The movie manages to avoid fields of blood even though an entire army was massacred and a village destroyed and burnt by having the devastation seen only after a layer of snow has covered everything.
- Despite getting beaten to a pulp by Shan Yu, Shang isn't even bruised.
- 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.
- Boss Fight: The final fight with Shan Yu. The dude can punch through walls, cut through columns like timber, and power through hard-clay roofs through sheer force of will.
- Both Sides Have a Point: This trope happens the moment Shang leaves behind Mulan after her gender is revealed. Mulan joined the army under illegal false pretenses and has been lying about her entire identity, so Shang's refusal to trust her is understandable, if incorrect. On the other hand, Mulan only did what she did to save her father's life, and she's probably right when she implies ("You said you'd trust Ping. Why is Mulan any different?") that culturally ingrained sexism is also influencing Shang at this point.
- Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Mulan at the end is asked by the Chinese emperor to join his council. It's downplayed because she refuses the offer because she wants to go home, but even the job offer itself is groundbreaking because up until now the council was reserved for men.
- 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.
- Brick Joke:
- At the movie's beginning, Mulan shortcuts feeding the chickens by tying a punctured bag of grain to her dog Little Brother's tail, tying a bone to a stick and fixing it to hang in front of his face, and sending him loose to chase the bone in the direction of the chicken coops. At the end, we see that the chickens now associate Little Brother with food.
- The decapitated ancestor makes a humorous comeback in the ending.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Mulan at the start of the movie is quite intelligent, but it's shown that she tries to cheat on her matchmaker test and gets her dog Little Brother to help with her chores while she's running late. Training in the army takes away the laziness, and forces her to use her creativity in combat.
- The Brute: All but a few of the Huns are huge. Some look Lean and Mean.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: What Ping eventually becomes to "his" fellow soldiers — unorthodox almost to the point of madness, but very effective.
- 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're here." Shan Yu breaks a nearby flag off its pole and adds it to the fire. "Perfect!"
- ...But He Sounds Handsome: The soldiers idly discuss the type of woman they'd like to marry in "A Girl Worth Fighting For". Mulan, disguised as the male Ping, throws in a vote for "How 'bout a girl who's got a brain? Who always speaks her mind?". The men are not impressed.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The "Huns" referred to in the movie are almost certainly the Xiongnu, who were similar in many ways and often identified with the Huns, but were 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: Shang brushes off Mulan's concerns that Shan Yu and some of the other Huns have survived the avalanche. She is vindicated when Shan Yu dramatically reappears, kidnaps the emperor in full view, and seizes the palace.
- 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.
- The Chains of Commanding: Due to being captain, Shang can't go easy on any of his recruits and has to whip them into shape. He doesn't fraternize with any of them, not even for baths, and doesn't respond to Mulan complimenting him for being a good captain. He is also the one honor-bound to execute Mulan for impersonating a man, even after she single-handedly won the victory and saved him personally.
- Challenge Seeker: Shan Yu takes the Great Wall as a challenge, deliberately challenges the Chinese Army and curb-stomps them, and when he and his mooks are buried in an avalanche, they just pop right out of the snow! note
- Character Development:
- Mulan goes from a Brilliant, but Lazy awkward teenager to a Badass Normal soldier who uses creative strategies to get the upper hand in battle.
- After Mulan accidentally antagonizes them, Ling and Yao start to warm up to "Ping" after she manages to get the arrow. Like her, they also become a Badass Normal trio with Chien Po, who remains a Gentle Giant.
- 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.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Mushu attempts to help Mulan cheat with shooting arrows into persimmons. Shang immediately catches her.
- Chekhov's Boomerang: Arrows. One is used in the pole while the recruits are training, and Mulan retrieving it inspires the others to pass their training. Then Shang's troops are attacked by Huns with arrows (including flaming ones) before the full army appears. Finally, Mulan and Shang are rescued from the avalanche with an arrow tied to a rope.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- It's a good thing Mulan got prepared within hours to see the matchmaker. It allows her to disguise herself and her friends as concubines to save the emperor.
- Fa Zhou's helmet, which becomes part of Mulan's army ensemble. It gets emphasis when she wears it to march, especially after the wagons explosion knocks it off. Shang somehow found it despite the battle and avalanche, and uses it as a pretext to visit Mulan and court her. It works; Mulan invites him to stay for dinner.
- Chekhov's Classroom: "Reflect before you act. This will bring you honor and glory." This lesson that Mulan recites for the matchmaker is fulfilled when she sees a snow drift in the reflection of her sword and is inspired to cause an avalanche to bury the Hun army, which is a big part of how she earns honor and glory.
- Chekhov's Skill: Almost all the skills the soldiers learn during the Training Montage are put to use later in the movie:
- 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. Shang even rewards Mulan with a smile as she remembers their very first lesson.
- 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 see 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 Hayabusa, and light the rocket that sends Shan Yu to his death.
- Chien Po's Super Strength. He was shown earlier picking up Yao without a problem. When his retinue is desperately holding onto a rope to keep Mulan and Shang from falling with the avalanche, he picks them all up and helps them mount a successful rescue. Much later, he uses the same skill to evacuate the Emperor from the palace when Shan Yu threatens the latter.
- Cloudcuckoolander: While pretending to be a man, Mulan 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!
- Combat Hand Fan: Mulan uses a paper fan to disarm Shan-Yu.
- Combat Pragmatist: After Shan Yu beats Shang to a pulp, Mulan wisely intuits that she won't win a head-on fight with Shan Yu after she goads him to take his vengeance on her. Instead, she lures him to the roof and distracts him long enough to pin him down and has Mushu light the largest firework he can find.
- Composite Character: Starting in the 18th century, French scholar Joseph de Guignes proposed a link between the Huns and the Xiongnu. Since that time, there has been a great effort devoted to investigating such a connection, but there is little consensus on a direct connection between the two peoples. The film pretty much just combines the two peoples: they're called "Huns" but their leader is a "Shan-Yu" (also represented as "Chanyu") and roughly translates to "Majesty Son of Heaven." Also, a rather controversial belief is that the Xiongnu are the ancestors of the Huns. What is done in this movie is pretty much the equivalent of calling the Vikings "Normans."
- Conscription: Sets the main plot in motion. A decree goes out that every household in the region must provide at least one man to serve in the army for the war with the Huns. Since the only man in the Fa household is Mulan's elderly father, for whom going to war would be a death sentence, Mulan disguises herself as a man and goes in his stead.
- Conservation of Competence: The usual Disney case is averted — Shan-Yu has no comedy underlings, which (much like giving him a song) would've detracted from his particular image.
- Cooldown Hug: Chien Po, on the first occasion when "Ping" ticks off Yao, picks up Yao and guides him in a calming chant.
- Cool Old Guy: The Chinese emperor. Even when he's not dispensing sage king wisdom, he has his moments with some witty one liners.
- Couldn't Find a Lighter: During the battle with the Huns, Mulan is trying to light the last firework but Hayabusa makes her drop her flint and steel. She eventually resorts to using Mushu.
- 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 (Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook) are animated as the two guards in the fireworks tower.
- Crisis Catch And Carry: When she and the others arrive to stop the Huns, Mulan yells to Chien Po to take the emperor to safety. Chien Po apologizes to the emperor for what he'll have to do, picks him up under one arm, and uses a lantern line to get both of them safely out of Shan Yu's reach.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Why Shang initially kicks Ping out of the army when the latter collapses during a training exercise. Ping is young, The Millstone, and the worst of the recruits. War would be a Curb-Stomp Battle. He tells "him" that Ping isn't "suited for the rage of war" and says going home will mean living. It's only when Mulan is too stubborn to leave and proves that she can stay — by fetching the arrow, excelling in the previous training exercise, and knocking Shang down during a sparring session— that Shang changes his mind.
- Crying Wolf: After Mulan is revealed as a woman, Shang blows off her warning that some of the Huns survived. Yao, Ling, and Chien Po believe her, but they don't have a choice but to follow orders. Mulan says, "You'd trust Ping; why is Mulan any different?"
- Cue the Sun: The climax of "I'll Make a Man out of You". Mulan fails the whole training regimen and Shang tells "Ping" to go home. She then sees the arrow at the top of the pole and decides to give it one last try. As she does, the sun rises and the other men come out of their tents and start cheering her on. She succeeds and throws the arrow down to Shang's feet for emphasis, proving she can pull her own weight.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Three examples:
- The first one (which isn't seen but is heavily implied) between the Huns and the Chinese army. Based on the aftermath Mulan and her friends see, it didn't go well for the Chinese troops.
- Mulan, herself, later delivers one to the Hun Army when she uses a rocket to cause an avalanche, destroying nearly all of the Huns in the process.
- Mulan, Yao, Ling and Chien Po versus the Huns guarding Shan Yu and the Emperor. It helps that they have the element of surprise.
- Dance Party Ending: Cri-Kee sounds the gong at the end of the film, starting the instrumental of "True to Your Heart," which the guardians all dance to, leading into the closing credits as the vocal begins.
- Dare to Be Badass: The song "I'll Make A Man Out Of You".Tranquil as a forest
But on fire within.
Once you find your center
You are sure to win.
- 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!
- The chorus is not only this, but practically a Badass Creed.
- Dark Is Evil: The Huns are gray skinned and wear all-black. Even their horses are black.
- Darker and Edgier: 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, if not thousands of men, something that cannot be said about any other Disney Princess.
- Shan Yu may also be the only Disney character to actually hit a real person with a sword, using the sharp edge, on-screen.
- David vs. Goliath: Shang is a tall and well-built man but Shan Yu is larger and stronger. Goliath wins that round. Mulan, who is even more of a David in comparison, wins by refusing to fight him on his terms.
- Deadpan Snarker: 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.
- Dead Hat Shot: The helmet of Shang's father is found in the snow after the troop reaches the town destroyed by the Huns.
- Death of a Child: When walking through the ruins of a raided village, a single doll is found, as a G-rated signal that there were children killed here.
- Debt Detester: Shang spares Mulan's life after she dishonors the Chinese army in return for her saving his life during the Hun 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.
- 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.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Shang despairs over Ping more than the rest of his raw recruits but gradually comes to respect "him" as he proves himself. After the defeat of the Huns, he unthaws enough to offer his unconditional trust, but freezes again when the deception is revealed. When Mulan shows her courage and nobility — as herself this time — he falls for her but Cannot Spit It Out until given some unsubtle prompting by the emperor.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance:
- As mentioned, several (but not all) male characters at least start out pretty sexist because, hey, it's ancient China. It's 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 is perfectly fine with letting it pass.) The other guys just shrug.
- Additionally, Mulan's crippled father going off to war just because he is the only man in his family is precisely what was expected of men at the time, even if they were old and/or infirm. It was seen as the honorable thing to do, whereas the modern age would see it as pointless and/or cruel.
- There's the song "You'll Bring Honor To Us All." The entire piece is about how a woman's sole purpose is to marry well and be a dutiful, obedient wife but this part in particular can come as a shock to those hearing it again as adults:We all must serve our emperor, who guards us from the Huns — a man by bearing arms, a girl by bearing sons!
- Description Cut: When Shang is promoted captain and is about to step out of his tent.Li Shang: Captain Li Shang. Hmm... "Leader of China's finest troops"—no, "The greatest troops of all time!"
[Exits his tent to find the recruits in an all-out brawl with the camp in total chaos]
- Shang dismisses Mulan midway through the "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" segment, which would have relieved Mulan's family of their war duty, but also potentially disgraced them. Mulan refuses to just walk away, and proves she is worthy of being a soldier.
- Many Huns survive the avalanche and go right back to marching.
- Shang finds out his father and China's best men were slaughtered. He tells his troops, after making a Shrine to the Fallen, that they have to go and stop Shan Yu to keep the capital and Emperor safe. Then when it seems the odds are hopeless, he orders everyone to fight anyway. Only an avalanche— and Shan Yu himself — can keep this guy down.
- Didn't Think This Through: Mulan writes notes on her arm, with ink. They're not completely dry when the beauticians force her in the bathtub, and get wet in the water. Thus, when she gets to the matchmaker, the lady touches her hand and obliviously smears it over her face. Mulan goes Oh, Crap!, realizing she ought to have thought ahead about this.
- Digging Yourself Deeper: Mulan does this to herself whenever she gets into trouble as Ping because she is flustered and makes further mistakes.
- Disney Acid Sequence: "A Girl Worth Fighting For," with its Art Shift into the comic trio's imagination.
- Disney Death: Shan Yu and a few members of his army survive the avalanche, and are able to sneak their way through the Imperial City to capture the emperor.
- Disney Villain Death: Averted, deliberately. Shan Yu does not die from falling. He dies from a fireworks rocket shooting him horizontally into a fireworks cache. The DVD's audio commentary has Lampshade Hanging.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Mulan exploits this to save the emperor. One Hun is besotted with the "ugly" concubines and picks up an apple that Ling drops.
- 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 starts as an inversion in that 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.
- Does This Make Me Look Fat?: Said by Yao when dressed as a woman, which is also an Actor Allusion (his voice actor has performed in drag). He gets a Dope Slap for his trouble.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: After the Imperial Army leave with the general, Shang appears to the recruits during their fight ("Soldiers!"). They all point at Mulan and say, "He started it!" Sort of like a fight in a school interrupted by a teacher.
- Do Not Go Gentle: When the Huns prepare to bear down on Shang and his troops, who are outnumbered and with one last cannon, Shang orders his men to prepare to fight. They aren't going to lie down for the Huns. Fortunately, Mulan finds another way.
- The Dragon: Hayabusa the falcon, who acts as Shan-Yu's chief reconnaissance scout (bringing back a doll that leads to the Huns attacking the village), who frequently brings his boss whatever information or items he may need.
- Dramatic Irony: The entire "Be a Man" sequence — Shang and the other soldiers may be oblivious, but the audience knows that Mulan is, in fact, a woman.
- 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, just 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.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Even after Mulan has single-handedly wiped out the entire Huns army and saved all of China, she loses the trust she's earned from her former allies simply because they find out she's really a woman. It takes her doing it again to regain their trust, and even so, Chi-Fu orders her to be executed.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Mulan goes through a lot of hardship, both physical and mental, but ultimately achieves her goal of honoring her family, and then some!
- Eating the Eye Candy: Mulan's eyes go wide when she sees Shang shirtless. Yao does admit Shang is a pretty boy, if derisively.
- Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: Chi-Fu is a Non-Action Guy known for his Girly Scream, yet when told that Mulan is a hero, he simply says, "'Tis a woman. She'll never be worth anything!"
- Empathy Doll Shot: Shan Yu's falcon retrieves a doll from a small village that lies in his way. The Huns determine the presence of the imperial army from it and suggest going around, but Shan Yu opts to go through the village because it's the quickest way to the Forbidden City, smirking as he remarks that they should return the doll to the girl who owned it. Later, Mulan discovers the doll in the smoking, empty ruins of the village.
- Entertainingly Wrong: The matchmaker seems suspicious when Mulan is reciting the lessons a good bride must have, but she mispronounces a few words due to misreading them on her arm. She checks Mulan's fan for notes instead, suggesting other would-be brides tried the same trick.
- Epic Fail:
- Where to start with Mulan's matchmaking exam? She seems okay enough when stumbling over her notes, but then Cri-Kee escaped and she thought it was a great idea to hide him in her mouth while still talking. Then the Matchmaker gets ink on her hand from Mulan's cheat notes and smears it all over her face. Mulan is so shocked she pours the tea too much and spills it on the table. When handing the cup to the Matchmaker, she sees the cricket taking a bath and tries to politely take it back. This leads to her setting the Matchmaker on fire, and emptying the pot of scalding tea to put it out. It's a miracle that all the Matchmaker did was chew her out in front of everyone for being so incompetent.
- Mulan tells a worried Mushu to stand watch while she bathes. Mushu prepares to do that while complaining that it's risky. Before he can blink, three men rush past him. It's Ling, Yao and Chien-Po who had the same idea to bathe. Mushu goes Oh, Crap! on realizing he didn't give Mulan any warning and goes to correct the sitaution.
- Etiquette Nazi: The matchmaker marks down Mulan for everything she does. After calling for Mulan, the girl says "present," and yet the matchmaker mutters "speaking without permission." Even Mulan's grandmother thinks this is too far.Grandmother: "Who spit in her bean curd?"
- 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 on cannonback] You missed! How could you miss? He was THREE FEET IN FRONT OF YOU!
- Face Death with Dignity: Almost happens at the Huns' ambush.Li Shang: If we die, we die with honor.
- Facepalm: Mushu facepalms upon seeing Mulan involuntary smacking the other soldiers around because of her Squirrels in My Pants moment.
- Failure Montage: The song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" opens with a montage of all the soldiers trying and failing to retrieve Shang's arrow from the top of a pole.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Shan Yu is blown to bits by several fireworks lit by Mulan and Mushu. Arguably at the village too, since it's implied no one is left alive. Not even the little girl missing her doll.
- 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 is introduced as a mighty soldier; he fights circles around his recruits, trains them to perfection... and from that point on becomes consistently less competent than Mulan. It's downplayed 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.
- Feeling Their Age: Though Fa Zhou retains his sword skills, his old age, bad leg, and an implied heart condition prevent him from performing as he used to, as shown when he collapses doing basic exercises. This is the main reason why Mulan runs off to take his place in the war, knowing he won't survive if he goes off to fight.
- Feminine Mother, Tomboyish Daughter: Fa Li is an accomplished Housewife and Proper Lady. Her daughter Mulan is fairly feminine, but questions her destiny of ending up in an Arranged Marriage, fails at all her attempts to be a Proper Lady, and flourishes as a warrior when she runs away to join the army in her father's place. Note that Mulan's masculine behavior is atrocious.
- Feminist Fantasy: Based on the Chinese legend. Mulan is resourceful and brave, choosing to disguise herself as a man in order to take her father's place in the Imperial army. Through her quick wits and determination, she becomes an accomplished soldier and goes on to defeat the Big Bad and save China. Her love interest follows her home, to return her helmet. When awkwardly complimenting her, he focuses on her fighting skills.
- Flagpole Challenge: Shang fires an arrow into the top of a pole and challenges the recruits to retrieve it while carrying two heavy metal discs. None of the recruits are able to do so, until Mulan wins the challenge by taking the two heavy discs she was given, tying them together, and wrapping them around the pole to hold her tight to the pole while climbing.
- Shan Yu is one to Mulan, surprisingly. While completely different in personality and appearance, they have similar goals. They are both trying to prove themselves; Mulan wants to prove herself as a soldier, and Shan Yu wants to prove himself as a conquerer. Also, they are both The Determinator and The Unfettered (Shan Yu commits multiple atrocities to achieve his goals, and Mulan destroys the entire hun army with an avalanche).
- During the matchmaker song, Mulan saves a girl's doll from two boys with toy swords. Later, she is able to save a doll, but not the girl who owns it.
- She also demonstrates some cleverness by turning the tide of a game of chess with just a single move. Later, one clever move is enough to bury the Hun Army.
- A Stealth Pun "A girl can bring her family great honor in one way/by striking a good match." Both of Mulan's victories involved firepower.
- At the end of "Honour To Us All", Mulan is visibly out of step from the rest of the girls, showing that she is the only one who doesn't know what she's doing and foreshadowing that her interview with the matchmaker won't go well.
- When the conscription notices are being handed out, a man in the second family says he will join the army in place of his father. Mulan ends up doing exactly this a few scenes later.
- She shows she's good at aiming a thrown slipper when she chastises Khan for laughing at her first attempt to be "manly." Later, she distracts Shan Yu the same way when he's about to finish off Shang.
- Subverted with the fact that if Mulan's true identity as a woman in the army is exposed, she will be executed. This is brought up first by Fa Zhou, then by Mushu. When she is exposed, it looks like Shang is about to kill her, but because she had saved his life in the avalanche, he refuses to kill her and flings the sword to the ground.
- Mulan spends the morning of her matchmaking session avoiding the "proper" way of doing things and instead using shortcuts such as getting her dog to feed the chickens and writing a supposedly-memorized speech on her arms. It seems lazy and dysfunctional at the time, but it's exactly this kind of "work smarter, not harder" attitude that will soon turn her into a respected Combat Pragmatist in the army.
- Forged Message: Mushu gets Mulan's company into the war by having Cri-Kee write a fake letter from the general urgently ordering the new recruits into action. Unknown to him, said message turns out to be true and desperately needed. See Accidental Truth example above
- Fruit of the Loon: The boys stuff their dresses with a variety of fruit, including... a banana.
- Gendered Insult: The entirety of "I'll Make A Man Out Of You", and in particular the line "Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons?" Of course, seeing as the by far most competent member of the unit is Sweet Polly Oliver Mulan, this is Played for Laughs.
- George Jetson Job Security: Subverted at the end when Mulan is offered the position of imperial councillor, which she respectfully declines so she can return home:The Emperor: Chi Fu.
Chi Fu: Your Excellency?
The Emperor: [Indicating Mulan] See to it that this woman is made a member of my council.
Chi Fu: A member of... what?! [Stutters] But there are no council positions open, Your Majesty.
The Emperor: Very well. [To Mulan] You can have his job.
Chi Fu: W-W-Wha?! My...?! (faints)
- Girliness Upgrade: Mulan dresses like a warrior in the original Disney cartoon, but is dressed as a Chinese princess in the merchandising. Her usual costume in the Disney Parks is her matchmaker dress with her hair done up, but without her white makeup. The only aversion to this trope is her cameo in Sofia the First, wherein she appears with loose, short hair and wearing her armor, and in the Kingdom Hearts series, where her level features her during the war.
- Goofy Print Underwear: One of the soldiers is wearing anachronistic clothing and it falls on Mushu's face.
- Gory Discretion Shot:
- Shan Yu is shot with a massive rocket into a stockpile of fireworks, and this is carefully only seen from a great distance.
- One of the "messengers" Shan Yu sends to the emperor is killed by an archer.Shan Yu: How many men does it take to deliver a message?
Hun archer: [Readies bow] "One."
- 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 horsehair, and gunpowder — that tells him the Imperial Army are there.
- Grand Romantic Gesture: Downplayed. Mulan lost her father's helmet in the battle with the Huns. Shang found it and brings the helmet as a pretext to visit Mulan after she returns home. He starts stammering when explaining whose helmet it is and how he came to get it. Fa Zhou doesn't know the details, but he recognizes what it must mean and encourages Mulan to step forward.
- Grin of Audacity: Shan Yu is about to cut down Ping, but stops when the helpless soldier in front of him smirks at something behind him.
- Gym Class Rope Climb: One of the training exercises is a variation of this; you have to climb a pole and you have to do it with two heavyweights attached to your wrists.
- Hand Gagging: Mulan briefly silences Mushu this way during his "dishonor" rant.
- Hard-to-Light Fire: Mulan drops the flint and steel she needs to light the final cannon during the battle with the Huns.
- Have a Gay Old Time: The name Mulan uses while disguised as a boy is Fa Ping. The name is a pun in Chinese as well for a pretty flower vase, as in eye candy; something pretty and useless.
- Heartbroken Badass: Shang after he finds his father slaughtered at the Tung Shao Pass village. He's obviously grieving, but know logically that he and his men are the only ones who can stop Shan Yu and the Huns. So he mounts his horse, gives a short Rousing Speech to the troops, and orders them to move out.
- Hellish Horse: The horses used by the Huns have red eyes and fangs.
- "Hell, Yes!" Moment:
- Ling, who's been the most suspicious bully towards "Ping," urges Mulan upward when she decides to try the arrow test and actually is close to the stop. He starts grinning and fist-pumping. When she makes it to the top, he's among the crowd cheering her.
- The capital citizens react this way when Chien-Po gets the Emperor to the safety of the ground, and Mulan cuts their Improvised Zipline. They start cheering as Shan Yu can only yell.
- Hero's Muse: The soldiers discuss this trope in the song "A Girl Worth Fighting For".
- Heroic BSoD: Mulan has a mild one after her cover is blown and she is abandoned by the army.
- Hit You So Hard, Your X Will Feel It!: Mushu tells Mulan that punching and butt-slapping are a form of friendly gesture among men. Mulan does this to Yao in the wrong way, and naturally, it causes a stir in Yao's rather short temper.Yao: I'm gonna hit you so hard, it'll make your ancestors dizzy!
- Hope Spot: When they come to the village in the Tung Shao Pass, Shang tells his men to find survivors. They all fan out, wanting to have done some good. Mulan finds a doll, and Chi Fu finds a battlefield of corpses.
- The Horde: The Huns pour into China from over the Great Wall to rampage and raze and generally bring out the end of the Chinese way of life. All of them look sinister.
- Human Ladder: The soldiers form one to try to find Mulan during the avalanche.
- Human Notepad: Mulan writes notes in her arm when she goes to meet the matchmaker.
- 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]
- Mushu: "Dragon, dra-gon, not 'lizard'. I don't do that tongue thing." [Does the tongue thing]
- 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!
Fa Mulan: [Throws a shoe at him] No! I did.
[Mulan pulls back her hair into a soldier's topknot]
Shan Yu: The soldier from the mountains...
- I Have Just One Thing to Say: The emperor lists all the many things that Mulan has done that violate rules and tradition — and then bows to her for her having saved China.
- If Only You Knew: The song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" has the line, "Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons?" Shang thinks he's turning boys into men, but of course, with Mulan the starting point is a bit different. Though, ironically, she becomes an even more capable soldier than her male comrades-in-arms.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Completely subverted on both sides. Shang's Training from Hell ensures that when his soldiers fire cannons, there's always an impact. Mulan's cannon in particular saves the entire army with her aim. The Huns in the meantime manage to hit Shang from a distance.
- Implied Love Interest: Mulan and Captain Li Shang. They blush around each other and Mulan asks the captain to stay for dinner, but no one outright says that they are a couple.
- Important Haircut: Part of Mulan's soldier transformation is to cut her long hair so that she can more easily pass for a man. Bonus points for using her father's sword to do it.
- Important Hair Accessory: Mulan is given a floral hair comd before her disastrous appointment with the matchmaker. When she decides to take her father's place in the army she takes his conscription notice and leaves the comb in its place.
- Improvised Zipline: Mulan uses a string of lanterns to zip down from the roof of the Imperial Palace.
- Indy Ploy:
- Incoming Ham: Mushu's "IIIIIIIIIII LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVEEEEEEE!!!!!!!"
- Insistent Terminology: "Dragon, dra-gon, not 'lizard'! I don't do that tongue thing."
- Instantly Defeathered Bird: Shan Yu's falcon is intimidating... until Mushu sets fire to him and he instantly looks and sounds like a featherless chicken. He even appears headless for a moment, as he had tucked it into his neck. A few scenes later, Mushu is riding him.
- Interchangeable Asian Cultures: More than one example.
- Shan Yu's pet saker falcon is named Hayabusa, which is the Japanese word for peregrine falcon. Saker falcons do not even exist in Japan, so you cannot handwave the bird as an exotic import. The word for saker falcon in Mongolian (or an ancestor of it; this is hundreds of years ago, after all) is idleg shonkhor, which apparently does not roll off the tongue.
- The Huns themselves are this. They should properly be called the Xiongnu, and the Chinese dub does correctly refer to them as such. The confusion came about because the Huns were a nomadic confederation who invaded Europe at roughly the same time as the film's events and, like the Xiongnu, also hailed from somewhere in the Central Asian steppes.
- The costume and make-up Mulan wears for the Matchmaker is often thought to be this but actually isn't. The dress resembles a kimono but is actually a hanfu (a traditional Chinese dress). The geisha-like make-up is also traditionally Chinese. The kimono and make-up are Japanese things that were influenced by Chinese culture.
- But perhaps the most egregious example would be that in the hospital tent scene, one of the tents has a Japanese flag◊ on the outside.
- 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 rides back into town after learning the Huns are alive.
- With the Emperor, he thanks Mulan for not just saving him, but all of China from falling. As thanks, he bows to her. When she turns down his council job, he gives her his crest and Shan Yu's sword, so that she is sufficiently rewarded.
- 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.
- "I Want" Song: "Reflection" and "A Girl Worth Fighting For".
- 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 save the emperor and all of China from the Huns, still insisting she will 'never be worth anything'. When the emperor demands Mulan be made a member of his council, Chi Fu appears to be lying when he says there aren't any council positions open, so apparently saving China still doesn't impress him. Some gratitude...
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- The Matchmaker is definitely not a nice lady, and her nitpickiness wins no points with Grandmother Fa, but Mulan didn't just fail the matchmaker exam but also set her on fire. All she had to do was pour tea and recite some memorized text, but Mulan couldn't do either. The Matchmaker is right to tell her off, even if she goes too far by saying Mulan will never bring honor to her family.
- Chi Fu points out that Shang is an academy student, who hasn't been in battle, and so someone with more experience should be captain instead of him. Indeed, when Shang fights Shan Yu, he is outclassed despite his training. Mulan's creativity saves him twice.
- Jerkass Realization: Ling has one after "Ping" starts excelling in the training regimen. They notice the kid is shying away from them while bathing in the lake, and is making excuses to leave. Ling apologizes, saying they were jerks before, and can they start over fresh? Mulan accepts reluctantly; the reason she was trying to leave is they'll see her naked and realize she's a woman.
- Just the Way You Are: When Mulan returns home with gifts of honor, Fa Zhou, who has been worried sick about his daughter getting killed and her running away after they had a big fight, envelops her in a hug and tells her that she is the greatest gift and honor.
- Juxtaposed Halves Shot: The home video covers show one half of her face hidden by a sword. The other half is reflected in the sword, but as her male soldier persona.
- 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, 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
- Keep the Reward: After she's offered a council position, Mulan turns it down because she wants to return home. The emperor then gives her his pendant and Shan Yu's sword so that her family will know how she has saved China.
- Kicked Upstairs: It's strongly suggested that General Li gave Shang his own division because the general wanted his son to stay well away from the real fighting — not for incompetence, just a bit too much protective instinct.
- Kneel Before Frodo: The emperor and then all of China bow to Mulan in the end.
- Kneel Before Zod: Shan Yu attempts to invoke this, but the Emperor refuses. Shan Yu decides to kill him instead.
- Knight of Cerebus: Shan Yu and the Huns. They are treated with a 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. The moment the protagonists directly confront their work, the movie literally ceases to be a musical.
- Kung-Shui: Shan Yu's pursuit of Mulan breaks many walls and ceilings of the Emperor's palace.
- Lame Pun Reaction: The recruits on the first day of training.Chi Fu: Order! People, order!
Recruit 1: 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.
- Lampshade Hanging: Yao asks, "Is she allowed to do that?" when Mulan hugs the Emperor at the end. Strictly speaking, no, she is absolutely not. The Emperor of feudal China was seen as a semi-divine personage, and touching him without permission was punishable by death.
- Large Ham: Mushu. "I LIIIIIIIIIVVVVEEEE!!!!!!"
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: General Li praising his son. "Number one in his class, extensive knowledge of training techniques... [smiles and strokes his chin] and impressive military lineage."
- Last Villain Stand: After his army gets wiped out by an avalanche and his generals have been captured, Shan Yu still tries to kill the one who stole his victory.
- Laugh of Love: Invoked and exploited when Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po disguise themselves as concubines and giggle while approaching Shan Yu's guards in order to take them out.
- Leave No Survivors: The Huns destroyed General Li's army (and the village they were stationed at) so thoroughly that there was literally no survivors left to even send a message of their imperiled fate. In fact, it was only through a forged message from Mushu that Shang's division even found out of the massacre.
- Le Parkour: Shan Yu uses this to chase Mulan in the climax.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band:
- An awful, jarring, highly effective twist on this trope occurs at the end of "A Girl Worth Fighting For":Ling: Wish that I had...
Crew: A girl worth fighting—
[All catch sight of blood-red sky and village burned 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 "who's got a brain, who always speaks her mind". Her fellow soldiers don't see the appeal, and apparently neither does the BGM.
- An awful, jarring, highly effective twist on this trope occurs at the end of "A Girl Worth Fighting For":
- Lipstick-and-Load Montage:
- Used when the soldiers are applying drag to infiltrate Shan Yu's guard in the royal palace (set to a brief reprise of "I'll Make A Man Out Of You", no less!).
- Mulan getting dressed up during "You'll Bring Honor to Us All" is treated with the seriousness of preparing for battle. This would be her "battlefield" after all.
- Literal Metaphor: Shang tells his recruits that they'll need "Discipline" and "Strength" (two heavy weights on ropes) to retrieve the arrow from the top of the pole. The secret is to loop them together around the pole like a belt.
- Lock-and-Load Montage: Mulan dons her father's armor, dons his weapons, and cuts her hair in this fashion.
- Longing Look: What totally gives away Mulan's crush on Shang to Mushu is one of these. She does it a second time after he points it out.
- 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 falls all over himself trying to speak to Mulan while she's a girl, but by that point he doesn't really need to be focused on Huns.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "I'll Make a Man Out of You" gets more pessimistic, even defeatist, the further it goes while still being a chest-thumping anthem of masculinity.You're unsuited for, the rage of war
So pack up, go home, you're through
How could I make a man out of you?
- The Makeover/Makeover Montage: Mulan goes through this twice: once at the hands of a pair of Makeover Fairies in "Honor to Us All" to look like a potential bride, and again when she "becomes" a man.
- Makeover Fail: Played with in the makeover Mulan is given before being presented to the matchmaker. Mulan's facial expressions indicate that she is initially taken aback by the change, though when it is finished it seems like she might be satisfied or at least have accepted it as part of her duty to impress the matchmaker. After she fails at the meeting with the matchmaker, Mulan sings "Why is my reflection someone I don't know?" She wipes off the makeup and takes down her hair. In effect, the makeover imposed on her is made symbolic of the role that she is expected to play in society and that does not reflect who she is inside.
- Manly Tears: Yao totally cries when Mulan is honored.
- Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves: Mulan is drawn with an angular jaw when in her Ping disguise.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!":
- Shang's company are shocked to silence when they see the massacre of the main Chinese army, then it happens a second time when Shan Yu attacks them, and then when they see the size of his army.
- Then just as the army is cheering on Ping for saving them, and for everyone being alive, they have this reaction when the soldier is revealed to have a serious stomach wound and passes out from blood loss.
- Every citizen outside the emperor's palace panics when they realize Shan Yu is still alive.
- Mauve Shirt: Shang's father gets killed, along with his Red Shirt army. He was previously established as a Reasonable Authority Figure and a loving father. Shang's shock and grief carries a lot of weight when Chien Po finds General Li's helmet.
- Maybe Ever After: It doesn't end with a wedding but with a 'get to know her family' dinner. The marriage takes place in the sequel.
- Mermaid Arc Emergence: Mulan throws her wet hair in a backward arc when she emerges from the water while she's bathing.
- A Million Is a Statistic: Averted. The massacre of the village and the Imperial army both take place off-screen, and it is still horrific. An Empathy Doll Shot is used to great effect.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: Mulan is accompanied by her three friends—the short-tempered and surly Yao, the loud and awkward Ling, and the kind but huge Chien Po—and Shang in her plan to infiltrate the Imperial Palace. The trio take it further by doing so in drag.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Downplayed. In one scene, Mushu rides a panda - an animal that is native to China, but southern China, not the northern border where the scene takes place.
- Model Planning: When the general describes the planned advance to his son, he illustrates his example with a map and figures to represent his units and those of the enemy.
- Mood Whiplash:
- After we see Mushu meeting Cri-Kee and cracking jokes about being a loser, we suddenly cut to a burning mountain village destroyed by the Huns.
- "A girl worth fighting—" [Cut to reaction shot of destroyed village]
- Shortly after the above example comes a double whiplash: somberness turns into humor when a rocket fires out of Mulan's cart, having accidentally been lit by Mushu (who, stunned, weakly tries to blame Cri-Kee); then humor turns into panic as the Huns take notice and attack.
- After burying the Huns under the avalanche, our ragtag army celebrate Mulan's brilliant plan and her promotion as Shang's second-in-command. Then Mulan winces in pain from the wound Shan Yu gave her, and passes out from blood loss.
- Another double whiplash occurs near the beginning after the matchmaker scene. After Mulan's "Reflection" number, we get the heartwarming scene of her father cheering her up. Then the mood quickly switches again after Chi Fu arrives to deliver the conscription notices.
- Mortal Wound Reveal: Mulan is revealed to be injured after the initial defeat of the Big Bad, but not mortally so. Although, given she passed out from blood loss and shock, it could have been had she not received medical attention.
- Most Definitely Not a Villain: In this case, Most Definitely Not a Girl in Disguise. Mulan trying to join the army.Fa 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]
Fa Mulan: 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.
- Mr. Fanservice
- Multigenerational Household: Mulan's household includes her parents and her grandmother.
- Musicalis Interruptus: The end of "A Girl Worth Fighting For" is the strongest, and the most horrifying, example of this trope in the Disney Animated Canon, and possibly the entire genre.
- Naked Freak-Out: Played With during the bath scene, while Mulan is freaking out at being naked in the water with the male soldiers, she is more worried about blowing her cover than being seen naked.
- Naked People Are Funny:
- The entire sequence of Mulan trying to bathe in the river, while avoiding her equally naked soldier friends, is played for Cringe Comedy.Fa Mulan: I never want to see a naked man again.
[Fifteen naked men run past Mulan]
- Hayabusa getting his feathers burned off is treated the same way, and is made more comical by making him look like a chicken.
- The entire sequence of Mulan trying to bathe in the river, while avoiding her equally naked soldier friends, is played for Cringe Comedy.
- Nepotism: Chi-Fu heavily implies to Shang that he believes the latter only earned the title of Captain because his father is Imperial General.
- Nerves of Steel: Nothing unsettles 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.
- 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. Surprisingly, it doesn't shy from the fact that Mulan is going to ''war''.
- 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. Although Mulan doesn't perform 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, in which case the Huns would have succeeded 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, but her having a match would have introduced a complication in her relationship with Shang.
- Some of Mushu's actions serve to make things harder for Mulan, such as when he accidentally sets off a cannon on the mountainside, inadvertently signaling their presence to the Hun Army.
- After he learns the truth about Mulan, Shang disregards her warnings that the Huns are still alive. Though he credits her words enough to be cautiously glancing around the courtyard where he meets the emperor, the lack of a more proactive response allows the Huns to seize the emperor.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: If Shan Yu didn't focus on making the emperor bow to him, then Mulan, Shang, and the others wouldn't rescue him in time. Also, Shan Yu chasing Mulan for revenge gives her the perfect position to launch lethal fireworks at him.
- Nice, Mean, and In-Between: Mulan's three friends among her fellow soldiers count as this during boot camp. Namely, Chien-Po is the nicest one of the bunch; Yao is the hot-tempered bully; and Ling is somewhere in the middle. They all become Fire-Forged Friends in the course of the training montage.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Shan Yu versus Shang is brutal. Although Shang puts up a good fight, and his training pays off, by the end of it he's semiconscious before being disabled by Shan Yu. When Mulan lures Shan Yu away, Shang tries to get up but can't.
- Non-Human Sidekick:
- Mulan has Mushu the little dragon, her horse Khan, and Cri-Kee the blue cricket.
- The falcon Hayabusa supports Shan-Yu.
- Noodle Incident: Mushu's previous chance to prove himself worthy of protecting the Fa family somehow led Fa Deng to be decapitated. Fa Deng is still pretty bitter about the whole thing.
- Not Quite Dead: Despite being buried by an avalanche, Shan Yu and several of his men pop right out of the snow! Like daisies!
- Oh, Crap!:
- The Chinese soldier patrolling the Great Wall during the film's introduction. His facial expressions when the Huns start to scale the walls and at his first sighting of Shan Yu say 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 seem to be half the fireworks in the country.
- Shang's company 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. Their scond time comes when they find out just how large the Hun army really is.
- Mushu gets three. The first is when he accidentally sets off a rocket and Mulan death glares at him. His face says it all. The rocket gives away the army's position and they are promptly attacked by the Huns. The second is during the avalanche when he sees that he, Mulan, Shang, Khan, and Cri-Kee are about to go over the edge of a cliff. The third is after Mulan passes out from her wound, when the doctor treating Mulan tells Shang that Mulan is a woman, as Shang enters the tent to confront her.
- 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 catches Mulan cheating by putting apples on her arrows (courtesy of Mushu). Mulan reacts with the awkward smile pictured in the trope page.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Mulan loses her father's helmet in the fight with the Huns, and it gets buried in the avalanche she causes. At the end of the movie, Shang reveals he found the helmet and came to her house to return it, meaning he dug for it despite the snowfall being heavy. Isn't love great?
- One Hit Poly Kill: 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. This rocket is typically meant for only one person, so it counts.
- Only Sane Man: Poor Shang is this while leading the recruits. They are lackadaisical and untrained, with Ping being the worst. He also has to deal with Chi-Fu reporting the lack of Progress to General Li and the superiors.
- One Steve Limit: Mentioned when trying to find an alias for Mulan:Mushu: Ling! How about Ling?
Fa Mulan: His name is Ling.
Li 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 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.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- Chi Fu is a Jerkass stick in the mud who thinks Shang got his way by nepotism. The one time he calls Shang "Captain" with sincerity is when he finds a battlefield dotted with corpses of General Li's men, and Li himself.
- Shang is normally a no-nonsense Drill Sergeant Nasty. He's lapsed into Stunned Silence when learning his father was slaughtered. Shang doesn't even say anything when Mulan tries to comfort him. Much later, when "Ping" steals the last cannon, Shang's more worried than angry when ordering "him" to come back, because from the look of it his soldier is pulling a Suicide Mission to kill Shan Yu.
- Mulan keeps her gruff man voice up at all times while training, even when Shang is kicking her butt. She speaks in her real voice when saying, "I'm sorry" after he finds his father's helmet, knowing exactly what he's going through. Then when the avalanche knocks out her commander, Mulan screams, "SHANG" and goes over to pull him onto Khan. Shang both times isn't aware that her voice changed.
- 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 when everyone's outrunning the avalanche.
- Out Sick: Mulan's dad has a lame leg when the emperor calls for men to push back the Huns, which is what motivates her to go out in his place as a man named Ping.
- Parents Are Wrong: Mulan's parents expect her to be traditionally feminine so she can be a good bride. Mulan eventually proves her mettle as a soldier (and finds a love interest along the way), and her family relents.
- Panda-ing 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?
- Papa Wolf:
- Pervert Revenge Mode: Mushu: "My eyes can see straight through your armor—" [Mulan slaps him]
- Pet the Dog: One of the elite Huns picks up an apple for an "ugly concubine". Unfortunately for him, said concubine was Ling in disguise and part of Mulan's crew to save the Emperor.
- Plucky Comic Relief: 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. People don't see or hear him even when they reasonably should.
- Plucky Girl: Mulan doesn't let a little thing like a bleeding 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:
- 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 in fact significantly upset because she wants to fit into that role, but can't manage it.
- Post-Victory Collapse: Played for Drama. Shan Yu slashes at Mulan for the rocket trick, but Mulan perseveres to rescue Shang and herself from the snow. She stays conscious and alert, even when facing death by falling off a cliff. Then the soldiers manage to pull her, Shang, Mushu, Khan, and Crick-Ee up, with Shang both telling off "Ping" for being crazy and thanking him for saving his life as well as that of his fellow men. Just as Mulan starts to stand, she winces, realizes she's got a bad wound, and passes out from blood loss.
- Protagonist Title: "Mulan" is the name of the heroine.
- Put Their Heads Together: In the final act, Yao, Ling, Chien-Po, and Mulan getting past two mooks on their way to the Boss Fight involves slamming melons on the mooks' heads and then slamming those heads together.
- Race Lift: In the original ballad, Mulan, her family, soldiers and monarch were all Xianbei, the ancestors of the Mongols, and rather than the Huns/Xiongnu, they were facing the Rourans, also ancestors of the Mongols.
- Rage Against the Reflection: A variation, as no mirrors are broken or water splashed — it's a shiny, shiny sword.
- 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.
- Raised Hand of Survival: The supposedly killed-in-an-avalanche Shan Yu pokes his hand out from the snow. (Like a daisy!)
- A Real Man Is a Killer: "I'll Make a Man Out of You".Li Shang: Let's get down to business, to defeat, the Huns!
- Reality Ensues:
- The Fa ancestors predict that although Mulan's actions were of good intentions, consequences are nonetheless riding on those actions: should she be discovered and/or killed, it could bring shame to her household, her family lineage will be cut off, and they could lose their land.
- Mulan in the original myth was an Instant Expert who mastered her training. There is none of that here: Mulan's physical activities include horseback riding and farm labor, not combat. At least the other men arrived at the training grounds earlier and have the stamina if not skill. Shang accurately pinpoints "Ping" as the worst student because he can't follow orders, cheats at complicated tasks, and fails at the rest. In fact, this leads to Shang kicking Ping out because the soldier would be The Millstone in battle, especially when Mulan collapses while holding weights during a mountain trek. Mulan has to prove that she can stay and genuinely works to earn her place — first by retrieving the arrows and then by mastering all the tasks that she previously failed.
- Although Shang did realize how noble Mulan was for battling alongside the army to defeat the Huns and protect her crippled father, he ends up not trusting Mulan after it is revealed that she was really a woman disguised as a man. While Mulan did have good intentions, this doesnt change the fact that she not only deceived Shang and the army about her true gender and identity since the day they met, but Mulan also brought dishonor to the Chinese Army and violated the law. Lying and deceiving people (even if you had a very good reason to) will cause people to deem you as untrustworthy.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- General Li is this. He sets up a strategy to protect the villagers of the Tung Shao Pass and ambush Shan-Yu when he will march through before he can cause more devastation. Li then promotes his son to captain but gives him a hard duty — training the recruits — so that Shang can prove himself with one of the more frustrating tasks a commanding officer can take. It's also a ploy to keep his son out of the actual battle since Li can see the men are a mess. Unfortunately, both plans fail; Shan-Yu deduces the general's plan and ambushes him, wiping out the army. Shang successfully whips his men into shape, and Mushu forges a letter from the older Li to get the recruits into battle.
- Despite being a Drill Sergeant Nasty, Shang proves to be this. He kicks "Ping" out of the army initially for failing a number of the training exercises, but lets the recruit back in when the latter figures out the weight challenge and retrieves the arrow from the pole. After the recruits pass their training with flying colors, he defends them to Chi-Fu and silently accepts Mulan's compliment that he's a great captain. When Mulan defies orders and steals the last cannon, his first priority is for their safety in seemingly making a suicide run and praises the soldier when he and his men survive the avalanche and what would have been a Curb-Stomp Battle. He also spares Mulan after she's outed, albeit angrily, and when she's proven right about the Huns surviving the avalanche, he defers authority to her to save the emperor. Once Shan Yu is dead, Shang prepares to defend her actions to the emperor.
- The emperor recognizes the possibility that his standing army may lose to the Huns and so calls up new recruits. Also, although he is furious at Mulan's many transgressions, he recognizes the good she has done.
- Red Is Heroic: Shang, General Li, and the Imperial Army soldiers wear red capes as they march off to defend their homeland and families. The Huns do not because they are invaders.
- Red Shirt: The soldier on the Great Wall in the opening sequence is a goner. We don't see him die, but we know he will.
- Redshirt Army: Sadly, this fate befalls the supposed "elite" Imperial Army, led by Shang's father. It's to demonstrate how dangerous the Huns are.
- Refrain from Assuming: Shang's training song is called "I'll Make a Man Out of You", not "Be a Man" or "We are Man/Men".
- Revealing Injury: The medic discovers that Mulan is a woman while treating her injuries.
- Rhetorical Request Blunder: A mild one, played for laughs after Mulan escapes from her friends bathing in the river:Fa Mulan: I never want to see another naked man again.
[A group of naked men runs down to the lake immediately after]
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Cri-Kee, the cricket sidekick of Mushu and the luck charm for the Fa family.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: When Mushu blithely forges a letter informing Shang that General Li is in desperate need of aid. Mushu only does so hoping to get Mulan on the front lines and make her a war hero. It turns out the Huns had already wiped out General Li's men by the time Mushu wrote the letter. If Mushu hadn't forged that letter, the Hun army would have likely made it to the emperor's palace unopposed. Mushu himself has a Jerkass Realization about it.
- Rule of Three: Mulan's family is the third in her village to receive a conscription notice.
- Sacrificial Lion: General Li is set up as a big and important character: general of the hero's army, father to Mulan's captain... and then he dies off-screen to prove just how serious things have become.
- Sarashi: Technically bandages, since Mulan was injured earlier. Inverted in that the scene where they are revealed is also the scene where Mulan is busted.
- Saved by the AwesomeThe Emperor: 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.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: The Huns find out that a village is being guarded by means of a doll sprinkled with GPS Evidence.
- Scene of Wonder: Immediately following the number "A Girl Worth Fighting For," all the soldiers fall silent as they arrive at the decimated village. They even stop before singing the last note of the song to stare in shock and horror. This is taken even further when they come across the fallen troops that came before them.
- Scenery Censor:
- When Ling does a backstroke to Mulan during the bathing scene, a conveniently placed water lily accompanies him.
- When Mulan sneaks away from the guys during the bath scene, she whistles for her horse who blocks the view of her surfacing from the lake.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Shang lets Mulan live, despite the rules of executing her for passing as a man to get into the army, as part of his I Owe You My Life debt to her earlier.
- Serious Business: Honor is a huge deal in ancient China.
- "Setting Off" Song: "A Girl Worth Fighting For" is sung while Shang's company head out to meet up with the Imperial Army.
- Sexy Silhouette: Mulan is seen as a silhouette behind a dressing screen when she's being undressed by the cosmetologist before being shoved into a tub.
- Shadow Discretion Shot: Inverted intentionally as Mushu is trying to be intimidating, but he's not.
- Shield Surf: Mushu sleds during an avalanche with a shield he picked up somewhere.
- Shipper on Deck:
- The emperor of China subtly does this.The Emperor: [Clears throat] The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.
Li Shang: Sir?
The Emperor: [Leans in] You don't meet a girl like that every dynasty.
- Likewise, Mulan's grandmother ships her granddaughter and Shang the minute she finds out about him. She does not possess the emperor's subtlety.Fa Mulan: [to Shang] Would you like to stay for dinner?
Grandmother Fa: Would you like to stay forever?
- The emperor of China subtly does this.
- Shirtless Scene: Shang takes off his shirt for the first training session. It gets Mulan's attention, whereas Yao snarks at him.
- Shoulder-Sized Dragon: Mushu is a rare Eastern dragon example. He insists that he is "travel-sized for your convenience!"
- Shoulders-Up Nudity:
- During the "You'll Bring Honor To Us All" sequence, Mulan is put into a tub to be washed and only has her bare shoulders above the water, that are shaking due to the water being cold. Her wet hair also happens to fall down to her chest.
- During the bathing scene, Mulan is shown undressing behind the foliage that conveniently only goes up to her shoulders. When she's in the water, she keeps her shoulders above the water while the guys often have it up to their waist. When dozens of naked soldier run past Mulan, they're also only seen from the waist up.
- The families Chi-Fu calls to claim their conscription notices are the names of Disney employees who worked on the movie — the Hsiao family, after screenwriter Rita Hsiao; the Wen family, after Mulan's voice actor, Ming-Na Wen; the Lok family, after conceptual and background artist Sai Ping Lok; and the Chang and Yi families, after character designer Chen-Yi Chang. Mulan's alter-ego is also named after Sai Ping Lok.
- When Mushu goes to secure the fireworks for the final plan:
- The doll the Huns use to find the village, and again when Shang's company find the razed remains of said village, is the same as a doll found in similar circumstances in Nausicaa.
- An Asian Action Hero fights bad guys while paired up with a wisecracking black guy. Didn't I see this last year?
- This line when Mushu is waking up Mulan:
- Two of the ancestors look remarkably like the American Gothic Couple.
- Show, Don't Tell:
- When Mulan figures out the arrow test, she doesn't say a word. Instead, she studies the weights before looping them together to make a climbing brace. Cue her climbing all night, and the soldiers cheering her on at dawn.
- Likewise, during the village scene, everyone is mostly quiet, with tiny bits of dialogue. Mulan is completely silent when she finds the little girl's doll and hugs it to her chest. Likewise, Shang creates a shrine to his father without saying a word.
- 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 a woman; to him, she was just another soldier.
- The scene where the main characters disguise themselves as concubines is treated with nonchalance by the Huns, the only comment made is how ugly they are. The ancient Chinese emperors frequently had concubines at the palace in addition to their married wife, and it was not uncommon for concubines to sire heirs to the throne.
- The move Mulan uses to disarm Shan Yu with her fan is an actual kung fu move.
- Fa Zhou is seen practicing a form of tai chi called Mulan Quan - which is named after the original Mulan legend.
- Crickets are indeed considered a symbol of good luck in China.
- Magnolias serve as a running motif in the movie. Mulan's name translates as "magnolia".
- Shrine to the Fallen:
- Mushu comes from the Fa family shrine to aid Mulan in her quest. One of her ancestors lost his head somehow.
- Shang's sword, his father's helmet, and the little girl's doll are left at the village by the Tung Shao Pass.
- Silly Animal Sound: After losing all his feathers, Hayabusa clucks like a chicken.
- Skinny Dipping: Mulan's bath in the middle of the night turns into this when other soldiers drop by. She is both embarrassed and afraid of blowing her cover.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Had the soldier in the beginning not stood up to Shan Yu and lit the warning beacon, the Huns' entry to China wouldn't have been noticed, Mulan and company wouldn't be around to defend the country, and the Emperor would've likely been killed.
- The Smurfette Principle: Mulan, herself, is the only woman in the Chinese army. Her mother and grandmother feature prominently at the start but don't make more appearances until the end, whens she goes home. After all, there aren't supposed to be any women in the Chinese army.
- Snow Means Death:
- There's snow on the ground of the massacred village. It also starts snowing after Shang creates a memorial for his father.
- Averted for Shan Yu and a handful of other particularly resilient Huns after the avalanche. They pop right back out of the snow.note
- So Much for Stealth: When Mushu sets off a rocket, the noise and smoke from the explosion alerts the Huns that they're being followed.Shang: You just gave away our position!
- So Proud of You:
- The Emperor tells Shang this when he brings the sword of Shan Yu. He later announces that Mulan has saved all of China.
- Shang gives Mulan a rewarding smile when she concocts a scheme using the first lesson he taught his men: how to climb a pole with just a sash. He uses his cape to join her, Chien Po, Yao, and Ling.
- The final one comes from Mulan's father: "The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter".
- Spare a Messenger: After they are done with their latest massacre, the Huns capture two Chinese scouts. Shan-Yu decides to let them go to carry a challenge back to the emperor. Then he changes his mind on letting them both leave...Shan-Yu: How many men does it take to deliver a message?
Hun archer: [Draws back his bow and aims] One.
- The Spartan Way: "Let's get down to business..." Said business involves dodging flaming arrows and breaking bricks with one's face.
- Spit Shine: Mushu tries shining up Mulan's helmet to cheer her out of her Heroic BSoD. It doesn't work.
- Squirrels in My Pants: Happens during the musical number "I'll Make a Man out of You", when Ling slips a beetle down Mulan's outfit, making her dance around smacking everyone with her staff.
- Stealth Insult: When Grandmother Fa gives Mulan a lot of trinkets to give Mulan good luck at the matchmakers, she ends listing them all with "... and even you can't blow it!"
- Strange Minds Think Alike:
- Both Fa Zhou and the emperor compare Mulan to "the rarest and most beautiful flower of all." (Mulan translates to wood-flower or magnolia)
- On a more comedic note: Mushu tells Mulan to punch someone because it's the man's version of saying hello. After she reluctantly punches Yao, Chien-Po says, "Look, Yao, you've made a friend!"
- Strolling Through the Chaos: To show that Cri-Kee is a lucky cricket, Mulan's grandmother crosses a street while covering her eyes. Even Cri-Kee is scared by the ensuing chaos, but she's unharmed and describes it as proof of Cri-Kee's luck.
- Suddenly Obvious Fakery: Mulan is drawn with several slight differences when disguised as a man, to aid the plausibility of her appearance (for example, she has eyelashes only when she's not in disguise). The shot in which her imposture is exposed as she sits up in bed has her drawn with the variations for her feminine appearance, even though all that has changed since the last scene is that her secret is known.
- Supernatural Aid: Mulan's ancestors send her a guardian spirit to help her and he does, albeit not in quite the way they intended.
- Sweet on Polly Oliver: Averted. What Shang develops with "Ping" is closer to a bromance Fire-Forged Friends-style.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Mulan disguises herself as "Ping" to take her father's place in the muster.
- Taking You with Me: Li Shang intends to use the last of his cannons on Shan Yu. Mulan has a better idea: causing an avalanche that will almost certainly kill her and everyone else in Li Shang's troop, but also the Hun 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.
- Tempting Fate:
- 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:Fa Mulan: I never want to see a naked man again.
[A group of naked men run past]
- When preparing Mulan to see the matchmaker, her grandmother sings:
- Testosterone Poisoning: Mulan's portrayal of Ping is a hilariously bad attempt to be a stereotypical manly-man.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In the mountain scene, Shan-Yu basically leads his entire army of thousands on horseback in a charge against a platoon of maybe two dozen people that he came across only by coincidence.
- Third-Act Misunderstanding: When Mulan's true gender is revealed, Shang, who carries a grudge over being deceived, isn't willing to trust her word when they really should, and her new friends have to reluctantly follow orders. However, 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 a Face Full of Fur: Yao gets red-faced with ire after a disguised Mulan shoves him from behind as a way of greeting her fellow soldiers, but his face turns back to its normal color after Chien-Po picks him up and gets him to soothe himself by saying a chant or mantra.
- 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.
- Mulan goes from Shang knocking her down in one punch to effectively dodging his blows and returning them.
- Yao effortlessly navigates the arrow training field, when before he was getting shot easily.
- Ling breaks blocks with his face rather than having them knock out his teeth.
- And Chien Po.... does cartwheels on top of poles lodged in water rather than walking carefully and holding up the line.
- Training from Hell: The training montage involves running through a field while being shot at by Arrows on Fire.
- Training Montage: "I'll Make a Man Out of You". Justified; this is boot camp.
- Trampled Underfoot: Mulan's horse Khan does this to Mushu either because he appears to be a snake, or possibly because Mushu kept calling the horse a cow.
- True Blue Femininity: When Mulan properly changes back into women's clothes to sneak inside the palace, the dress is blue. Ling, Yao, and Chien-Po disguise themselves as concubines, also with blue dresses.
- True Companions: Mulan and the other named soldiers become close friends. Even after she's unmasked, they take her seriously, and follow her lead into the final battle.
- Truth-Telling Session: Mulan, Mushu, and Cri-kee have a very cathartic one after they hit Rock Bottom. Mulan says that she wanted to prove that she could do something right after failing with the matchmaker, not just to save her father. Mushu says that her ancestors neither sent him nor like him. Cri-kee, while crying, confesses that he's not really lucky. It ends with a hug.
- 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 Chick noticed 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.
- Undressing the Unconscious: This is how Mulan's gender is revealed to the army. Shortly after burying the Hun army with a snow avalanche, Mulan (as Ping) rescues Shang from a plummeting doom. This effort, plus a wound received in combat, causes her to lose consciousness. Mulan awakens in a camp tent mostly undressed, with Sarashi-like bandaging around the torso, done by the Chinese army medic. The first face she sees is that of captain Shang, who has learned from the medic that she is a girl posing as a male conscript. Mulan's reflex to pull a Modesty Bedsheet to cover herself confirms her deception.
- Undying Loyalty: Most of Shang's troops develop this for him, following his orders without question and respecting him. When Mulan sets off the avalanche, she takes the time to pull an unconscious Shang onto Khan before trying to rescue herself.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Mushu's blowing of the rocket and blaming it on Cri-Kee seems like a random gag... Except it gives away the position of the remains of the Chinese army. A Curb-Stomp Battle ensues (though it doesn't end as one might expect).
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee:
- Perhaps General Li and his troops would have survived if he hadn't told Shang he was heading to the Tung Shao Pass to stop Shan Yu.
- Mulan and the Guy Trio don't say anything onscreen about how to get into the palace, save the emperor, and defeat Shan Yu. They just enact the plan as if they had. Slightly justified, given that Mulan specifically says she's making it up on the fly.
- Vanilla Edition: A Limited Issue DVD of the film came out only a few months after the premiere Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection VHS tape, but this disc contained barely any bonus content. Mitigated in 2004, when Disney re-released Mulan as a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, as a tie-in with Mulan II.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: It's as comedic as any Disney movie can get, but it still can make Shan Yu, a mass-murdering warlord, a big terrifying threat.
- Villain Song: Averted; Shan Yu is 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.
- Waking Up Elsewhere: Following Mulan being slashed just before the avalanche, she passes out and awakens in the infirmary tent, though it is unknown how much time has passed.
- War Is Glorious: Be a Man... by going to war, killing the invaders, and protecting your country. That's the idea, anyway; the reality of it is closer to War Is Hell.
- War Is Hell: The razed village scene, complete with Empathy Doll Shot, is a reality of war.
- Weak, but Skilled: Mulan can't overpower anyone, but she's fairly effective because she knows just where and when to hit.
- Weapon Tombstone: When General Li — 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. Although, it should be noted that Fa Zhou already clearly loves his daughter, and Mulan is instead trying to avoid dishonoring him.
- Wham Line: During the exploration of the burned-out village, Chien Po comes to Shang with a helmet and a solemn expression. He only says, "The General" and everyone knows what happened.
- Wham Shot:
- The destroyed village, hands down. Manages to outdo itself just moments later when Shang discovers his father's army, completely wiped out.
- Moments after the recruits pull "Ping" and Shang up to the safe ground, Mulan keels. She then places a hand to her stomach. Blood seeps out. Shang and the others go Oh, Crap! as they realize "Ping" has been badly wounded. This later leads to Mulan being outed.
- 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.
- What happened to the other remaining Huns following their leader's demise?
- What happened to Hayabusa?
- What the Hell, Hero?: What makes Mulan unusual from other Disney heroines is that she is very imperfect, and other characters note that she messes up a lot:
- Her mother calls her out for arriving late on matchmaking day, the one day she needs to be on time. Fa Li starts by giving Mulan a Death Glare, telling her the bathwater would have been warm if she arrived on time and rushing her to the cosmetologists who quickly clean her up.
- The matchmaker tells her off for setting her on fire. No one contradicts the matchmaker because that was Mulan's fault.
- Fa Zhou angrily tells Mulan she's dishonoring him by contradicting the emperor's representative. She's immediately cowed.
- Shang gets a slew of these; he yells at "Ping" for starting a brawl and causing a mess, even if Mulan was only following Mushu's advice. He also glares at Ping for cheating at shooting fruits with arrows — Mushu's doing but Mulan is responsible — and eventually kicks "him" out at the army for being incompetent. It is subverted when he finds out Ping is a woman and he's angry that she lied to him; she points out that he said he would trust Ping, and eventually he follows her lead to save the emperor.
- What You Are in the Dark: At the end of "I'll Make A Man Out of You," Shang kicks Mulan out of the army for incompetence. She could go home, having accomplished the mission of saving her father. Instead, due to pride and wanting to "do things right," she decides to climb for the arrow and prove that she deserves to stay. Shang is clearly impressed, especially afterwards, when she excels in the other activities she previously failed.
- 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.
- Who's on First?: When Shang is trying to find out the recruit's/ Mulan's name:Li Shang: What's your name?
Fa Mulan: Uh... I, I, uh...
Chi Fu: Your commanding officer just asked you a question!
Fa Mulan: Uh, I've got a name, ha! And it's a boy's name, too.
Mushu: [whispering]: How about Ling?
Fa Mulan: [looking at Ling]: His name's Ling.
Li Shang: I didn't ask for his name. I asked for yours!
Mushu: Try, uh, uh... ah... Chu.
Fa Mulan: Ah Chu.
Li Shang: Ah Chu?
Mushu: Gesundheit; I kill myself.
Fa Mulan: Mushu...
Li Shang: Mushu?
Fa Mulan: No!
Li Shang: [losing patience] Then what is it?
Mushu: Ping! Ping was my best friend growing up.
Fa Mulan: It's Ping.
Li Shang: Ping?
Mushu: [to himself] Of course, Ping did steal my girl—
[Mulan grabs his mouth to shut him up]
Fa Mulan: Yes, my name is Ping.
- Wholesome Crossdresser:
- Mulan pretends to be a man so she can save her father.
- Mulan's three friends make "Concubines." "Ugly Concubines."
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?:
- Defied by Shang. He teaches his men to shoot to kill, always. He would have killed Shan Yu in their fight if he had gotten the chance.
- Defied by Shan Yu after Mulan starts the avalanche. Shan Yu slashes her, and the wound would have killed her if the army's doctor hadn't survived. If not for the avalanche and her being on the ground, he would have done much worse.
- Played straight when Shan Yu first grabs a semiconscious Shang and starts threatening him with his sword, only to give chase to and corner Mulan on the palace roof. With the former he's in Villanous Breakdown mode after the emperor's rescued, and in the latter he's Evil Gloating upon seeing her trapped. He does stab her paper fan, but she flips the fan to steal his sword.
- The Worf Effect: Downplayed. Shang is the captain of the soldiers, but he is also an academy student who, although highly trained, hasn't exactly been in a lot of actual battles. So, when he fights Shan Yu, who is twice his body weight, he gets his butt kicked, but still manages to land a few good hits on the Hun in the process.
- Worthy Opponent:
- Shan Yu treats Shang this way, blaming him for the great losses that the Huns have suffered.
- 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 from the mountains." Then he comes at her without wasting any time with the usual "I can't hit a girl" or "I was beaten by a woman?!" stuff villains usually spout when facing a female opponent.
- Would Hurt a Child: The Huns waste no time debating the morality of "returning" the doll to the girl whose village they destroyed.
- 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 old and infirm father will have to go to war against the Huns, she shows the core of steel part by dressing up as a man 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 Are Better Than You Think You Are:
- After Chi Fu delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Shang, who accepts it with Tranquil Fury, Mulan tells Shang that she thinks he is a great captain. Shang looks softened by this, though due to his position, he can't answer.
- When Mushu confesses to a depressed Mulan that the ancestors didn't send him, he tells her that whereas she risked her life to save her father, he risked her life to get his guardian job back. "At least you had good intentions."
- You Are Too Late: For Shang, who didn't know that the note from his father was forged, he arrives in time to find the aftermath of the Huns' grisly slaughter. He can only create a memorial for his father, accept Mulan's compassion, and order his men to move out and stop the Huns from reaching the capital.
- You Shall Not Pass!:
- Shang's troops, heavily outnumbered and with few 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 been.
- Shang attempts a one-man version of this against Shan Yu in the imperial palace. He succeeds as far as buying enough time for his subordinates to rescue the emperor. Shan-Yu is a second away from killing him when Mulan says I Am Your Opponent.
- You Were Trying Too Hard: It's the real answer to the arrow challenge, and climbing the pole with weights strapped around your wrists. All the soldiers initially try to ignore the weights and climb rapidly despite them, ignoring Shang's instructions to use them. Mulan figures it out eventually; she loops the weights together into a makeshift brace and uses it to hoist herself to the top slowly and gradually. You need strength as in upper-body strength and discipline as in knowing how to use the tools you have.