Mulan: 2 Movie Collection (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Barry Cook, Tony Bancroft/Darrell Rooney, Lynne Southerland
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1/1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 87/79 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 English, 5.1 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH,. Spanish, French, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Review Date: March 3, 2013
Mulan – 4/5
The story of Mulan is based on ancient Chinese folklore about China’s own Joan of Arc, a well meaning only child (Ming-Na Wen, singing voice of Lea Salonga) who represents her family in a deadly war against the invading Hun army led by the cunningly ruthless Shan-Yu (Miguel Ferrer). In the film, she masquerades as a man and eats, sleeps, and bathes as one of them knowing Chinese culture would never allow her to serve in the army. It should come as no surprise that she is instrumental in defeating the army (twice!) and freeing China from the control of the barbarous Huns. Disney’s scripters (all five of them) resist the temptation of making Mulan’s focus the attraction she feels for the head of the Chinese army Shang (B.D. Wong, singing voice of Donny Osmond). Though a romance seems imminent as the story concludes, the film doesn’t use romance as its reason to be, something decidedly different for a Disney animated tale.
The music certainly doesn’t make it memorable. The song score is not penned by Alan Menken, a Disney mainstay during the decade of the 1990s, and the resulting tunes by Matthew Wilder are serviceable without being memorable. (Oddly, the best song occurs over the final credits, “True to Your Heart.”) That leaves a handful of other ballads that are performed outstandingly by such powerhouse singers as Lea Salonga and Donny Osmond, but none of which stay with you after the film concludes. The magical Menken touch, found in tunes from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is greatly missed. David Zippel’s lyrics, though, are up to his usual witty standards. However, the film drops its musical ambitions about halfway through the film with the warriors’ “A Girl Worth Fighting For” making the last half notably free of tunes. Apart from that anomaly, there is another glaring weakness: it’s in Disney’s reliance on a comedy foil amid the dramatic tensions of the piece. Since Robin Williams worked so well in Aladdin and Danny DeVito almost equally so in the underrated Hercules, why not Eddie Murphy this time out? Sadly, though Murphy’s patter as an apprentice dragon is funny and fast-paced, the jive talking, smart aleck persona seems totally out of place in ancient China and quite at odds with the seriousness of the movie’s tone. (Years of his shenanigans in the Shrek films have gotten us used to his animated persona, but he sometimes intrudes on important story points with his motor mouth.) Add in the motley collection of international accents for the Chinese warriors (Harvey Fierstein’s Brooklyn dialect anachronistically stands out), and the film sometimes seems all over the map.
Disney’s approach to the animation this time is an extreme stylized palette. Even more than in Hercules, the lines are sharp and slanting rather than full and curving as in Beauty or The Lion King. The backgrounds often seem done in watercolors, and in a Chinese-oriented story, it’s probably the best choice for setting mood and tone. Among the most memorable moments in the film are the musical training montage “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” the astounding visuals of the invading Hun army crossing a snow covered plain, and the celebratory fireworks scene at the climax with thousands of people seen from above. The combination of line animation and computer generated graphics in these crowd scenes never fails to inspire awe.
Mulan II – 3/5
With the Mongols threatening to invade China, the Emperor (Pat Morita) attempts to forge a bond between China and a neighboring province by marrying his three daughters Mei (Lucy Liu), Ting Ting (Sandra Oh), and Su (Lauren Tom) to sons of the province’s king. He chooses (now) General Shang (B.D. Wong) and his fiancé Mulan (Ming-Na, singing voice of Lea Salonga) to escort his daughters safely to the province. Naturally Shang brings his three compatriots with him as an honor guard: Yao (Harvey Fierstein), Ling (Gedde Watanabe), and Chien-Po (Jerry Tondo), and on the journey the three men fall for the princesses and they with the three bumbling soldiers. This makes Shang angry, but the situation between him and Mulan becomes even more strained by interference from Mulan’s dragon guardian Mushu (Mark Moseley) who’s doing everything he can to split the couple up so he can continue being Mulan’s guardian, a post he’ll lose when they marry.
As the original Mulan dealt very little with romance at all in its exciting story of familial and nationalistic loyalty, this sequel makes up for that in spades since almost the entire plot revolves around various romantic entanglements between the sexes (the three buddies are played for laughs in their romantic pursuits of the three lovely princesses, but the Mulan-Shang storyline is tediously sincere and rather mawkish). There’s only a bit of action with a sneak Mongol attack late in the movie; otherwise, those averse to the sickly sweet ardor of these passionate bunglers should stay safely away. Once again, the film gives signs of being a musical with three musical numbers in the film’s first half (“Lesson #1,” the repeated “A Girl Worth Fighting For” from the first film, and “Like That Girl” are as good as anything in the first movie), and then the notion of songs gets dropped completely as in the original. The returning voices are all first-rate, and Mark Moseley does a very good Eddie Murphy impression as Mushu even if what he has to say isn't nearly as crazy. And new additions Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, and Lauren Tom are all just fine as well.
The original film is framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The image is pristine and gorgeous throughout with the lines all solid and without a trace of shimmer. Color is deeply saturated without the oranges blooming (though they get close). There is no banding to be seen at all in this pristine picture. The film has been divided into 30 chapters.
Mulan II is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The animation is much less detailed with the small budget of a home video enterprise, of course, but colors are deeply saturated (yellows are especially eye-catching and nicely handled), and the lines are solid without any twitter. There is also no banding to be found. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers superb fidelity throughout. Music (background score by Jerry Goldsmith) sweeps the listener up with its wide expanse through the soundstage, but it never overwhelms the voices in the song sequences. There are impressive pans through the soundstage as the hordes sweep through the frame. Dialogue has been wonderfully recorded and has mostly been placed in the center channel with an occasional bit of directionalized dialogue where appropriate.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does very well with its mixture of music, dialogue, and sound effects. Though a much less sophisticated recording, there are no weaknesses present. The orchestra never overpowers the singers, and the score by Joel McNeely gets nice placement through the entire soundfield. There’s even a bit of directionalized dialogue in the mix.
The audio commentary for Mulan is by its directors Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft and producer Pam Coats. Coats spent five years on the project and has many stories to tell about research and development of the story across many changes of story and songs. It’s an interesting commentary track.
All of the bonus material for both films is presented in 480i.
There are seven deleted scenes for Mulan which can be watched individually or in a 22 ½-minute montage.
“Mulan Fun Facts” is a 2 ¼-minute montage from the film with superimposed trivia about the movie.
“The Journey Begins” includes four production vignettes including the initial planning of Mulan with a three week trip to China (6 ¾ minutes), the “Ballad of Mulan” which tells the story in verse (5 ¼ minutes), 1995 production reel in rough animation (2 ½ minutes), and the 1996 production reel in more finished animation (2 minutes).
“Story Artists’ Journey” includes two vignettes: “Finding Mulan (7 minutes) and a storyboard-to-film comparison (1 ½ minutes).
The Design section includes a 5 ½-minute featurette featuring the directors, the art director, the producer, and the production designer talking about the look of the movie, a 3 ¾-minute piece about design for the various characters, and the “Ballad of Color” which finds the directors, the art director and production designer talking 4 ½ minutes about the use of watercolors.
The Production section shows the four stages that the scenes go through: story sketches, rough animation, clean up animation and effects, and finished color. Then the disc presents two sequences in each of these four stages: “Mushu Awakens” and “Matchmaker Meets Mulan.”
The Digital Production section includes details on the Hun charge (4 ¾ minutes) and Digital Dim Sum (4 minutes).
There are five music videos for three of the songs: “I’ll Make a Man Out of You by Jackie Chan (3 ¼ minutes), “Reflection” by Christina Aguilera (3 ½ minutes) and Lucero (3 ½ minutes), and “True to Your Heart” by Raven (3 ¾ minutes) and 98 Degrees/Stevie Wonder (4 ¼ minutes).
“The Songs of Mulan” features the producer, the story editor, the directors, and composer Matthew Wilder and lyricist David Zippel discussing the placement of songs in the story for 5 ¼ minutes.
“Mulan’s International Journey” discusses the casting of voice talent around the world for the thirty-five foreign language versions of the movie. This runs 5 ¾ minutes.
A performance of “Down to Business” is presented in a multi-language presentation running for 3 ¼ minutes.
The disc features promo trailers in 1080p for Monsters University and The Little Mermaid 3D.
Mulan II gets three bonus items:
“Voices of Mulan II” is a 3-minute piece introducing the directors of the film who note the return of some of the voices from the original plus some new faces as well.
There are four deleted scenes which must be viewed individually running 4 ½, 1 ¾, 2, and 1 ¾ minutes respectively. All are in pencil sketch form.
The music video of “Like That Girl” is performed by Atomic Kitten. It runs 2 ¾ minutes.
The second and third discs in the case are DVDs of each individual movie.
4/5 (not an average)
Mulan is a very entertaining Disney animated feature, and its made-for-home video sequel continues the story a month later to decent effect. The Blu-ray is a handsome upgrade to the image and sound quality of the original releases even if there are no new bonus features included. Recommended!