Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” is out now on Disney Plus, with many fans of the original excited to finally see the film after it’s knockout trailer and coronavirus-enforced delay.
And what better way to prepare for the new version of “Mulan,” than by throwing it back and rewatching the 1998 animated original? Fans of the film will undoubtedly have watched the movie countless times, but there are always hidden details and behind-the-scenes facts that you miss.
We’ve combed through the classic movie, and have found 20 of these little nuggets, from hidden Mickey Mouses and a “Lilo & Stitch” connection to an ambidextrous Mulan and her body-count to a Hogwarts professor cropping up in the movie, there’s bound to be something on this list that you missed.
1. Mulan doesn’t have fingernails, but her ancestors do
A curious animation difference can be spotted between Mulan and her ancestors. Mulan doesn’t have fingernails, yet her ancestors do. It’s quite a noticeable difference that doesn’t have any explanation or any obvious meaning. The other characters in “Mulan,” such as Li Shang and Mulan’s father, don’t have fingernails either — but all the ancestors do.
2. There’s a reference to the famous ‘American Gothic’ painting in the ancestors scene
There are other Disney-specific references in this movie, but “Mulan” also references a very famous real-world painting: “American Gothic” by Grant Wood. Wood’s image has been referenced in multiple other works, such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but it’s interesting to see the instantly-recognizable image pop up in a Disney movie.
3. Mushu’s shadow has see-through eyes
When Mushu uses a leaf to fan a fire in order to create an intimidating shadow when he first speaks to Mulan, there’s something a bit off about his shadow. His eyes are see-through, which obviously doesn’t make any sense, but it does make for a far better image.
4. Chi-Fu has a picture of himself and the Emperor, but they must have posed a long time for it
When Mushu sneaks into Chi-Fu’s tent to type up that fake letter, he notices a framed picture of the advisor shaking hands with the Emperor. But considering that this photo would have been hand-painted, the two men must have been posing for a hell of a long time in the same stance.
5. There are two hidden Mickey Mouses on Li Shang’s horse
Disney movies always manages to sneak in a hidden Mickey or two, and “Mulan” is no different. Li Shang’s horse gets the honor of being the vessel carrying the hidden Mickeys, with clear Mickey Mouses on his hind and his neck.
6. Mulan writes with her left hand but fights with her right, meaning she is probably ambidextrous
Mulan is a pretty skilled warrior by the end of the film, and an intelligent, determined character throughout. But she’s actually got another skill to add to her collection — she seems to be ambidextrous. She writes with her left hand, and fires a bow with her left hand, but fights with a sword in her right. Whether this was a purposeful decision from the creators or just an oversight remains to be seen.
7. The singer who provides the singing voice for Mulan also provides the singing voice for Jasmine
If you’ve ever watched “Mulan” and thought that she sounded familiar while belting out “Reflection,” there’s a reason why. Lea Salonga, who provides the singing voice for Mulan, also provides the singing voice for Jasmine in “Aladdin.”
However, Salonga does not provide the speaking voice for either character. Instead, Ming Na-Wen plays Mulan sans-songs, while Linda Larkin plays Jasmine.
8. Mulan touches her hair a lot because the actress, Ming-Na Wen, did during her voiceover work
The voice actress Ming-Na Wen actually had an effect on the characterization of Mulan. While recording her lines, the directors noticed that Wen was touching her hair a lot, and this led to the character of Mulan touching her hair a lot, too.
9. The directors of the movie cameo as the two firework handlers in the film’s climax
Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft are the directors behind “Mulan,” and did a great job of giving the legend the Disney treatment. Such a great job, that they rewarded themselves with sneaky animated cameos in the movie. They play the firework handlers in the movie’s climax, the ones who Mushu tells he is their “worst nightmare.”
10. If you look closely, you can see Chien-Po casually drinking soup in the background of the soldier skirmish
After a male-disguised Mulan (Ping) enters the army camp, she inadvertently starts off a camp-wide brawl. Mulan’s future friends Yao and Ling get themselves involved, but Chien-Po can be spotted enjoying a bowl of soup in the background.
He’s not really a fighter, anyway, and he does love his food. Meanwhile, another soldier brings a watermelon to the fight.
11. The medic who saves Mulan but reveals her gender comes from absolutely nowhere
After Mulan’s heroics, saving the entire army while simultaneously defeating Shan Yu and his soldiers, she is badly wounded. Thankfully, a medic is at hand to fix her up (and reveal to Li Shang and co that she is, in fact, a woman).
But where the hell did this medic come from? He was never with the army when they traveled, and they are atop a snowy wasteland with not a hint of civilization anywhere nearby. He seems to materialize out of nowhere for the plot’s convenience, but it’s a good job for Mulan that he did.
12. Shang’s army shrinks completely in the march to the Emperor’s palace
These sort of animation inconsistencies are actually quite consistent, but you won’t be able to unnotice this one now that you’ve seen it.
When Li Shang’s army marches up the steps to the Emperor’s palace in the imperial city, there’s a considerable line of soldiers behind him and the Dragon Dance costume. But after Shan Yu’s falcon snatches his sword from Li Shang’s grasp, we see the procession again and there are only three soldiers behind the dragon — Chien-Po, Yao, and Ling. The others seemingly disappear.
13. Eddie Murphy’s Mushu originally had a song to sing, but it was cut
There aren’t actually that many songs in “Mulan” compared to most movie musicals.
They were originally set to have at least one more, which was going to be called “Keep ‘Em Guessing” and would have been sung by Eddie Murphy’s Mushu. Alas, it was cut. But we did get to hear Murphy sing in 2006 “Dreamgirls,” for which he was Oscar-nominated.
14. The character of Little Brother is a nod to the original legend, in which Mulan had a brother
The name of Mulan’s dog, Little Brother, is actually a nod to one of the versions of the original ballad, in which Mulan did actually have a brother. That character was cut for the animated movie, but the dog was added a nice reference.
15. The actor who plays Little Brother (Mulan’s dog) also plays Stitch
Little Brother was voiced by Chris Sanders, who voiced another Disney creature in 2002’s “Lilo & Stitch” — Stitch himself. There’s also another “Mulan” and “Lilo & Stitch” connection — Jason Scott Lee voiced David in “Lilo & Stitch” and plays the villain, Bori Khan, in the live-action remake.
16. The scientist from ‘Jurassic Park,’ BD Wong, voices Li Shang — but Donny Osmond provides the singing voice
Captain Li Shang is actually one of Disney’s most complex and interesting love-interests, so it was a shame when the decision was made to cut him from the live-action remake. In the animated movie, Li Shang was voiced by BD Wong, who is best known for his role as Dr. Henry Wu in 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” a role he later reprised in “Jurassic World” in 2015.
However, similarly to Mulan, Wong did not voice Shang for the singing parts. Instead, none other than Donny Osmond was brought in to provide the singing voice for Shang. Osmond nails “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”
17. Jackie Chan voiced Li Shang in the Chinese version of the movie
Movies are often redubbed with other actors for release in other countries, and the Chinese version of “Mulan” had an even bigger name playing Li Shang: Jackie Chan. Unlike BD Wong, Chan provided the voice for both the singing and the speaking parts, since he is actually well-known for his singing in China.
Chan also made a very 90s music video to accompany his version of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” and you can watch it right here.
18. Professor Sprout from ‘Harry Potter,’ Miriam Margolyes, voices the Matchmaker
The Matchmaker is a key character in the film and in Mulan’s journey. Her voice is memorable, but not instantly recognizable. It’s actually Miriam Margolyes, who is best known for playing Professor Sprout in the “Harry Potter” film series, who provides the voice.
19. ‘Mulan’ actually means ‘magnolia,’ hence the magnolia motif used throughout the film
Broken down, Mulan means “wood orchid,” with “mu” meaning “wood” and “lan” meaning orchid. Meanwhile, “Hua” means “flower.” But Mulan is also commonly translated as “magnolia,” taking on the more poetic meaning that the animated movie takes advantage of.
Throughout the film, the magnolia flower is used as a motif for Mulan. Her father notices a magnolia that is yet to bloom, but tells his daughter that “when it blooms, it will be the most beautiful of all.” Fittingly, the flower blooms at the end of the film.
20. Mulan has the highest body-count of all Disney characters
This is quite a dark little factoid, but true nonetheless. Out of every single Disney character, hero or villain, Mulan has the highest kill count. According to the film’s IMDB trivia page, 2,000 Hun soldiers were drawn for the mountain attack scene, plus, 2,000 more horses.
After Mulan sets off an avalanche with a rocket, only six of those Huns survived. Shan Yu is later killed, but by Mushu rather than Mulan (although she did play an instrumental role in Shan Yu’s defeat, of course). In total, Mulan’s final kill count is 3,994.