A Hole Filled

Credit to deviantart’s alicexz

A few days ago, after over a decade of sporadic chances to do so, I finally watched Disney’s “animated classic” Mulan for the first time. I watched it on the big screen no less, as part of Event Cinemas’ Disney Princess festival. It was all kinds of awesome, which wasn’t entirely unexpected, but watching it at my age, with my catalogue of film watching experience (*adjusts monacle*), made me notice some interesting stuff. Here I shall rant a little about them. There might be spoilers here, but come on, who in their right mind wouldn’t have seen this movie by now?

1. It looks amazing.

I did experience it in a cinematic atmosphere, so that is probably a factor here, but I flat out did not expect to be so floored by Mulan‘s visuals. I mean, this is a 14 year old movie we’re talking about. It reminded me of how good Disney’s hand-drawn craftsmanship can look and, perhaps more surprisingly, its liberal use of the kind of CGI seen in the famous Wildebeest scene in The Lion King didn’t actually look that dated (probably because it’s combined with said craftsmanship). The film’s city finale in particular really made an impression on me.

2. It is SO Disney.

Mulan is apparently regarded as the second-last in the line of Disney’s fabled “silver age” of animated features, which began with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and ended with Tarzan in 1999. It was more than a little nostalgic to see some of Disney’s favourite ’90s narrative tools in play once again. From the two slapstick sidekick archetypes to the swelling musical numbers to the montage to the use of Chekhov’s Skill to, of course, the rebellious princess character (who isn’t actually a princess here), Mulan happily reminded me of a simpler time in animated movie history. A couple of moments also reminded me of a few films that I now see were inspired by Mulan, the Kung Fu Panda series chief among them.

3. It got me.

God help me, I almost teared up. I did. I also laughed out loud more than a few times.

4. It’s well balanced.

Something that a lot of modern animated films forget to get right (and there are a lot of them these days) is balance. Too much emphasis on one aspect of the traditional cartoon formula can leave audiences tired or confused. Mulan feels like such an achievement because it comes pretty close to achieving such balance. It doesn’t push the “upstart heroine” angle too hard, it isn’t too silly for too long, it touches on some dark material but doesn’t wallow in it, its spectacle is actually matched by its character interactions and…

5. There’s no forced romance!

This was honestly a really big surprise to me. Considering the time period it came from, I was fully expecting Mulan to feature the standard animated boy-meets-girl trope. Don’t get me wrong, Disney has done that well in the past, but as soon as the captain took off his shirt I was readying to be force-fed a rapid romance ending in a kiss that just wouldn’t have fit the themes that the film was touching on so effectively. Luckily, the ending turned out to be a nigh-on perfect demonstration of how to illustrate romantic intentions without treading all over a beautifully orchestrated full-circle resolution.

6. I’m an idiot for missing it as a kid.

Who even were you, 9 year-old me?

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