Skip To Content
    Updated on Aug 8, 2020. Posted on Aug 5, 2020

    23 Fascinating Facts About The Original "Mulan" Movie That I Can't Believe I Never Knew Before

    Bruce Willis was supposed to be Li Shang?

    Hurray, a release date for the live-action Mulan remake is finally in sight! So to celebrate this phenomenally exciting event, I thought I would collate some interesting trivia about the OG animated film from 1998.

    Buena Vista Pictures

    1. For instance, did you know that the name Mulan translates as magnolia or wood orchid? Hence why there are a ton of them in the movie!

    Buena Vista Pictures

    2. And that Mulan's pet dog, Little Brother, is a reference to the fact that in the original poem, The Ballad of Hua Mulan, our hero actually has an infant brother?

    Stills from Mulan showing Mulan entering a room and calling Little brother! In the image below she bends down to greet a little white dog and says there you are
    Buena Vista Pictures

    Since he's too young to fight and her father is too weak, Mulan enlists in the army instead.

    3. Chinese-American actor and red carpet assassin Ming-Na Wen, who was already in her mid-thirties when she was cast as the teenage Mulan, was approached for the role because Disney loved her narration of the groundbreaking movie The Joy Luck Club.

    A close-up image of Ming-Na Wen looking amazing at an event with a side by side comparison of animated Mulan in the film dressed in her full makeup for the Matchmaker
    Amy Sussman, Buena Vista Pictures / Via Getty Images

    4. During her recording sessions, animators noticed that Ming-Na touched her hair a lot and decided to have Mulan do the same thing in the movie!

    A split image showing Mulan grabbing her hair whilst sitting under a blossom tree by herself and an image of Ming-Na Wen at a panel event walking to her seat and touching her hair
    Alberto E. Rodriguez, Buena Vista Pictures / Via Getty Images

    5. Mulan is often credited with launching Christina Aguilera's career. The former Mickey Mouse Club member released a version of "Reflection" in 1998, which would become her first ever chart success. Resultantly, she was offered a record deal with RCA!

    Christina Aguilera poses on the Red Carpet for the Mulan premiere in the bright pink dress and up do
    Frederic J. Brown / Via Getty Images

    6. Speaking of "Reflection", the choon was supposed to be much longer, with accompanying scenes of Mulan riding her horse out of town and through nearby mountains and fields. It was cut down to save time in the film, but also to make Mulan seem like less of a loner at odds with her society.

    A split image shows animated Mulan looking into a small empty cage whilst dressed in her traditional garb and a rough storyboard still of Mulan riding her horse near the edge of a cliff
    Buena Vista Pictures

    7. And surely you remember that scene where Mulan sings "Reflection" in her family's shrine? There are several stones slabs with ancient Chinese lettering on them, which Mulan sees herself in, and these translate into the names of several animators who worked on the film!

    Buena Vista Pictures

    8. During a later scene in the shrine, where Mushu awakens the ancestors, a couple worry aloud that Mulan's actions could lose the family their farm; the couple themselves are a fun allusion to Grant Wood's oft-parodied American Gothic.

    A still showing two glowing ancestors from Mulan who are standing next to each other and look like the man and woman from American Gothic
    Buena Vista Pictures

    9. Did you ever notice at the start of the movie how Mulan "cheats" while doing her morning chores? She gets her dog to feed the chickens, and she writes notes on her arm in preparation for her matchmaking session. While that seems lazy, it's actually this exact type of "work smarter, not harder" thinking that allows Mulan to triumph later against Shan Yu!

    A split image of stills from Mulan shows Mulan writing notes in ink on her arm, Mulan looking at the peak of a snowy mountain in her metal sword, and Mulan smiling having just let off a canon
    Buena Vista Pictures

    10. When Mulan is making her way to the Matchmaker at the start of the movie, she helps a man win a board game with one move, and then takes a doll from a young boy to give back to the girl he stole it from. This demonstrates that as well as her beauty, Mulan has intangible and undervalued traits like brains and a strong moral compass!

    Buena Vista Pictures

    11. The Matchmaker is voiced by none other than Harry Potter alumna and British icon, Miriam Margolyes.

    A split image showing The Matchmaker from Mulan with her makeup all melted down her face and a close up of Miriam Margolyes at an event smiling in a red scarf
    Tim Whitby, Buena Vista Pictures / Via Getty Images

    12. Meanwhile, Mulan was Eddie Murphy's debut as a voice actor, and since it was kind of a big deal to have him on board, Eddie got away with not coming into the Disney studios to record. Instead, he insisted he cut his scenes in the basement of his mansion in Englewood, New Jersey.

    A close of Eddie Murphy in a black turtleneck at an event
    Hector Mata / Via Getty Images

    13. And to think, Mushu was almost voiced by Goodfellas and Home Alone star, Joe Pesci!

    A split image showing Joe Pesci on stage at an event in a black hat and sunglasses, and Mushu from the movie Mulan folding his arms and looking cross in front of a green backdrop
    Kevin Winter, Buena Vista Pictures / Via Getty Images

    14. In the Chinese version of the film, Jackie Chan provided the voice of army captain and legit hunk, Li Shang. Bruce Willis, who was the martial arts model for Shang, was originally signed on to also voice the character before he was replaced with B. D. Wong.

    A split image showing Jackie Chan smiling in white clothes, Li Shang from the move Mulan looking off screen in his army uniform, and Bruce Willis at an event wearing a pale blue shirt and sitting down
    Jeff Gross, Frazer Harrison, Buena Vista Pictures / Via Getty Images

    15. Chi Fu's name in Mandarin literally means "to bully".

    Chi Fu from the movie Mulan angrily looks at Li Shang and says that creatures's not worth protecting. They are both at the Imperial Palace and Chi Fu's hat is ruined
    Buena Vista Pictures

    It's written as qī fu or 欺负.

    16. The style of tai chi that Mulan's father practises at home before his leg injury causes him to collapse is actually called Mulan Quan – a form of tai chi named for Hua Mulan herself!

    Mulan father's in the animated film Mulan attempts to practice tai chi moves in the top image, and the collapses against a pillar in pain in the second image
    Buena Vista Pictures

    17. Actual martial artists were used to simulate fight sequences like the above from the film. Mimi Chan and George Kee did the choreo for Mulan and Shang, and Mimi was also used as a physical model for Mulan!

    Buena Vista Pictures

    18. Later, when Mulan is met by Mushu whilst preparing to enter the army training camp in disguise, there's a moment when Mushu says he can see straight through Mulan's armour, before he drops his gaze to look at her chest!

    Mulan talks to Mushu. In the first image, Mushu is wrapped around a tree leaning over Mulan who is wearing her army uniform. He says my eyes can see straight through your amour. In the second image he looks at mulan's chest who is surprised
    Buena Vista Pictures

    19. And did you ever clock that the method Mulan uses to climb a pillar and retrieve an arrow whilst in training is repeated later when Mulan and her fellow soldiers scale the Imperial Palace?

    A split image shows Mulan endeavouring to a climb up a poll with two leather straps wrapped around her hands. In the second image, Li Shang wraps his cape around a pillar as if reading to climb it
    Buena Vista Pictures

    20. The scene where Mulan picks up a doll outside of a burned out village is an homage to a scene from Studio Ghibli's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, in which the same thing happens with Lord Yupa.

    A split image shows an animated man picking up a doll from the floor and in the second image, Mulan also picks a doll from the floor. Both dolls are simple looking with pink dresses
    Toei Company, Buena Vista Pictures

    21. If you thought that Shan Yu is based on Attila the Hun, you'd be wrong! Attila's armies didn't venture into the Northern Wei territory where Mulan is supposed to be set. The Huns in the movie are more likely Xiongnu nomads, who frequently clashed with the Han dynasty of China in the third century.

    Buena Vista Pictures

    This is supported by the fact that Shan Yu's name is similar to "Chanyu", the title Xiongnu leaders were given.

    22. And did you ever wonder why Shan Yu doesn't belittle Mulan or underestimate her skill as a soldier during their final confrontation? It's likely because he's used to seeing women as warriors! Hun armies often had women in their ranks, so when Mulan reveals that SHE caused the avalanche, Shan Yu is hardly surprised and views her as a very real threat to him.

    A split image shows Mulan and Shang fighting with Shan Yu at the top of the palace. Shan Yu says to Shang you took away my victory and Mulan says no, I did, then pulls her hair back. Shan Yu says the soldier from the mountains
    Buena Vista Pictures

    23. Lastly, Mulan, as a character, has the biggest body count in Disney history – she takes out approximately 3,994 people and animals with her avalanche manoeuvre!

    Buena Vista Pictures

    Animators used software called Attila (lol) to create 2,000 Hun soldiers and 2,000 more horses for the main attack sequence. Only six Huns survive, and then Shan Yu himself is later killed. This takes Mulan's final body count to 3,994, since Shan Yu is technically killed by Mushu.

    Now, bring on Mulan 2020!!!!

    Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    TV and Movies

    Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

    Newsletter signup form