In one version of the legend, Mulan had a younger brother who was to be enlisted in the military, but instead, Mulan goes in his place. In the film, Mulan has a dog named "Little Brother," as a nod to this.
"Fa" is the Cantonese pronunciation of Mulan's family name. "Hua" is the correct Mandarin pronunciation, and means "flower." "Hua Ping" (Mulan's fake name) means "flower vase" or just "vase." In China, an effeminate man is often called a "flower vase" or "flowerpot."
According to Robert D. San Souci, who retold and researched the original story, Disney did not like the idea of putting in a dragon as a companion for Mulan; they feared it would be too big and menacing. San Souci explained to them that in Chinese lore, dragons can be any size, so a small dragon was approved. Thus, Mushu was born. This change is acknowledged when Mulan calls him "tiny" and Mushu replies, "Of course! I'm travel size for your convenience! If I was my REAL size, your cow (Khan) here would die of fright!"
The film is credited with launching the career of Christina Aguilera, whose first song to be released in the U.S. was the film's song "Reflection." The song went down so well that it landed her a recording contract with RCA Records.
The film was originally planned as an animated short entitled "China Doll," about an oppressed and miserable Chinese girl who is whisked away by a British Prince Charming to happiness in the West. Then Disney consultant and children's book writer Robert D. San Souci suggested making a movie of the Chinese poem, "The Song of Fa Mu Lan," so the two projects were combined.
Disney animators were very keen to gain the support of the Chinese government, hoping that it might help smooth over relations following the upset that had been caused by the Disney-funded release of Kundun (1997).
Tony/Olivier Award-Winning actress Lea Salonga originally auditioned for Mulan's voice, but it was deemed "not deep enough" for when Mulan is impersonating a male soldier. Although Ming-Na Wen plays Mulan, Salonga was retained for Mulan's singing voice.
Development first began in 1994 with Disney sending a select group of artistic supervisors to China for a three-week acclimatization and inspiration course. The movie's artistic supervisors spent this time sketching, photographing, and soaking up the culture.
In the scene where Mushu awakens the ancestors, one set of grandparents worry that Mulan's quest will ensure her family loses their farm. This couple appears to be the couple on the farm in Grant Wood's famous painting "American Gothic." An uncredited Barry Cook, one of the film's directors, provides the man's voice.
Computer animators used the latest technology to add detail and mimic camera techniques that were previously unavailable in animation, like crowd scenes of up to 30,000 people. They used a computer program called "Atilla" to make the sequence featuring 2,000 Huns on horseback.
Harvey Fierstein was reluctant to voice a Chinese character, due to strong feelings about giving more opportunities to Asian actors. When he was assured that many true Asians were being cast as main characters, he agreed to play Yao.
The song "Reflection" was meant to be much longer, but the filmmakers wanted to save time in the movie. In the deleted version, Mulan not only takes off her bun, makeup, and jewelry, she also takes off her sashes. Also, the deleted version shows Mulan riding Khan through mountains and a swamp.
Real-life martial artist Mimi Chan and George Kee did the martial arts fights and choreography for the characters Mulan and Shang. Chan was discovered by Mark Henn while performing for the animation team in Orlando. He then used her as his model for Mulan.
Li Shang's act of turning the entire camp against Mulan is actually a common technique used by sergeants during training, troublemakers will not be singled out by the sergeant, which would result in earning them sympathy, but instead earn all recruits a punishment. *Shangs act of singling Yao out with the retrieval of the arrow is also a technique used in training, smart-mouths will be singled out for humiliation, not only to show that they are wrong but also to show they are a risky person to agree with or be friends with.
Hayabusa is the third bird sidekick to a Disney Villain, the first being Diablo, and the second being Iago, but unlike the ones before him, he is a bird of prey rather than a raven or a parrot. Though technically all three are within a bird clade known as Australaves.
Mulan spends most of the time in her training uniform, her battle armor, or her blue infiltration dress, while in the merchandise, she is shown mostly in her "normal" dress or her pink matchmaker dress.
To promote the movie, McDonalds released a new item on their menu called Szechuan Sauce for a limited time. On April 1st 2017, episode 301 of Rick and Morty aired where at one point in the story, the character Rick enters his mind and relives a traumatic experience back in 1998. Before he goes to the incident, he goes to a McDonalds to order Szechuan Sauce and rambles on how much he loved it and then got pissed off when McDonalds removed the item (he also does the same at the very end of the episode). Since the episode's airing, Szechuan Sauce became a major topic online and many fans of the show have said that the company should bring back the item and there's even a petition online for them to bring it back. McDonalds conceded and made the sauce available for one day only on October 7, 2017.
Mulan is, by far, the Disney character (heroine or villain) with the highest body count ever. The production team had drawn 2,000 Hun soldiers during the Huns' attack sequence, along with 2,000 more horses. Only six Huns survived to the avalanche and only one of them (Shan Yu) is killed later. This makes Mulan's final body count to 3,994 (Shan Yu is killed by Mushu, rather than Mulan, and not a single horse survived).
Considering the setting and their point of origin, Shan Yu and his Huns could, in fact, be members of the Xiongnu people, Tuco-Mongol tribes who lived in the lands north of the Great Wall and conquered much of the Central Asia steppe in the 3rd-1st centuries BC. It is thought by many that the Huns that invaded Europe around 375 AD are descendants of those Western Xiongnu who were evicted by the Chinese in Turkmenistan. This is further supported by Shan-Yu's name, as a "Shanyu" or "Chanyu" was what the Xiongnu leaders were called, much like a Mongol leader would be "Khan."
Originally, the film makers planned to have Mulan join to the army to get out of her society. Though the way she feels about society is still present in the movie, it is not made to be the main point. She seemed selfish and unlikable that way, so animators stuck to the traditional way of her saving her father.
The name "Little Brother" is possibly a reference to Mulan having a little brother in the original Ballad of Mulan. Aptly enough, Mulan may have named her dog this because she considers him her adoptive "brother."
Mulan is the second Disney Princess to have both parents alive and present during the entire film, the first being Aurora in Sleeping Beauty (1959) and the third being Rapunzel in Tangled (2010), and Merida being the fourth in Brave (2012).
The Emperor offering Mulan Chi-Fu's job in his court was a reference to the real-world inspiration for The Ballad of Mulan during the Sui Dynasty: Specifically, the Emperor, upon discovering that a woman was impersonating a soldier, was impressed when he learned that she did it out of devotion to her father that he exempted her father from service and then nominated her to his court. Unlike in either the Disney version or the original ballad, however, this woman didn't go to war, hence why she wasn't executed.
Though he is not a Hun, Chi-Fu can be seen as an antagonist, especially to Mulan. He is the one who ordered her father to go to war, ignoring his old injuries, silencing her protests. He also encouraged her would be husband Shang to execute Mulan for lying to the army, and also stops her horse Khan and her friends Yao, Ling and Chien Po from halting the execution, regardless of her recent acts of heroism, but Shang refuses and chose to spare her for saving his life.
After the departure of Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1994, the story was infused with a lighter touch and handed over to the fairly new Florida feature unit. Up until that point, they had been mainly responsible for the Roger Rabbit shorts.
Co-director Barry Cook cited David Lean as one of his influences. This is particularly evident given the epic sweep of the Hun mountainside advance of 2,000 soldiers on the Imperial troops, and the later crowd sequence of 30,000 in the Imperial City.
Unlike most characters in the film, Shan Yu does not underestimate women. He also, unlike Chi-Fu, does not silence and belittle Mulan when they converse with each other before his death. When Mulan reveals that she caused the avalanche and came up with the idea to save the Emperor, Shan Yu instantly acknowledges that she is both responsible and a far greater threat to him than Shang as he abandons him in favor of killing Mulan. This is likely because it is believed that the Huns actually had several females within their military, many of the worst war crimes being caused by such women. It could also be because he lost many of his men because of Mulan and she ruined his plans to conquer China.
Shan Yu's black eyes may be a procedure known as scleral tattooing, in which tattoo ink is injected into the whites of the eye. This procedure is traditionally done in certain cultures and is still sometimes practiced today.
Although the plot of the film centers on a woman masquerading as a man, most of the male cast had played or dressed as women at points in their careers: BD Wong (Shang) in David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly (1993) and Mr. Robot, Harvey Fierstein (Yao) in the Broadway musical "Hairspray," and Eddie Murphy (Mushu) in several of his own films. Also, Soon Tek-Oh (Fa Zhou) and Gedde Wattanabe (Ling) appeared in a 1976 musical called "Pacific Overtures," in which both played women's parts.
As of 2016, this is the last film in the Walt Disney Animation Studios canon where voice actor Frank Welker receives an on-screen credit for providing animal vocal effects. In later films, he'd simply be listed under the Additional Voices or go Uncredited.
In Mulan (1998), Eddie Murphy voices Mushu, a Dragon. In Dreamworks Animation's Shrek (2001) and it's sequels, Murphy's character Donkey falls in love with a Dragon (whose vocal effects were provided by Frank Welker, the voice of Mushu's Companions Krikee and Khan in this film).
In a 2015 interview, when informed that Lea Salonga had voiced only the singing voice of Mulan and Jasmine, singer Idina Menzel described it as "very 'My Fair Lady'", presumably referring to how 'Audrey Hepburn''s singing was dubbed in the 1964 movie. Marni Nixon, who provided the singing voice for Grandma Fa in Mulan (1998), was also the one who provided the singing voice for Audrey Hepburn's character in My Fair Lady.
Mulan went by the name Ping in her Male Disguise. That would later be the name of James Hong's (Chi-Fu) character in Dreamworks Animation's Kung Fu Panda (2008) and its sequels, which also take place in China.
For the role of Mushu, Disney was aiming for top Hollywood talent in the vein of Robin Williams's performance as the Genie, and approached Eddie Murphy, who at first balked during recording in the Disney studios, and asked to record the voice in his basement at his Bubble Hill mansion in Englewood, New Jersey.
June Foray (Grandmother Fa) and BD Wong (Li Shang) has both been in DuckTales Shows. Foray was in the Original DuckTales (1987) as the voices of Magica Despell, Ma Beagle and one of the voices of Mrs. Featherby, and Wong had been in the DuckTales (2017) Reboot as the voice of Toad Liu Hai. Frank Welker (Kri-Kee and Khan) had been in both DuckTales Shows, providing both speaking voices and vocal effects in the Original but only vocal effects in the Latter (usually going uncredited).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the original Chinese legend upon which this film was based, Mulan succeeds in her deception and leaves the battlefield with great honors. Months later, Mulan's fellow soldiers come in search of their "brother-"in-arms, and are shocked to discover that she is a woman.
In one of the original versions of the film, Mulan was engaged to Li Shang and matching Yin-Yang necklaces were bestowed upon them. Although that part was removed, the Yin-Yang necklaces survive in the sequel (Mulan II (2004)).
The English translation of the Chinese characters on the rocket Mushu has strapped to his back during the climax is "The Big Bamboo," a place in Kissimmee, Florida where the Mulan (1998) crew liked to hang out.
Mulan's horse, Khan, is referred to by name only twice in the entire film. The first time is when Mushu asks him for a ride (which he promptly refuses). The second time is when Mulan decides to return home after saving the Emperor.
Harvey Fierstein, who voices Yao, is also famous for drag queen performances, including the role of Edna Turnblad in the Broadway version of the film Hairspray (1988). He translates this to animation when they invade the palace to defeat the Huns in the film's third act.
All of Mulan's dresses in the film have a blue bodice and a red sash. This is possibly due to show that, despite being forced to change her appearance many times in the movie, Mulan ultimately stays true to herself throughout.