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Mulan on DVD

In the last few years, traditional animation has begun its downhill slide, to be replaced by 3-D computer animation. Disney’s Mulan was one of the last old-school animation movies to make it in and out of theatres alive.

Is it that the quality of movies is going down, or are audiences merely bored with that old thing now that there’s something new? The box office figures speak for themselves: computer animation is raking in the dough (see every Pixar movie to date, as well as Ice Age, Shark Tale and the Shreks), while most 2-D cartoons die a horrible death (see Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and Treasure Planet).

With all of that aside, we can get on to talking about Mulan.

Mulan lived a long time ago, in a society in which women are the caregivers, cooks, cleaners, and so on and so forth. For a woman to impersonate a man, or perform any task normally performed by a man, is to shame the family name and is punishable by death.

But when Mulan’s father is called into action to defend China against the Huns, she takes it upon herself to head into action for him. Accompanied only by a lucky cricket named Cri-Kee and her guardian dragon Mushu, at first she has a hard time fitting in (it is a man’s world, after all).

But when Mulan really gets going, she turns out to be quite a helpful chick to have around. As long as she can keep up the charade, the Chinese just may survive the invasion after all.

Mulan is a pretty good movie. Sure, it’s not in the same league as Aladdin or The Lion King, but the story, animation, humor, and voice talent are all up to par. It even features some (obviously) computer-animated shots that are meshed well with the rest of the film.

It’s also much more epic than most Disney fare. The idea of the Huns invading China, killing all who oppose and burning cities to the ground is not a pleasant one. The fact that Mulan and company are China’s last hope of survival gives the movie a much needed sense of urgency, since most of the movie up to that point is fairly uneventful.

Finally, it throws in the typical life lessons that can be found in animated features. It talks about the wonders of being yourself, and that if traditions don’t make a lick of sense, you should be willing to turn the other cheek under the right circumstances.

Mulan may not be great, but it’s a pretty good animated Disney movie that deserves a place in most DVD collections. Now available in this 2-disc special edition, we get the definitive version.

Picture comes in "family-friendly" 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and it looks great. Colors are razor sharp and there’s not a single trace of dust or grain anywhere to be found. All the scenes set in the snow are handled very well, with the immense whites never drowning out any of the action.

Audio is the usual Dolby Digital 5.1, which features great separation and well-done surrounds. It’s particularly noticeable during the avalanche scene, at which time the surrounds and the subwoofer rumble into action and send the snow flying straight into your living room. At times the dialogue is a little quiet, but it may have been meant to be like that, so we can’t really say too much.

There are a few deleted scenes on the disc, including a deleted song performed by Mushu. Most of the scenes are from early versions and so don’t hold much merit, but the song is pretty catchy and it’s unfortunate they decided not to use it. Four music videos are included, including one with Jackie Chan, an audio commentary by the filmmakers, fun facts, DisneyPedia: Mulan’s World, and a fairly extensive making-of documentary split into little bits. As is the case with most docs about animated films, it doesn’t spend enough time on the voice talent and spends too much time on the progression of the animation, but is otherwise pretty good.

Finally, we get the usual series of trailers for upcoming Disney theatrical and DVD releases.


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