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Disguising yourself as a man and then running off in the middle of the night to take your father’s place in the Imperial Army is all well and good, but unfortunately Mulan really hadn’t thought out what to do AFTER that. Despite looking like a man, she has no idea how to act like one, and is therefore skulking in the woods outside camp, unsure of how to get inside without instantly being found out as a girl. Enter… Mushu!!
No sooner was Mulan gone than her ancestors held a little conference to decide what to do with her. All agreed that Mulan had to be forced to come back, lest catastrophic damage be done to the family name. Mushu (Eddie Murphy), a small red dragon, offered to go, but seeing as the LAST time he tried to help a member of the Fa family, that person lost their head (and Mushu lost his place as an official guardian of the family), he is soundly rejected. Instead, Mushu is ordered to wake The Great Stone Dragon and have HIM bring Mulan back. Unfortunately, Mushu ends up smashing the statue into pieces and after convincing the Great Ancestor Spirit that the Great Stone Dragon is on the way, heads off himself (Lucky Cricket in tow) to instead make Mulan a big war hero and thereby put himself back in the good graces of Mulan’s ancestors.
Which brings us back to where Mulan is hiding outside camp and Mushu puts his plan into action. Convincing Mulan that he was indeed sent by her ancestors to help her, the pair make their way into camp. Due to a series of errors (prompted by Mushu), Mulan causes a huge brawl to break out in camp, and initially falls afoul of two not-so-bright guys named Yao and Ling (a third guy, Chien-Po, is friendly to everybody).
The fight is broken up by the camp commander, Captain Li Shang (also son of General Li, the head of the imperial army), who demands to know who Mulan is. Introducing herself as Ping (meaning “Peace”), the training begins with a little lesson. Shang shoots an arrow into the top of a very tall pole, and challenges Yao to climb up and get it. But there’s a catch: he has to do it using two round weights, one he names “Discipline” and the other he names “Strength,” stating that “You need BOTH to retrieve the arrow.” Yao makes it halfway up, but the weights pull him back down, and one by one everyone fails in the task. This failure prompts the training song “I’ll Make a Man out of You” which follows Mulan in her attempts to train for war.
To say that her training goes badly at first is a massive understatement. In fact, no one is doing well in the beginning. Various skills are shown: shooting arrows through tomatoes before they hit the ground, deflecting rocks with a staff while balancing a bucket of water on the head, launching primitive rockets at a target, hand to hand combat, etc. In most of these tasks, Mushu is seen attempting to “help” Mulan but the attempts either backfire or get caught by Shang. Finally, after Mulan falls behind in an endurance walk, Shang brings Mulan her horse and tells her to go home, she’ll never be a soldier. At this point, Mulan could go home, but having come this far, she’s not ready to give up.
She sees the arrow at the top and makes another try for it, and then it hits her: everyone has been letting the weights hang at their sides, but if one ties the weights TOGETHER, you can use them to pull you up to the top. Doing this, Mulan sends the arrow down to Shang at sunrise, and is allowed to stay. Not only do Mulan’s fighting skills improve (along with everyone else), she is now accepted as “one of the guys” and is quickly becoming an accomplished warrior.
I really like this song: Shang’s singing voice is performed by Donny Osmond and it’s really awesome to watch the training montages as everyone progresses from clumsy to skilled. Next time: Everyone is thinking of “A Girl Worth Fighting For.”
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