Australian Council on Children and the Media

Mulan (1998)

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Short takes

Not suitable under 5; parental guidance to 7 (violence, themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Mulan (1998)
  • a review of Mulan (1998) completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 May 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to violence and themes.
Children aged 5–7 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and themes.
Children over the age of 7 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Mulan (1998)
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: The content is very mild in impact
Length 93 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

When the Huns attack China one male from each family must enlist in the Emperor’s army in order to stop an impending invasion. Bearing the scars of an earlier war, the honourable Mr. Fa hobbles forward to collect his summons. His only child, a daughter named Mulan, begs the imperial officer to spare her father but inadvertently brings shame upon the household by speaking her mind in the presence of men. Society demands that she be meek, forbearing and silent but Mulan is none of these things. Cutting her hair and wearing her father’s battle armour she sets off to enlist in his place. When her family learns what she has done they are terrified as her discovery will mean instant death. The ancestors send Mushu (Voice of Eddie Murphy) a small dragon to look out for her in the hopes he will bring her home safely. Meanwhile, Mulan finds herself in the midst of an unruly group of men led by the young captain Shang. Encountering difficulties with every aspect of her training and on the verge of being sent home, it is only when Mulan begins to look outside the box and find creative ways to do things that she discovers an inner strength which takes her from the back of the pack and transforms her into one of the finest soldiers China had ever seen. Mulan singlehandedly defeats a vast army of Huns but after becoming wounded in battle is exposed as female and loses all credibility as a result. Refusing to give up or give in, she follows the army toward the Imperial City hoping to warn them about an impending attack but no one believes her until the Emperor himself is kidnapped. Once again all hope seems lost until Mulan devises a plan that helps the Emperor, defeats the Huns and saves all of China.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

War, gender discrimination, male chauvinism.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Mulan’s grandmother accidentally causes a major smash while crossing a street with her eyes closed in an attempt to prove that a cricket is lucky.
  • Mulan punches another recruit which then triggers a brawl between the men.
  • There are numerous fight scenes during training where people are hit, grabbed, kicked, shot at, etc.
  • A wayward rocket hits the tent of the Emperor’s advisor and he is seen coming out all singed and shell-shocked.
  • Mulan’s horse doesn’t like Mushu and is constantly trying to trample or get rid of him.
  • Mulan is sliced by a sword and, after saving Shang from an avalanche, collapses on the ground.
  • The Hun army is buried alive by an avalanche.
  • It is implied that a man is shot with an arrow although his death is not shown.
  • Numerous bodies lie on a snowy field on the outskirts of a burned-out town.
  • The Huns kidnap the Emperor and try to make him bow before them. When he refuses one tries to attack with his sword saying that he will cut him to pieces. Shang blocks the attack just in time and Mulan and another soldier manage to rescue the emperor.
  • Mulan is chased through the palace by the Huns; she fights one on the roof, managing to outmanoeuvre him with her fan before Mushu helps send him into the fireworks storage shed where it is presumed that he is killed in the huge explosion.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The Huns themselves are very creepy looking. They are clearly depicted as evil, with angry faces and devilish looking eyes.
  • When Mushu introduces himself to Mulan he is seen as a larger than life shadowy dragon with enormous teeth and claws. His fiery image is projected onto a boulder causing him to look terrifying. He is soon seen to be small and harmless but the intimidating image may frighten very young viewers.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • The Huns find a small doll and, in a sinister way, say that they must return it to its owner. They intend to visit the village from where it came and when Mulan and the army approach they find the village in ruins, burnt to the ground and a vast field of bodies lying motionless in the snow. Mulan finds the doll and props it up against the sword of Shang’s father who was killed trying to defend the village. The scene is sad and the image of the aftermath may upset some children.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • It is implied that some soldiers are making reference to “size” while bathing naked in a pond.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Mulan bathes in a pond but has to get out quickly when a bunch of soldiers decide to join her. She is hidden behind her horse but her bare legs can be seen and nudity is implied. In the water she holds her arm across her chest when the men get too close.
  • Mushu has to bite a butt to create a distraction for Mulan to leave.
  • One of the soldiers is seen standing on a rock from behind. The camera angle is through his bare legs but he is facing the others and full frontal nudity is implied.
  • Three soldiers sit naked on a rock. They are in shadows so nothing is seen and then a group of naked soldiers run past. Only their bare chests can be seen.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • One character smokes a cigarette.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Infrequent name calling such as: “stupid” and “insubordinate ruffians.”

In a nutshell

Mulan (1998) is an animated adventure based loosely on the historical legend of a young Chinese girl who pretended to be a boy and won a great victory for China. While the plot is embellished the story itself is inspirational and provides many powerful examples of courage and resourcefulness. Showcasing the power of the female spirit, Mulan is a wonderful family film with lessons for us all.

The main messages from this movie are that the rarest and most beautiful flowers are the ones that bloom in adversity; that wars are not necessarily won by strength or by the size of an army but rather by the courage and ingenuity of the soldiers themselves; and that just one resourceful girl can save a nation and become a legend.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Courage
  • Determination
  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • Honour.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Running away instead of discussing the problems at hand.
  • Violence as a means to solve conflict.
  • Pretending to be something that you are not.
  • The perception that women are worthless and should not be given a voice (something that comes across regularly from certain characters in the film).

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