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Some Things Worth Watching For

"There are a couple of things I know they're bound to notice!" - Mushu

Here is a list of inside jokes, anachronisms, trivia, mistakes, and random interesting stuff in Mulan. (Warning: spoilers ahead!) I've left out most of Mushu's material (he's from a different world anyway) and most of Cri-Kee and Khan's anthropomorphic behavior. Mistakes listed involve technical errors, plot holes, or things that are weird. (And yes, I do understand that animated objects do not necessarily have to follow the laws of nature.) By pointing out the mistakes I don't mean to criticize Disney; I prefer it to mean that some viewers are quite observant. (Really!) Elements of the movie involving the accuracy of Chinese history, language, and culture are addressed on another webpage.

Comments or additions? E-mail me! Names listed below are the people who first e-mailed me what they noticed and/or possible explanations.

This section has been divided into two pages, with this page covering the film up to and including "I'll Make a Man Out of You" and the second page covering the rest of the movie.


When several hundred people are working on a film, with weekly footage deadlines pressing (not to mention the deadline for the film itself), Disney can't be as picky and little mistakes either slip by completely or get noticed when there's no time to correct them. Ruff animators and directors are preoccupied with looking at the animation and how it moves and often don't notice these inconsistencies (though everyone finds them very amusing after the fact). Most mistakes are caught by the clean-up leads, and the ones that slip by them are sometimes caught by the color department and changed if it isn't too costly or too late. Anything else from Mulan that slips by ends up on this webpage.

SCENE: The opening scene on the Great Wall.
NOTICE: The soldier throws the torch into the pan of oil and it flames up. The light is reflected on his face and his skin color changes to a warmer yellow-orange. Cut to Shan-Yu and there is *no* light in his face. It's the same dark color it was before even though he's standing right at the pan.
EXPLANATION: Either this was a mistake or else it was deliberate to show that he was sooo evil (dark) that he absorbed all light.

Noticed & explained by Marc Hairston.

SCENE: Mulan writes crib notes on her arm.
NOTICE: She is left-handed, but in all the other scenes where she draws her sword and stuff, she is right-handed. (It's pretty hard to do Chinese calligraphy left-handed!)
EXPLANATION: This happens a lot in animated features, with characters appearing to be left-handed or ambidextrous. From what I understand, the reason for this is that most animators are right-handed and often use their free left hand as a reference. For larger movements (such as swordfighting) they will often watch actors or other animators doing the motions and work from there.

Noticed by Julius Elefante.

SCENE: Mulan gets dressed for the meeting with the matchmaker.
NOTICE: Just before the visit to the matchmaker, Mulan's grandmother places a strand of jade beads around her neck. In the following scenes, they are missing.
EXPLANATION: The beads are tucked inside Mulan's collar after Grandmother Fa puts them around Mulan's neck. The necklace is still there during the matchmaker scene (and can be seen sometimes) and the beginning of "Reflection." During "Reflection" Mulan takes the necklace off. Also, notice that ALL of the lucky items are somewhat hidden: The beads of jade worn under her upper garment, the pendent tucked in the "pocket" of cloth at her front, and the cricket cage fastened to her dress at the back. Was this necessary for "luck", or was it necessary to avoid the wrath of the matchmaker who might resent supernatural attempts to influence her or at least regard such superstitions as reasons to deduct points?

Noticed by William Nagle; explained by Mando Mendez, Jeffrey Y. Sue, and Thomas E. Phillips, Jr.

SCENE: After "Honor To Us All."
NOTICE: When the Matchmaker bursts the doors open and says "Fa... Mulan!", Mulan shouts "Present!" The Matchmaker scribbles on her notice board "Speaking without permission..." Mulan puts her hand with the super-long sleeve onto her face which was full of makeup, saying "Oops." The makeup didn't rub off, even though it was freshly painted, but afterwards, during the song "Reflection", she rubs off half the makeup on her face very easily.

Noticed by Polis.

SCENE: Mulan at the matchmaker's.
NOTICE: The Chinese characters that Mulan wrote on her arm don't come off while she's in the bathtub, but later they come right off when the matchmaker grabs her arm and smears the ink all over her face!
EXPLANATION: This ink is particularly permanent and doesn't wash off in water, but it does start bleeding (because of the water) and comes off easily with contact.

SCENE: Mulan at the Matchmaker's.
NOTICE: After Mulan's fan has been thrust back into her hand and she is being pulled towards the table her sleeve looks like it is short, because it has no folds in the fabric like it should have if her sleeve were and were pushed up her arm. So instead of being pushed up and bunched up it looks like a short sleeve.

Noticed by Jolin Stickney

SCENE: Mulan at the Matchmaker's
NOTICE: When the Matchmaker picks up the tea kettle *after* getting the ink from Mulan's arm on her hand, it does *not* rub off onto the kettle's handle. However, seconds later it rubs off easily onto her face.
EXPLANATION: The kettle is made out of some sort of ink resistant china. ;-)
EXPLANATION #2: The ink was already wet, but the matchmaker's skin had an unusually high acid content which caused the ink to smear on her hand and face, but which did not rub off on the tea pot handle because the teapot was extra clean. (I love to reach.) :-)

Noticed & explained by Zora Reveier; 2nd explanation by Julianne Murdoch.

SCENE: Cri-Kee relaxes in a tea jacuzzi.
NOTICE: If I remember correctly, insects breathe through their exoskeletons since they don't have lungs, so if Cri-Kee were a real insect, he'd probably drown. While I'm at it, insects also have six legs (Cri-Kee has four--this took me a while to get used to) and their chirping and buzzing are caused by the sounds of their legs and/or wings, not mouths.
EXPLANATION: This is a Disney animated feature, not Nature on PBS! (Sorry, the biologist in me got carried away...)

SCENE: Mulan drenches the matchmaker with tea to put out the fire.
NOTICE: The fire is on the matchmaker's backside, but Mulan throws the tea into the matchmaker's face. Also, the tea is supposed to be hot, so the matchmaker should've been burned by the tea as well.
EXPLANATION: The matchmaker and Mulan had left the teapot on the table after she'd poured, so the tea had had a chance to cool by the time Mulan throws the tea onto the matchmaker. The bad aim has yet to be explained...

Noticed by Barry Adams; explained by Julianne Murdoch.

SCENE: "Reflection"
NOTICE: Mulan leads Khan to the watering trough and takes off his bridle, which she holds in her hand. The scene switches away from her for a moment, and when it comes back, she is turning away from Khan, and there is no bridle in her hand. Normally one would hang up a horse's bridle inside after use, because tack is expensive and his tack in particular is as nice as the Imperial horses. Even though she was upset, I doubt she would have just dropped the bridle in the water trough or on the ground!
EXPLANATION: Probably Disney couldn't think of a convenient way to have her hang up the bridle and get through the song in time, so they just let it vanish.

Contributed by Kristen Fowler.

SCENE: "Reflection"
NOTICE: Mulan wipes off her makeup on her sleeve, but as she exits the pavilion there is no makeup on her sleeves. Maybe white powder doesn't show up on light pink sleeves, but the red lipstick and dark eyeliner would.
EXPLANATION: Remember when Mulan puts her sleeve to her head after "speaking without permission"? Her face had been freshly painted and powdered so was more or less dry at that point. Which would also, if we reeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaach, explains why during "Reflection" the makeup didn't stick to her sleeve. The makeup was so dry at that point that it flaked off like powder, and would have shaken from the sleeve after she wiped it all off.

Noticed by Debbie Martin; explained by Julianne Murdoch

SCENE: "Reflection"
NOTICE: When Mulan wears makeup she has thin lines for eyebrows. Mulan wipes makeup off half her face and her original eyebrow appears (and she has pretty heavy eyebrows). Well....the most widely accepted way of "modifying" eyebrows is to pluck them. Which doesn't quite add up here...if eyebrow hairs have been plucked off they don't miraculously grow back with one wipe of a sleeve.
EXPLANATION: The only possible explanation I can think of is that the makeup was some wonder stuff that covered eyebrows completely as well. Or wait a minute...the makeup covers original eyebrows completely and the "beautician" paints the thin eyebrows on?

Noticed & explained by Jinyin Chong

SCENE: "Reflection"
NOTICE: When Fa Zhou was in the temple the stones did not reflect his image, but during "Reflection" the stones all behaved like mirrors.

Noticed by Kristy Li.

SCENE: Chi Fu calls out the draft. NOTICE: The last names include those of people who worked on the film, including Rita Hsiao (screenwriter) and Chen-Yi Chang (character designer).

SCENE: Mulan puts on her father's armor and runs away.
NOTICE: Fa Zhou's armor (and helmet) is apparently "one size fits all", since Mulan, who was described by the matchmaker as too skinny, can wear it.
EXPLANATION: Personally, I think the armor does look a little big on Mulan, and she might be wearing several shirts underneath. Also, Fa Zhou is a fairly slender person, and his uniform probably isn't too huge. (He's one of the few recent Disney dads who's not roly-poly or a major steroid case.)An interesting side note was also pointed out to me:

The more padding you have under your armor the better it works! The hard shell of the armor protects against penetration by sword or arrow, but the padding protects against bruising and bone-breaking blows besides offering some additional protection if something sharp gets through the hard shell. Who knows, perhaps it was this extra padding that prevented her sword-wound from being even more serious Of course the practical upper limit of under armor padding is determined by maneuverability (you have to be able to march and fight) and heat retention (which becomes less of a problem as the temperature drops).

Noticed by Albert Yang; note by Thomas E. Phillips, Jr.

SCENE: Mushu comes to life.
NOTICE: The way Mushu rises seems to imitate Frankenstein...It has been mentioned on r.a.d.a. that the Disney team was doing a take off of Eddie Murphy's 1995 movie Vampire in Brooklyn.

Noticed by Barry Adams; r.a.d.a. post by Karl Cialli.

SCENE: The Ancestors' come to life
NOTICE: The ancient Chinese characters on the bei (stone) are the names of animators who worked on the film.

SCENE: The Ancestors' first meeting.
NOTICE: One pair of ancestors is decidedly *Jewish*. They have New York accents and clothing with Eastern European Jewish flavor. They are the ones arguing about "That comes from *your* side of the family - all *my* children became acupuncurists!" A stereotypical Jewish mother wants all of her sons to become doctors.

Contributed by Gwyn Fireman

SCENE: The Ancestors' first meeting.
NOTICE: Two of the ancestors assume the pose from the Grant Wood painting "American Gothic" (the farmer holding a pitchfork standing with his wife).

SCENE: The Ancestors' first meeting.
FUN FACT: Two of the ancestors (I'm not sure which ones) are voiced by Mulan screenwriters Raymond Singer and Eugenia Bostwick-Singer. The fellow with the pitchfork is voiced by one of the directors.

SCENE: Mushu is thrown out to awaken the great stone dragon.
NOTICE: The gong gets thrown after him, but not the mallet. Moments later he has the mallet in hand to pound on the gong.
EXPLANATION: The Ancestors *did* toss the mallet after Mushu, but after he got hit with the gong.

Noticed by Laurie Kagiyama.

SCENE: Mushu tries to wake up the Great Stone Dragon.
NOTICE: "Yo, Rocky! Wake up!" Sounds like a tribute to Stallone and Rocky to me.

SCENE: Mushu attempts to wake up the Great Stone Dragon.
NOTICE: The head of the "Great Stone Dragon" shrinks an AWFUL lot by the time Mushu picks it up from the rubble. (Consider its size when Mushu yells into the ear and at the end, when the head lands on Mushu.)
EXPLANATION: The head was smashed to pieces; all that survives is the snout (jaws and nose) plus the eyes; however, there IS a continuity problem here. At first the Great Stone Dragon is an intricate, beautifully detailed carving (notice in particular when Mushu is growling at it nose-to-nose and then eyeball-to-eyeball), but when Mushu holds it up for the Ancestors to see, it has been redrawn as a brick with painted on teeth and comical eyes.

Noticed by Cathy; explained by Thomas E. Phillips, Jr.

SCENE: Mushu chases Cri-Kee and shouts, "What if I popped off one of your antennas and threw it across the yard? Who'd be the loser then, me or you?"
NOTICE: Mushu is pointing at Cri-Kee when he says "me", then points at himself when he say "you". Was this a mistake or a deliberate comic mixup by Mushu?

Noticed by Marc Hairston.

SCENE: Mulan and Mushu first meet.
NOTICE: At the end of Mushu's miracle speech, Mushu goes one way (viewers' right) and his shadow goes the opposite (viewer's left)... Usually a shadow follows you...

Noticed by Bryan Eads

SCENE: Close-up of Mushu after he is stepped on by Khan.
NOTICE: Look at the ground around Mushu, the small hole he is lying in has a very interesting design to it. (This is the only true hidden Mickey in the film that I know of, although others have reportedly been sighted. Read on...)

Noticed by Rex Huang.

SCENE: Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po chase Mulan.
NOTICE: Some entertaining sound effects. Before they crash into the line of men, the sound of screeching tires can be heard as they "put on the brakes." When Chien-Po crashes into the line of men it sounds like bowling pins being knocked down.

Noticed by Alex Chun.

SCENE: Chien-Po causes the whole line of men to fall like dominoes.
NOTICE: When Chien-Po bumps into the line, he stands steadfast as if he wouldn't topple over. However, when we cut to the scene where everyone starts to get up, he is on the ground on his stomach.
EXPLANATION: 1. The law of inertia took longer to work on Chien-Po. 2. Chien-Po, being the smart guy that he is, knew the other soldiers would be looking back to see who caused the mess and fell to the ground so they would see Mulan instead.

Noticed and explained by Barry Adams.

SCENE: The same.
NOTICE: When Chien-Po runs into the line of men waiting for food, they are presumably waiting for rice, since the big pot at the end of the line has rice in it. However, as the men topple over, there is rice flying around, although they shouldn't have received any yet.
EXPLANATION: Maybe the recruits wanted to assure seconds?

Noticed by Jeffrey Y. Sue, explained by Anita

SCENE: Chi Fu: "I didn't know Fa Zhou had a son."
NOTICE: Why didn't the guys from Mulan's village speak up and say, "Hey! Fa Zhou doesn't have a son! That looks like Mulan with her hair cut short!" And why doesn't Chi Fu recognize Mulan?
EXPLANATION: 1. They were all out of earshot. 2. They were already trained sometime earlier and thus with General Li's troops. (Do you think Fa Zhou would have had to go through boot camp again?) 3. They were knocked unconscious from all the fighting beforehand. 4. If Superman can get away with a pair of glasses as a disguise, Mulan's getting a haircut could work. When Mulan pulls her hair up, we see her widow's peak (the pointed hair line in the middle of her forehead) making it more difficult to recognize her. As for Chi Fu...1. According to one Mulan book, he wasn't used to have women talk to him directly. So, when Mulan did, his reaction was to consider her a bit more than a freak. My guess is he didn't pay much attention to her, since he thought it would be dishonorable to "listen to a woman" and even more to look her in the eye. 2. He's just an idiot.
EXCUSE: The original story never explains this either.

Noticed by Marc Hairston and Albert Yang; explained by María Jos?Díaz Sámano and "Mina."

SCENE: Mushu wakes up Mulan in her tent.
NOTICE: "Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty!" (The only direct reference to another Disney film I've been able to spot.)

SCENE: "I'll Make a Man Out of You"
NOTICE: Every archer in boot camp uses his left arm to draw the bow, but uses his right arm for his sword. This seems strange to me; since drawing a bow requires some strength, one would think that you would use your stronger arm to draw your bow, and similarly, your stronger arm to wield your sword. (Shang might be equally strong in both arms since he is a professional soldier.)
EXPLANATION: In archery, you figure out which of your two eyes dominates your vision. Once you know which eye, you hold the bow with the other hand, and use the same hand to draw back the bow. This is done so that when you lock onto a target with your eyes, your dominant eye is looking straight down the arrow giving you more accuracy. Eye dominance does not necessarily correspond with handedness (that is, a right-handed person can be left-eye dominant). So the way the movie is animated, all the troops are left-eye dominant. (Though later Yao shoots an arrow "right-eye dominant," which is exactly as is should be since his left eye is shut all the time.) On the other hand, the main archer for the Huns uses his left when he says, "One," his right as he walks back through the doors after they took the emperor, and his left again when he points the arrow at Mulan.

Noticed by Albert Yang; explained by Barry Adams.

SCENE: "I'll Make A Man Out Of You."
NOTICE: Ling loses a bunch of teeth trying to break a block with his head. Later his teeth miraculously reappear in his mouth!!!
EXPLANATION: Ling was a strange child. He never lost his baby teeth. His other teeth couldn't grow in because of that fact. So, when he lost his baby teeth from hitting his head, his other teeth had the chance to grow in. They had FULLY grown back by the next time he was shown because they had waited so long for the baby teeth to fall out that they just had to *pop* out, and his mouth would be back to normal in no time at all!
EXPLANATION #2: When the men were picking up all the rice, they found Ling's teeth, and the surgeon wired them back in. He had to do it a couple of times because they fell out again when he was trying to break the block with his head. :-)

Noticed & explained by Cathy; 2nd explanation by Julianne Murdoch

SCENE: Shang tries to send Mulan home.
NOTICE: Mulan doesn't want her father to go to war because she knows that he will die, but if he was really in such bad condition, Shang-Li would have sent him home because he wasn't fit for war like he tried to send Mulan home when she couldn't keep up with the training, before she retrieved the arrow from the wooden pole. So basically, Mulan wouldn't have to go to war anyway!
EXPLANATION: Hmm...we wouldn't have had much of a movie left, would we? This is all speculation, but I've heard it suggested that Fa Zhou might not have had to go through basic training like the other soldiers, or maybe he'd be onhand to help train new recruits instead of actually fighting, or maybe he'd get to ride Khan and thus not have to do too much walking. Also, we don't know what rank Fa Zhou is in the military--for all we know he could be Shang's superior and joined the troops based on his rank and reputation.

Noticed by Carmen Ho (and others).

Some More Things Worth Watching For

Last modified February 25, 2000.
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