What children need to round out their education is exposure to other cultures and value systems. Mulan fills the bill on both scores. Inspired by a 2000-year-old Chinese legend, this animated film is directed by Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft. It heralds the ancient Confucian virtues of family honor, respect for elders, and devotion to country.
Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na Wen), the only child in her family, is a tomboyish young woman who is expected to serve the emperor by bearing sons. However, her disastrous visit to the matchmaker brings shame to her family. Then China is invaded by the Huns and an order is sent out that one man from each household must serve in the defending army. Mulan's elderly and infirm father is ready to lay down his life for his country. In order to save him, Mulan disguises herself as a young man and joins the troops in training.
This beautiful looking movie presents a glimpse into another culture where children are very conscious of earning the respect of their parents. This theme is reinforced by the escapades of Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy), a scraggly dragon who accompanies Mulan on her adventures. He is trying to prove his worth to the Guardians looking after the family.
Through the difficult training and then in battle with the Huns, Mulan demonstrates her courage, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. In the closing scene, the emperor says, "The flower that blossoms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all." The virtues that shine through Mulan make it an outstanding family film.