Our top 25 animated movies list heads down the final stretch, the five best films ever made. This quintet separated itself from the pack with a ton of support from multiple members of the panel. Tomorrow: #2.
3) Mulan (4 votes, 343 points)
Chris: There was a time when Mulan was my personal No. 1. That is no longer the case (one of the two remaining films in our top 25 has that honor now), but it’s still waaaaaay up there. In fact, both Shaun and I had this second on our lists.
Mulan bucked the trend of all the popular Disney renaissance movies by having a female protagonist who wasn’t there just to be kidnapped or held against her will. Sure, Belle had her moments, but if the end of Beauty and the Beast had come down to Gaston chasing her around the rooftops of the castle instead of the Beast, I’m pretty sure she would have died a miserable death. After training with the rest of her troops, she’s as capable as the rest of her squadron — in some ways more capable. She might not have the physical strength or prowess the others do, but she makes up for it in tactical planning and quick thinking.
It’s a cool story about bucking trends. In traditional China, if you were a girl, you weren’t allowed to do much except serve tea and find a husband. Mulan is spurred into action when her father, who has a hard time standing on both legs, let alone swordfighting, is conscripted by the army to protect the country against Shan Yu. (The scene where she makes up her mind to do this has perhaps the best music in the entire film — yes, including Reflection and I’ll Make a Man Out of You, which I adore.)
From there, it’s a madcap adventure that tackles an avalanche, a burned-down village, the death of Shang’s father, an awkward scene in a bathing area, an a battle in the imperial palace…after the early stuff is established, the movie starts rolling downhill and doesn’t stop until the end.
For its crisp animation, awesome main character, fantastic supporting cast and top-five Disney soundtrack, Mulan is deserving of its spot on the podium.
Shaun: Everything about this movie is why it’s the best 2D animated movie Disney has ever put out. Soundtrack is great. Maybe not Disney’s best collection of songs ever, but with two VERY notable standouts. If you’ve never gotten down to business to defeat the Huns, then I feel sorry for your life.
Gorgeous animation. Not only was everything rendered beautifully and managed to capture all the action and color on screen, but this movie was, at least in my memory, one of the first to combine 3D elements into a 2D film and have it look good and be effective. Those Huns crashing down the mountain….damn.
But really, when it’s all said and done, it’s about the story of incredible characters that you really invest in. They all have flaws that they are trying to overcome, and all you want as the audience is to see them succeed, despite them continually getting kicked down. And yes, the final sequence gets just a little silly, but it’s also empowering, both as stereotypes are broken and narrative arches are completed.
And, of course, it has one of the greatest training montage sequences ever committed to film. Eat your heart out, Rocky.
Michaela: Mulan has a great cast, a memorable, touching story, and an awesome soundtrack. My favorite part of the film – of any animated film for that matter – is when she resolves to take her father’s place in the army, cutting her hair and taking the scroll from their room. Not only is the music great, but it really epitomizes what Mulan stands for – she is a brave young woman willing to do anything she can to protect her family. It’s a quality that children watching the film can look up to and admire, and it’s a great film for that reason. Of course, the action is exciting (the part where Shan Yu and his army stand at the top of the mountain before charging is such an intense, awesome moment), the comedy is still strong, and the songs are excellent as well.
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