11 Memorable Facts About Disney’s Mulan

Mulan faces off against a menacing Hun during the climax of Disney's Mulan (1998).
Mulan faces off against a menacing Hun during the climax of Disney's Mulan (1998).
Walt Disney Pictures

In 1998, Disney broke from its own mold by introducing Mulan, an independent, resilient heroine who isn’t fond of frilly dresses and doesn’t want (or need) to be saved. With a riveting story about risking it all for your family and a rousing soundtrack featuring Lea Salonga and Donny Osmond, Mulan quickly became a modern animated classic. In honor of Disney's live-action remake, revisit the wonder and magic of Mulan with these inspiring facts.

1. Mulan is based on the story of Hua Mulan, a legendary female warrior in China.

hua mulan statue in jurong gardens, singapore
A statue of Hua Mulan in Singapore's Jurong Gardens.
Anandajoti Bhikkhu, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Like the Disney character, Hua Mulan is said to have disguised herself as a man in order to spare her father from going to war. The earliest known record of her story was “The Ballad of Mulan,” a Chinese folk song from the 6th century that details Mulan’s 12 years of heroic service in the Chinese army, after which she dutifully returns to her family. According to All That’s Interesting, the epic tale continued to crop up in Chinese songs, plays, poetry, and other works for centuries, especially during periods of unrest when the public needed extra hope and inspiration. However, since various versions of the story have been around for more than 1500 years—and it began as an oral tradition, rather than a written one—nobody knows for sure if Hua Mulan was indeed a real person.

2. Disney’s Mulan wasn’t always quite so independent.

In its earliest stages in the late 1980s, Mulan was going to be a straight-to-video animated short called China Doll, about an oppressed young woman in China who finds happiness after a British soldier sweeps her off her feet (and out of China). None of Disney’s top animators wanted to work on it, and children’s book author and Disney consultant Robert San Souci eventually floated the idea of basing the story on Hua Mulan’s. That garnered enough enthusiasm to get the project out of the incubator, but it would take a fair bit of brainstorming for filmmakers to develop Mulan as a plucky, independent heroine.

“There was another storyline that had her running off to war to escape a bad situation at home, either bad parents or a forced marriage. That didn't work,” co-director Barry Cook told the Los Angeles Daily News in 1998. “Then she was driven by a romance she had with the captain of the soldiers. And that just ruined everything.”

3. Mulan helped launch Christina Aguilera’s singing career.

In late 1997, soon after 16-year-old Christina Aguilera had signed a deal to record a demo with RCA Records, her new music producer got a call from a friend at Disney looking for a young singer who could belt a certain hard-to-hit note: a high E above middle C. He asked Aguilera, who recorded herself singing the same note in Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Run to You” and sent the tape off to Disney. It landed her the gig of singing a pop version of Mulan’s “Reflection” that Disney could (and did) release as a single, which was so successful that Aguilera ended up including it on her self-titled debut album in 1999. Later, Aguilera would call that high E “the note that changed my life.”

4. Mulan was the first feature-length film created by Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida.

In 1989, Disney opened a satellite animation studio right in the backyard of Disney/MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida. Though primarily established to support Disney’s flagship studio in Burbank, California, and create animation for Disney World attractions, Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida also produced three of its own feature-length films—Mulan in 1998, followed by Lilo & Stitch in 2002 and Brother Bear in 2003. According to co-director Tony Bancroft, the distance from Burbank helped the Orlando animators find their own rhythm while making Mulan.

“Early on in the project, they weren't paying much attention to us," Bancroft told the Los Angeles Daily News. “They were concentrating on Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so we had a little more leeway to experiment. There wasn't quite the same amount of pressure."

Bancroft and Cook even made cartoon cameos in the film—they’re the fireworks attendants that Mushu scares off while Mulan is racing to save the emperor.

5. Mulan’s family temple features the names of many artists and animators who worked on the film.

When Mushu strolls through the Fa family temple, banging his gong and shouting at the ancestors to “rise and shine,” the tombstones glow with sparkling Chinese calligraphy, which is actually a list of people who helped bring the movie to life.

6. Mulan was voiced by two actors—one for speaking, and one for singing.

Lea Salonga, the Tony Award-winning star of Miss Saigon, was originally cast as the sole voice of Mulan, but filmmakers realized while recording that the deep voice she used while Mulan was impersonating a man wasn’t quite what they were looking for. The speaking role went to Ming-Na Wen, who had piqued the interest of Mulan’s filmmakers with her narration at the beginning of 1993’s The Joy Luck Club. "When we heard Ming-Na doing that voice-over, we knew we had our Mulan. She has a very likable and lovely voice," producer Pam Coats told Deseret News. It wasn’t the first time Salonga tag-teamed a Disney princess role with another actor; she also provided the singing voice for Linda Larkin’s Jasmine in Aladdin (1992).

7. BD Wong shared the role of General Li Shang with Donny Osmond.

For General Li Shang, Disney cast the speaking role first: BD Wong, a 1988 Tony Award winner who has most recently gained critical acclaim for his guest appearances as Whiterose in Mr. Robot. To find a nice, strong singing voice for Shang, filmmakers unearthed old audition tapes from 1997’s Hercules. They came across one by Donny Osmond—who had lost out on that role because his voice was a little too deep—and decided he’d be a perfect match. Osmond, thrilled at the opportunity, accepted the role immediately and recorded the now-classic tune “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” on a day off from playing Joseph in a touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

8. Jackie Chan voiced Li Shang for the Chinese version of Mulan.

Hong Kong actor, martial artist, and all-around legend Jackie Chan not only dubbed Li Shang for the Mandarin and Cantonese versions of Mulan, he recorded “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” in both languages, too—and even filmed a music video.

9. Mushu was supposed to get his own song in Mulan.

Eddie Murphy’s memorable performance as Mulan’s pint-sized dragon sidekick, Mushu, almost included a song called “Keep ’Em Guessing,” where Mushu taught Mulan how to masquerade as a man. Unfortunately, Murphy wasn’t interested in showing off his singing talents.

“We wrote three different versions of it,” lyricist David Zippel told Entertainment Weekly. “But that’s because we didn’t understand at that point that it wasn’t that [Eddie Murphy] wasn’t liking our songs, he just didn’t want to sing in the film.”

10. Mulan has a habit of touching her hair because Ming-Na Wen does.

ming-na wen in 2018
Ming-Na Wen touching her hair at a press event in 2018.
David Livingston/Getty Images

Disney animators often pull characteristics from the voice actors when designing their characters, and Ming-Na Wen was no exception: After noticing Wen had a habit of touching her hair, the artists decided that Mulan would, too. “Very true,” she confirmed on Twitter. “I still touch my hair a lot.”

11. Mattel’s Barbie doll version of Mulan was originally much bustier.

Mattel’s first pass at a Mulan doll was basically Mulan’s face on Barbie’s large-chested, tiny-waisted body, which didn’t sit well with producers. They didn’t succeed in convincing the company to create an entirely new figure for Mulan, but they did settle on a compromise: Instead of using Barbie as the model for the doll, Mattel used Midge, the more evenly-proportioned pal of Barbie that Mattel had rolled out in 1963 to prove Barbie dolls didn’t only exist to be sex symbols.

“We were disappointed that we couldn't get our own Mulan body type because we wanted it to be true to the character and true to the culture,'' Coats told the Los Angeles Daily News. “But at least she's less buxom than the original version. I think there will be people who appreciate that.”

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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8 Facts About David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'

Express/Express/Getty Images
Express/Express/Getty Images

On July 20, 1969, astronauts walked on the Moon for the first time. Just a few weeks earlier, another space-age event had rocked the world: David Bowie’s single “Space Oddity” hit airwaves. The song, whose lyrics tell the story of an astronaut’s doomed journey into space, helped propel the artist to icon status, and five decades later, it’s still one of his most popular works. 

1. "Space Oddity" was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Many listeners assumed that "Space Oddity" was riffing on the Apollo 11 Moon landing of 1969, but it was actually inspired by a Stanley Kubrick film released a year earlier. Bowie watched 2001: A Space Odyssey multiple times when it premiered in theaters in 1968. “It was the sense of isolation I related to,” Bowie told Classic Rock in 2012. “I found the whole thing amazing. I was out of my gourd, very stoned when I went to see it—several times—and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing.”

2. "Space Oddity" was also inspired by heartbreak.

The track was also partly inspired by the more universal experience of heartbreak. Bowie wrote the song after ending his relationship with actress Hermione Farthingale. The break inspired several songs, including “Letter to Hermione” and “Life on Mars,” and in “Space Oddity,” Bowie’s post-breakup loneliness and melancholy is especially apparent.

3. "Space Oddity" helped him sign a record deal.

In 1969, a few years into David Bowie’s career, the musician recorded a demo tape with plans to use it to land a deal with Mercury Records. That tape featured an early iteration of “Space Oddity,” and based on the demo, Mercury signed him for a one-album deal. But the song failed to win over one producer. Tony Visconti, who produced Bowie’s self-titled 1969 album, thought the song was a cheap attempt to cash in on the Apollo 11 mission, and he tapped someone else to produce that particular single.

4. The BBC played "Space Oddity" during the Moon landing.

"Space Oddity" was released on July 11, 1969—just five days before NASA launched Apollo 11. The song doesn’t exactly sound like promotional material for the mission. It ends on a somber note, with Major Tom "floating in a tin can" through space. But the timing and general subject matter were too perfect for the BBC to resist. The network played the track over footage of the Moon landing. Bowie later remarked upon the situation, saying, "Obviously, some BBC official said, 'Oh, right then, that space song, Major Tom, blah blah blah, that’ll be great. 'Um, but he gets stranded in space, sir.' Nobody had the heart to tell the producer that."

5. David Bowie recorded an Italian version of "Space Oddity."

The same year "Space Oddity" was released, a different version David Bowie recorded with Italian lyrics was played by radio stations in Italy. Instead of directly translating the English words, the Italian songwriter Mogul was hired to write new lyrics practically from scratch. "Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola" ("Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl") is a straightforward love song, and Major Tom is never mentioned.

6. Major Tom appeared in future songs.

Major Tom, the fictional astronaut at the center of "Space Oddity," is one of the most iconic characters invented for a pop song. It took a decade for him to resurface in David Bowie’s discography. In his 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes," the artists presents a different version of the character, singing: "We know Major Tom's a junkie/Strung out in heaven's high/Hitting an all-time low." Bowie also references Major Tom in "Hallo Spaceboy" from the 1995 album Outside.

7. "Space Oddity" is featured in Chris Hadfield's ISS music video.

When choosing a song for the first music filmed in space, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield naturally went with David Bowie’s out-of-this-world anthem. The video above was recorded on the International Space Station in 2013, with Hadfield playing guitar and singing from space and other performers providing musical accompaniment from Earth. Some lyrics were tweaked for the cover. Hadfield mentions the "Soyuz hatch" of the capsule that would eventually shuttle him to Earth.

8. "Space Oddity" played on the Tesla that Elon Musk sent to space.

Dummy in Tesla roadster in space with Earth in background.
SpaceX via Getty Images

In 2018, Elon Musk used SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket to launch his Tesla Roadster into space. The car was decked out with pop culture Easter eggs—according to Musk, "Space Oddity" was playing over the car’s radio system during the historic journey. The dummy’s name, Starman, is the name of another space-themed song on Bowie's 1972 masterpiece The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.