Fairy tales have been a long tradition in almost all cultures, starting as oral traditions to and gradually evolving into written texts intended for future generations to enjoy. Today, a common medium for relaying these ancient stories is through animation. The Walt Disney Company is probably the most well known for its animated portrayals of many classic fairy tales. These fairy tales are considered, by fairy tale researcher Justyna Deszcz to be “cultural institutions, which exist within an institutional framework of production, distribution, and reception, as well as fulfilling specific social functions, such as the preservation of the cultural heritage of a given country.” The majority of these Disney fairy tales are derivatives of European stories. However, in 1998 Disney opened its first animated feature with an Asian theme in both the United States and Asia. Disney’s Mulan seems to stray from the traditional structure of a Disney fairytale, those which have a “relatively uncomplicated sequence of adventures, revolving around impeccably positive characters, who, depending on their gender, either conquer evil or passively wait to be rescued” (Deszcz). Disney’s Mulan was aimed to please both the Asian and modern American markets. However, the Walt Disney Company fails to completely step away from its established model in terms of portrayals of minorities, Western depictions of men being dominant in the fairy-tale world, and a woman’s ultimate role and happiness being conditional on men. Mulan continues to promote Disney’s idea of Western cultures as being ideal and its sexist views regarding women.
The story of the great Chinese female warrior, Hua Mulan, first appeared as a ballad titled “Ode to Mulan” in approximately 500 A. D. In the ballad, there is a young woman by the name of Mulan who is feeling dejected because she has just gone into town where she saw lists of men’s names who are being called to serve in the Chinese army. One man on the list is Mulan’s crippled father. Because she has no older brother who can take his place, Mulan, with the consent of her parents, then decides to go to the marketplace and buy a horse and saddle so that she may go to war. Mulan leaves and fights in the war against the Huns for twelve years. When she returns, her troop is honore...
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