Have you been trying to figure out “how is Mulan a princess?”. As she’s not exactly born into royalty and doesn’t marry into it, we’ll need to dig deeper to figure out exactly why Mulan is an official Disney princess.
We all know about Mulan, right?
The iconic 1998 film that showed a strong and independent woman singlehandedly saving China literally kick-started my feminist streak.
But when I first saw that Mulan was classed as one of the official Disney princesses, I was all kinds of confused.
And considering I’d always seen her in the Princess Float at parades in the parks, I couldn’t quite figure out why.
I knew that her love interest wasn’t a prince or king, and she wasn’t born to a royal family.
So, what gives?
Well, I’m here to answer the question “how is Mulan a princess”, and you’ll quickly see why this warrior totally deserves the princess title.
Now let’s do this!
Who is Mulan and Why Is She Important?
Mulan is the eighth official Disney princess and is known for taking her father’s place in China’s war against the Huns.
In the first Mulan movie, she’s said to be just 16 years old and starts off as a headstrong young woman trying to conform to traditional gender roles.
Not very well, I might add.
But when her injured father is called up to fight in the war, she takes his place by cutting her hair and donning his uniform.
And that’s when she becomes “Ping” instead of Fa Mulan!
Mulan is hugely self-reliant in all of her appearances and doesn’t rely on her natural beauty to get ahead.
While she’s seriously clumsy and outspoken in a time that wouldn’t have appreciated these traits, she wins out with her courage and intelligence.
It just takes a little while for these traits to be seen positively by those around her.
And if you need an example of her serious intelligence, you just need to watch that iconic rocket and avalanche scene.
I mean, what an absolute legend.
Although there’s lots to love about Mulan, part of what makes her special is that she directly tackles traditional gender roles.
Not only does she risk her life to save her father, but she clearly disagrees with the matchmaking process.
Plus, she gains huge amounts of respect from the male soldiers after saving their lives multiple times.
The film does comment that women weren’t (and aren’t!) given the same opportunities as men.
But Mulan proves that women are just as capable as men (if not more so in certain situations!) and should be given equal opportunities.
And considering the movie takes place somewhere in Imperial China between the Northern Wei Dynasty (368 to 534AD) – that’s amazing.
What Are the Criteria for Being a Disney Princess? (The princess mythology)
How Is Mulan a Princess?
Her personality traits and her role in the film itself
It’s no secret that Mulan wasn’t exactly born into royalty.
But part of what makes her an official Disney princess is the fact that she’s loyal, brave, and true (just like the song!).
And according to Disney’s requirements for princesses that seem to fit each princess, they must be:
- Escorted by an animal sidekick (though not always)
- Human or human-looking
- Beautiful inside and out
- Perform a heroic deed or make some kind of sacrifice during the movie
- Have a central role in a Disney or Pixar film and not be introduced solely in a sequel
- Kind-hearted, somewhat stubborn, curious, loving, courageous, and selfless
To add to this list, the most amusing one is that the movie must perform well at the box office and in merchandising. So, in other words, the film needs to be a commercial success.
But I’ll get to that later, as it’s part of the answer to the question “how is Mulan a princess?”.
I promise, it’ll all make sense.
Her granted position of power
I’d say that this was the main aspect that makes Mulan a princess as it’s the closest thing she has to a royal title.
After Mulan saves China from the Huns and personally rescues the emperor, a few different things happen.
The first is that the emperor gives Mulan his crest and puts it around her neck as a reminder that she saved him.
The second is that the emperor hands her the sword of Shan Yu to remind her that she saved China.
And the third is that the emperor tells Chi Fu to make Mulan a member of his council (which was huge for ancient China!).
The exchanges looked something like this:
Mulan: With all due respect, Your Excellency, I think I’ve been away from home long enough.
The Emperor of China: Then, take this. [removes his crest from around his neck and puts it around Mulan’s] So your family will know what you have done for me. And this. [hands her the sword of Shan Yu] So the world will know what you have done for China.
The Emperor of China: Chi Fu.
Chi Fu: Your Excellency?
The Emperor of China: [indicating Mulan] See to it that this woman is made a member of my council.
Chi Fu: A member of… what? [sputters]
Chi Fu: But… there are no council positions open, your Majesty.
The Emperor of China: Very well.
The Emperor of China: [to Mulan] You can have HIS job.
Chi Fu: What? Uh… [Chi Fu faints]
Many people have even speculated that the emperor handing over his crest made Mulan an honorary member of the Royal Family.
And that would technically make her a princess in real terms!
But even if we don’t consider that honor worthy of a royal title, it’s clear that Mulan’s heroic acts match the Official Disney Princess Code of Conduct.
In fact, Mulan meets literally every single tick box aside from being actual royalty by marriage or birth.
If I was judging the situation, I’d say that the emperor bestowing her with the highest honor possible puts her among the most prolific Disney princesses.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Renaissance Disney princesses are regarded for their agency and active roles in their stories.
Unlike tales like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the women are responsible for saving their stories.
I’d say that Belle, Ariel, Jasmine, and Pocahontas also fall under this umbrella and come from the same Disney movie release period.
So, make of that what you will!
Last but not least, let’s go to that all-important Disney princess ranking factor – MONEY!
I won’t say that this is the be all and end all when it comes to ranking the Disney princesses.
But to be considered an “official” Disney princess, the woman in question needs to be marketable and profitable.
After all, money makes the world go around, right?
So, why don’t we look at Mulan’s figures?
Although the live action movie brought in a disappointing $70 million, the original 1998 animation brought in an impressive $304.3 million.
It also helps that the movie was incredibly well-received by both critics and audiences, which made merchandise a big hit.
Merchandise sales are harder to pin down, but I’d say that park sales and Mulan’s presence at parades shows that she’s still a success.
As only the most successful and beloved characters are usually seen at parades and meet and greets – it speaks for itself!
And when you throw in the hit singles like “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, it’s easy to see why it’s still a family favorite.
So, How Is Mulan a Princess?
Overall, I’d say that Mulan is a princess because she’s noble, is bestowed a great honor by the emperor, and is a huge commercial success.
There are always people that are going to believe that characters like Mulan and Pocahontas aren’t real Disney princesses.
But if we’re assessing character and profitability as part of the mix (and those animal sidekicks!), then I’d say they totally deserve their crowns.
Is Mulan the oldest Disney princess?
Mulan isn’t the oldest Disney princess as that prize goes to Tiana at 19!
Mulan is just 16, which puts her somewhere in the middle of the age ranking.
Is Mulan the only Chinese Disney princess?
Yes, she is! But there are also other princesses of color like Pocahontas, Moana, Jasmine, and Tiana.
What is the age gap in Mulan?
Shang is 19 and Mulan is 16 which puts their age gap at a solid 3 years.
But it’s interesting to note that they don’t immediately marry at the end of the movie. So, it’s hard to say how old Mulan is when they eventually tie the knot!
Is there a true story behind Mulan?
The exact plot of Mulan isn’t based on a true story and scholars generally agree that she didn’t really exist.
But Disney animators based Mulan on an ancient Chinese folk tale called The Ballad of Mulan!
It follows the story of the warrior Hua Mulan who takes her father’s place in the military (sound familiar?).
What is the moral of the story of Mulan?
Although people take different things from the story of Mulan, the main moral is that we should always try to do the right thing and conquer obstacles.
And if we’re looking at the famous pole climbing scene, it’s that you should always move forward until you reach your goals!
I hope that this post has helped answer the burning question “how is Mulan a princess?”.
Do you have any questions about Mulan’s status as a Disney princess? Are there any other confusing Disney princesses that I should cover? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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Grace is the creator, editor, and sole writer for Pixie Dust and Passports – a blog that’s ALL about Disney! She’s made it her life’s mission to visit the Disney parks as much as possible and loves trying new snacks, grabbing the latest spirit jerseys, and rocking Loungefly bags. Oh, and she also holds a BA in History from UCL, which makes her a research and deep-dive enthusiast into all things Imagineering.