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Kids on Film

Hero Gives Folks What They Want

June 25, 1998|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the Disney-animated "Mulan," a strong-willed Chinese girl joins the emperor's army to fight the marauding Huns. She becomes a hero and encounters love and assorted colorful characters. Rated G.

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Youngsters crave the familiar, from old stuffed animals to cartoon shows that seem (to adults) to have the same characters doing the same things over and over.

Which helps explain why kids were all smiles at a recent screening of "Mulan" in Brea. This latest Disney animation spectacular follows a familiar and, for children, comforting pattern: A young hero confronts a huge challenge he/she can triumph over, with pleasant tunes and cool visuals.

Lydia Chen, 8, of La Habra, was typical as she grinned and announced, "I loved her!"--referring to Mulan, the movie's teenage star, who's based on a character from Chinese legend. "She was brave [and] kinda strong [when she] rode horses and had fights and stuff."

Lydia wasn't especially impressed that the film is inspired by a folk tale. She shrugged and said, "Yeah, my mom told me that." She was more excited about the movie's action, music and humor. "A lot happened [that was] cool and funny," Lydia said. "And the songs were real good."

Mulan's heroism also appealed to Rebecca Taylor, 11, of Orange. She was surprised that Mulan had to cut her hair and disguise herself to join the army to protect family and country. "Why couldn't [girls] do things like that?" Rebecca wanted to know.

Despite the difficulties before her, Mulan turns out to be quite the battler, as Rebecca pointed out: "She could beat any of those boys. She wasn't scared of things."

Ben Pham, 9, of Brea, agreed that Mulan is one tough number. He liked her selflessness and courage and how her story unfolded with enough fight scenes and corny jokes to satisfy any young critic.

Still, although Ben praised "Mulan," it wasn't close to his favorite Disney feature--"Hercules." "He could wipe her out," Ben said. "[Mulan] wouldn't have a chance, [but] maybe they could be friends."

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PARENTS' PERSPECTIVE: Martha Chen, Lydia's mother, thought "Mulan" was standard issue for Disney. Yet it was more interesting and valuable to her because of its setting. "It's just a cartoon, but maybe my girl will want to learn more about China," Chen said. "That may be hoping for too much, but you never know."

James Sargent of Brea saw "Mulan" with son Adam, 6, and thought it was OK. "The best are the old ones, like 'Snow White,' because they were done so well," Sargent said. "Adam liked this one, so that's good, but I lost my concentration through some of it."

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