Disney's animated feature Mulan, which opens June 19, boasts a large cast of star voices, including many of the most prominent Asian-American talents to grace the New York stage in the past two decades.
Among the names involved are Lea Salonga, the original Kim in Miss Saigon, who provides Mulan's singing voice; Ming-Na Wen, recently in Golden Child, who is Mulan's speaking voice; B.D. Wong, a Tony-winner from M. Butterfly; and Soon-Tek Oh and Freda Foh Shen, both of whom starred in Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures.
The movie contains one in-joke that will be appreciated by Off-Off-Broadway fans. Playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles) lends his gravelly voice for one of the comic-sidekick warriors. At one point the warriors must disguise themselves as women to sneak up on Hun invaders. Fierstein, who began his career as a drag performer in downtown Manhttan clubs, rasps, "Does this dress make me look fat?"
Other voices in the musical film will be furnished by Pat Morita (the Karate Kid movies), George Takei (Sulu of "Star Trek" fame), Donny Osmond (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), film and television actor Miguel Ferrer (Robocop, "Twin Peaks") and film comedian Eddie Murphy (The Nutty Professor).
Matthew Wilder has written the score. David Zippel (City of Angels, Hercules, The Goodbye Girl) is the project's lyricist. The story was written by Rita Hsiao and Chris Sanders. The film will be directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook. Cook has previously piloted the 1993 Roger Rabbit short Trail Mix-Up. Prior to that, he did effects animation for the 1982 film Tron and the Michael Jackson film Captain Eo. Mulan is a retelling of an old Chinese folktale. A young Chinese girl, Mulan (Salonga and Ming-Na), learns that her frail father (Soon-Tek Oh) has been drafted to defend China and the Emperor (Morita) against the invading Huns, headed by the evil Shan-Yu (Ferrer). To shield him, she disguises herself and takes his place under the command of Captain Li Shang (Osmond, singing; Wong, speaking). The girl's ancestors (one of whom is Takei) discover her plan and dispatch a "tiny disgraced dragon" named Mushu (Murphy) to prevent her. Mushu, however, is won over by Mulan and joins her in the adventure. Other characters include the comical "Gang of Three," headed by Fierstein; and Mulan's pet cricket, Cri-Kee.
The show's signature song is "True to Your Heart," which will be sung on the soundtrack by Stevie Wonder.
-- By Robert Simonson