Opinion: Ashley picks the best Disney animated character

The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – debating who’s the best Disney animated character. Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!

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When I previously rated my top 5 favorite Disney animated films for the Story Geeks, I picked the movie “Mulan” as my No. 1 favorite. So it will probably come as no surprise that I’m going to pick her as my favorite animated character, as well!

Here are the top three reasons why Mulan gets my vote. (Also, as a side note, I can’t wait to see what new details Disney’s upcoming live action version of this movie adds to the character!)

1. She stays true to herself

When we first meet Mulan, she is trying to find her place in the world. She’s encouraged to remain quiet and demure, and to make a “good match.”

Although she knows the role everyone expects her to play, she finds it incredibly restricting. She’s smart and brave, and she longs to be able to speak her mind freely.

In the song “Reflection” (which is one of my favorite songs in a Disney animated movie), she sings “When will my reflection show who I am inside,” speaking to the battle she feels within herself between the person she’s expected to be and the person she wants to be.

I’m sure that many of us can relate to that feeling. We’re often pressured to live up to the expectations others have of us. It’s hard to truly be yourself, because that involves a certain amount of vulnerability. We fear people won’t like “the real me,” and so we try to hide our true selves, or even pretend to be someone we’re not.

In the end, Mulan decides to be true to herself, regardless of the risks, and that’s why she’s such a great role model. Don’t hide what makes you beautiful and unique.

2. She will do anything to protect her family

Mulan would do anything for her family — and she proves that by taking her father’s place when he is drafted to serve in the coming war.

Due to Mulan’s father’s age and health, it would be risky for him to return to the army. However, he feels he cannot refuse to serve without bringing dishonor on the family.

Setting aside her own safety, Mulan dresses up as a man and joins the army so that her father can remain safe at home. It doesn’t matter that she’s putting her own life in danger; to her, family comes first.

It’s one thing to say we care about people and want to help them, but it’s important to back that up with actions. Mulan doesn’t just say she loves her family; she shows it through her willingness to make sacrifices on their behalf.

3. She becomes a hero, on her own terms

This sort of ties into point #1, but one of the things I love most about Mulan is that when she’s publicly recognized as a hero at the end of the film, it’s during a moment where she is truly being herself.

She hasn’t been dressed up and paraded through town, just to impress the matchmaker. She’s not pretending to be her father’s son “Ping.”

Instead, she is fully herself — a strong, intelligent warrior with enough bravery to save an entire country.

At the beginning of the movie, not many people looked at Mulan as a hero, but she doesn’t let their doubts define her. She becomes a hero on her own terms, serving as an inspiration both to other characters in the film and to the kids (and adults!) watching this movie.