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Linasia's Exclusive Interview with Robert D. San Souci

The man who introduced Disney to the Legend of Mulan and helped develop the inspiring story is Award-winning children's book author Robert D. San Souci! He recieved the third credit in the movie! Check out Mr. San Souchi's Special Limited edition book Fa Mulan, based on the original ballad. Mr. San Souci was extremely kind enough to allow me to interview him for this Mulan exclusive! Special thanks to Joel Harris! Here is Mr. Robert D. San Souci on Disney's Mulan:

Linasia: How did you learn about Mulan, what interested you about her?

Mr. San Souci: I was working on a collection of folktales from different parts of the United States and came across many ballads, poems, and retellings of a heroine known in every Chinese-American community. Her name was Fa Mulan (though the name is pronounced differently in various parts of China). Her story fascinated me. She dressed as a man and became a soldier in order to protect her ailing father who had been drafted into the army. She fought in a great war against invaders from beyond the Great Wall, became a highly honored general, and has inspired people for centuries.

Linasia: How does it feel to make a great legend into a Disney (animated) movie?

Mr. San Souci: Mulan's story is so well known and so beloved, I wanted to do what I could to preserve the heart of her story, present it honestly, while making it interesting to the widest possible audience. I think the film does this because everyone who worked on the film was concerned with keeping the integrity of this heroine. I hope most people who view the film will come away impressed with the extraordinary character of the heroine. There are many positive values youngsters can take from both the movie and book. Male or female, everybody has dreams and potential inside them. I hope that maybe this will help some young women to realize that there's a lot they can do. They can move beyond structures that still seem a little intimidating to them. The film also has a lot

to say about the selflessness, courage, and valuing your family, your friends and yourself.

Linasia: Can I work for Disney?

Mr. San Souci: This is a tough one. I was asked through my agents to work for them. But I know there is a growing need at Disney, and at other film houses, for people -- artists, writers, designers, etc. -- who can work to create animated films. A look at the back pages of The Hollywood Reporter, for example, lists many want ads issued by studios looking for people to fill such positions.

Linasia: Are there any interesting tidbits about the making of Mulan you would like to share with Mulan fans?

Mr. San Souci: It took 14 outlines of the story, and then 18 versions of the film treatment to arrive at a place where the story was ready for actual scripting. Along the way, one of the creative executives at Disney asked me what might be a fantasy element that could be included, because one of the things you want in an animated feature are images that you might not be able to do in live action films. I suggested a dragon, and they said, "Wouldn't that be too big?" But in traditional Chinese mythology, dragons can be as huge or as tiny as your thumb. I suggested a tiny one, and that became the seed of Mushu. I worked with Disney on the film and then with Disney's publishing arm, Hyperion Books, to publish a book that is based on the original Chinese ballad. I got the double pleasure of

working on the film and then coming back and presenting the original source material in book form.

Linasia: What are the major differences between the Disney and the original version of Mulan?

Mr. San Souci: Well, Mushu isn't in the original. And the earliest versions speak of the war lasting ten or twelve years -- far longer than the time-frame of the movie. In the earliest version, Mulan asked her parents' permission to take her father's place. They were hesitant because of the danger, but she convinced them it was the only way to save her father and the family honor. And there is only a hint of romance at the end of the original ballad, and the man is one of Mulan's "fire companions," a fellow soldier, but not a captain. Other things are different, of course: but both the original and the Disney version have (I think) kept focus on Mulan's primary motivations of honor, love of family, loyalty, and doing the best for her country.

More from Linasia: The heart of Mulan's story was well preserved in all it's beauty, I never lost sight of her selflessness or her sacrifice. I was truly impressed with how Disney handled the movie. The legend could have gone in so many different directions, but it went the "right" way. Now that you've seen the movie, read Robert D. San Souci's book that inspired this beautiful tale of love and honor. Get yourself the Special Autographed Limited Edition of Fa Mulan! I hope you enjoyed this exclusive as much as I have! All comments welcome!

I saw the interview. It was really fascinating to learn what helped him bring the Legend of Mulan to Disney, and how he contributed to the creation of Mushu as the fantasy element in the Disney movie. I honestly believe we owe him a lot for bringing this excellent legend to the attention of Disney and therefore contributing to the emergence of a wonderful movie. --Belle Book

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