During my trip to Los Angeles for the Oz world premiere, we had the privilege to experience so many things. After we visited Disney Animation Studios for our Wreck-It Ralph press day of fun, we got to meet with Tom and Tony Bancroft and talk about Mulan. We met with them in the Hyperion Room which was right next to the Disney Store (yeah, we shopped). It was a lot of fun. We had a Chinese lunch and then we got to meet the Bancroft brothers.
While they were growing up, Tom and Tony were very critical of each other’s art work. That is how they competed. They were actually the President and Vice President of the Art Club in high school. They were not into sports. They were not macho or cool. Together, they used to create comic strips for their high school newspaper. They would switch back and forth, adding to the comic. They added that the comic strips were not funny at all but I have a feeling they were.
They discovered animations while attending a city college and everything was leaning towards Disney for them. This took their 2D comic strips to a whole new level – they were brought to life. That is when their love for a career in animation began. They both attended California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. In 1989, they were both hired as an intern with Disney which brought them to MGM Studios in Florida. I’d like to add, that the entire time we were speaking with them, they were drawing cartoons on the easels. Here is Pumba.
While working at MGM Studios in Florida, they felt that being in the tight nit group of animators was very nurturing. They were all growing together. They all started getting married and attending each other’s weddings. All their kids grew up together. Tony was in a relationship with a woman in California. So he decided to apply at Disney in Burbank. He was accepted as an animator and he moved up the ranks. He was offered the opportunity to supervise the Pumba character in Lion King.
That then led to him being able to direct. Disney felt that he would be a great fit to be a co-director of Mulan. Tom was still in Florida and was working on the film as an animator to create Mushu. They always worked on the comedic characters in movies (besides Pocahontas). Eddie Murphy came on pretty early in the development process of the movie. He really loved the energy of Eddie for Mushu.
Mulan came out at a time when Disney was doing a lot of princess movies. Tony has three daughters and Tom has four. They both had a passion on bringing on a different kind of role, a different princess than Disney has done in the past. They wanted someone strong, independent and really believed in who she was and where she was going. Mulan is a different kind of Disney heroine. Most Disney heroines have an outside source that comes in and helps them change. Mulan stays consistent. From the first frame all the way through the end of the movie, her personality, her drive it all stays the same.
Tom researched Chinese dragons to come up with Mushu’s design. Chinese dragons are very different from European dragons (similar to the dragon in Sleeping Beauty). Asian dragons are always very thin. They have a lot of different elements to them. The more he researched Chinese dragons, he realized they had little whiskers like a catfish. They even had elements of camels and cows like the cow ears. They always had horns on them like those of a goat or a ram. They also had fish-like fins and scales. There are pieces of all these animals that go into making Mushu. Mushu thinks he is bigger than he is in the movie. Everything that is in those big Chinese dragons, they scaled down to make them compatible with Mushu.
Tom and Tony are very excited about the release of the MULAN Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on March 12, 2013. They are very excited that the movies are coming out on blu-ray. Blu-ray is important to the filmmakers because, for the first time, they will actually be able to see the quality of the colors, pictures and sound. This is what the creators see while they are making the movie. When it is actually put out, the quality goes down a notch because of the film resolution, etc. Blu-ray is so much like the images that were approved when it was being created in 1998.
Be sure to read my full review of Mulan and what you can expect when buying the Mulan I/II Blu-ray Combo Pack. While we were there, they gave each of us 25 bloggers a one of a kind sketch by both Tom and Tony Bancroft. All of the drawings included Mushu and Cri-kee. They both signed them all. My children were very excited to see something in its original state. This will be framed for our family entertainment room.
Although I was provided an all expense paid trip by Disney, all thoughts and opinions expressed are those of my own. Mulan is a movie my family enjoys and I love to share my experiences with you.