Mushu is the deuteragonist of Disney's 36th full-length animated feature film Mulan, and the tritagonist of its 2005 sequel Mulan II.
He was the small red dragon to help Mulan. At first, Mulan's companions were to be two reptilian creatures; the idea of the creatures being dragons had not been established. However, feeling that two sidekicks would overcrowd the story, the animators then decided on a two-headed dragon, though they were green and grotesque. After the animators decided on a single-headed dragon, they established Mushu's physical concept. For better use, the animators shrunk Mushu to a smaller size.
In contrast to Mulan, Mushu is in most situations more comical, overconfident, and impulsive. He strives to be one of the family guardians again and selfishly decides to convince Mulan to join the army to turn her into a war hero, believing this will get him back on the "top shelf." However, he comes to realize how selfish he has been, admitting to Mulan that he risked her life to further his own goals. He then intends to take her home to face the consequences of his actions, but when she insists on stopping the Huns, Mushu loyally follows her, showing that underneath, he has a good heart.
He's also always paired with Cri-Kee, a supposedly lucky cricket originally belonging to Grandmother Fa. He serves as Mushu's polar opposite and sidekick. Together, the two are often at odds, with Cri-Kee, unlike Mushu, being incredibly selfless and cautious, whilst Mushu is often self-centered and impulsive.
Even so, despite usually bickering whenever they are together, the two are apparently best friends deep down, and do appreciate each other, as well as save one another on various occasions, especially on Mushu's end, as Cri-Kee is usually too small to take care of himself.
Mushu appears the deuteragonist. After Mulan runs away to join her father's place in the army, the Ancestors order him to wake the Great Stone Dragon to protect Mulan. However, the plan failed. He is later seen before the training camp with Mulan. Mushu is later seen during Shang's song ("I'll make a Man Out of You"). During an event to fight Shan Yu's army, he is able to rescue Cri-Kee from the snow after the Huns are buried in the snow. During the battle with Shan Yu, he scares off the firework employees with Cri-Kee. He is able to launch a firework at Shan Yu. He later appears during China restored back at Mulan's home.
In the sequel, When Mulan prepares to marry Li Shang, Mushu is at first overjoyed to the point of tears, going as far as planning the wedding himself. However, things change once the ancestors tell him that if Mulan marries Shang, his family's guardians will take over for him, thus demoting Mushu back to gong duty. Desperate to keep his job, he continuously tries to break the two apart to keep his position.
After many failed attempts, he finally succeeds. However, Mushu begins to feel regret and eventually tells Mulan the truth, infuriating her for a time. Aside from this, Mulan and Shang were meant to escort three princesses to a kingdom for an arranged marriage with the pompous Lord Qin's childish son, Prince Jeeki. The princesses fall in love with Yao, Ling, and Chien Po, with Mulan supporting it after Mushu's schemes. To prevent the princesses from marrying, Mulan agrees to marry the prince in their place.
To redeem himself, and rescue Mulan from her fate, Mushu poses himself as the worshiped Golden Dragon of Unity and forces the king to cancel the marriage, allowing Mulan and Shang to marry as planned, along with allowing the princesses to marry who they love. Having grown less selfish, Mushu serves as the reverend and pronounces the human husband and wife. Back at home, Mushu prepares to leave his pedestal and return to gong duty, but Mulan and Shang arrive at the temple and merge the family temples, thus allowing Mushu to keep his job, which causes him to celebrate and also accidentally appear in front of Shang, who had learned about him through Mulan.
Mushu is named after moo shu pork, a popular Chinese dish in the United States.
Mushu was originally going to be a female dragon and Yeardley Smith was selected to voice him. Although Smith recorded all her lines, when Disney brought Eddie Murphy to voice Mushu, all recordings made by Smith went unused and new recordings by Murphy were used and he is made into a male dragon.
Eddie Murphy was briefly considered to voice Mushu in Mulan II. But he could not reprise his role as Mushu for Mulan II due to a clause in his contract for Shrek 2. Because of this, Mark Moseley replaced him. Coincidentally, Moseley has also filled in for Murphy by voicing Donkey in the Shrek video games.
In the Disney Princess franchise, Mushu is one of the sidekicks of a Disney Princess to have a more significant role than the love interest along with the Seven Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Jaq and Gus in Cinderella.
In deleted scenes for Mulan, Mushu had his own song called "Keep 'em Guessing".
Coincidentally, "Keep 'em Guessing" was used as a song in Mulan Jr., a musical version of the story written for school-aged kids to perform.
Throughout the movie, Mushu refers to Khan as a "cow", and yet only once, after the Hun archers attack the cart carrying cannons with fire arrows and destroy it, Mushu says to Mulan, "Oh, sure. Save the horse."
Mushu is one of several Disney characters to break the fourth wall.
In the film, when looking for Mulan during the avalanche sequence of the Tung Shao Pass, he sees some hair in the snow and, thinking it's Mulan, pulls out what's really a Hun, then quickly puts him back under the snow and sheepishly exclaims, "Nope!", to the audience.
In Kingdom Hearts, Mushu produces his own copy of the original Kingdom Hearts manga and is annoyed to discover that he doesn't appear.
In House of Mouse, we learn that his favorite foods are Kung Pao chicken and fresh roasted nuts. Drinking iced water prohibits his ability to breathe fire for a little while.
In the early concept of Mulan II, Mushu was originally going to have a love interest in the form of a female dragon that looked almost identical to him. This dragon in question would have also presumably served as either Shang's confidant or family guardian.