Hayabusa the Falcon is one of the secondary antagonists of Disney's 1998 animated feature film Mulan. A foreboding predator with a hatred for China, he is Shan Yu's loyal pet falcon and an integral member of the Hun Army.
Hayabusa is Shan Yu's pet falcon and sidekick. The bird often acts as a warning signal, alerting China's victims that Shan Yu is near. He appears to be similar to his master: strict, ruthless, and vicious. He latches onto his prey or whatever he needs to carry with his steely talons (as he did with Shan Yu's sword when Shang handed it to the Emperor). Though not as anthropomorphic as Cri-Kee or even Khan, Hayabusa has exhibited an understanding of his evil deeds—first when Shan Yu "congratulated" the Imperial scouts for finding the Hun army, and again when Shan Yu and the surviving Huns emerged from the avalanche and began their pursuit of the Emperor. In both cases, Hayabusa was shown smiling wickedly.
At the film's opening, Hayabusa is first seen soaring over the Great Wall of China and knocking off the helmet of a guard, alerting the Chinese guards that Shan Yu is leading his army in an invasion of China. The falcon returns to his master, who has allowed a guard to light a watchtower (leading to other watchtowers being lit). Hayabusa is next seen flying overhead after the Huns have torched a village. Later on, Hayabusa collects a doll from a Chinese village. By analyzing the doll, Shan Yu and his Elite Huns realize that the Imperial Army awaits them in a small village located in the quickest passageway to the Imperial City.
The falcon later joins Shan Yu and the Huns during the snowy mountain battle. When Mulan prepares to launch a cannon into the side of a mountain to stop the advancing Huns, Hayabusa knocks her down, nearly stopping her from defeating the army of invaders. Hayabusa later escapes the avalanche caused by Mulan and searches the snow for his master. Once found, Hayabusa settles down on Shan Yu's shoulder and joins the other surviving Huns in their trip to the Imperial City. Amid the victory celebration where Li Shang attempts to present the sword of Shan Yu to the Emperor as proof of the Hun leader's death, Hayabusa snatches the sword in his talons and delivers it to Shan Yu, who is hiding up on the palace roof in the shadows. During a plan created by Mulan to stop Shan Yu and save the Emperor, Hayabusa attempts to alert the Elite Huns of the impending rescue mission. However, before the falcon can alert them of Li Shang's presence, Mushu breathes fire on the falcon, burning off his feathers. The now-naked falcon is then briefly seen as a mode of transportation for Mushu. Hayabusa's fate afterwards is not clear or shown, however it is likely he died sometime later off-screen due to not being able to survive because he was unable to fly and also due to his master's death meaning there was nobody to look after him anymore in his vulnerable state.
In the Niki Caro remake, Hayabusa is renamed Xianniang (portrayed by Gong Li) and is a powerful female witch who has the ability to shapeshift into a falcon. She can also possess people and shapeshift into those she possesses. She fights alongside Böri Khan in his goal to invade China. Like Mulan, Xianniang has a very strong qi, however hers is unbalanced giving her great powers. Impersonating the Emperor's chancellor, she convinces China to gather troops to fight the northern invaders and lead them into traps. One such battle she took part in was in a valley against Commander Tung's unit. During the conflict, she learns that Mulan is actually a woman and comes into direct conflict with her, taunting her about her false identity.
When Mulan is forced to leave the army, Xianniang tells her of the imminent attack on the Imperial City. As Mulan leads the army to rescue the Emperor, she confronts Mulan in the throne room of the Palace. Admiring the way Mulan leads the army while staying true to herself, Xianniang sacrifices herself to protect Mulan from Böri Khan's arrow and dies in Mulan's arms.
Hayabusa (who is misidentified as a hawk by Mushu) appears as a rare enemy in the Mu Shoot game. When he appears in a level, he will fly horizontally across the screen until he dives down to reach a hut, repair cart, or fireworks cart (which will burn down like when a regular Hun reaches said building). Unlike regular Huns, Hayabusa will turn left or right during a dive to avoid fireworks until he dives again, so the player must time and aim just right to hit him. When he does get hit, he loses his feathers, but will still be able to fly off the screen.
Hayabusa is a minor character that lives in The Land of Dragons World. Like the film, he is Shan Yu's falcon and warning signal. During the boss battle with Shan Yu, the falcon is battled as well, constantly attacking Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Mulan. He is not required to be damaged to win the battle. After Shan Yu's defeat, Hayabusa is never seen or mentioned afterwards leaving no clear closure on to if he was killed or simply flew away and escaped.
In the Manga adaptation of the game he is briefly seen with Shan Yu before the avalanche and is seen flying away right before Shan Yu bursts out of the snow and summons the Storm Rider Heartless. The falcon isn't seen again after this making it appear he is not 100% loyal to Shan Yu in the Manga adaptation and just flat out abandoned him.
Hayabusa appears alongside with Shan Yu. Shan Yu's Green skill Fierce Falcon involves Hayabusa diving at the enemy opponent that has the most HP to deal damage to the opponent. During Shan Yu's entrance animation Hayabusa flys by carrying his master's sword to drop it to him. Hayabusa also comes and perches on Shan Yu's arm during Shan Yu's victory animation.
Hayabusa is the third bird sidekick to a Disney villain, the first being Diablo, and the second being Iago (before he switched sides), but unlike the ones before him, he is a bird of prey rather than a raven or a parrot. Though technically all three are within a bird clade known as Australaves.
The name "Hayabusa" means "Peregrine Falcon" in Japanese, though he is said to be more of a saker falcon since he lacks the black tip on his beak Peregrines have and Sakers are native to Asian countries unlike Peregrines.
Owning and training a pet falcon has been (and still is) a very common pastime among many Central Asian nomads in Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
A deleted scene would have shown that Shan Yu was capable of seeing through Hayabusa's eyes.
In the same scene Shan Yu actually called the falcon his friend meaning he must care about or have attachment to him.
He is never called by name in the movie.
Hayabusa was the second evil bird sidekick in a remake who is a magic user that shapeshifts, the second being Diablo in Maleficent.
However, the main difference is that Diablo's shapeshifting was because of Maleficent's magic and not on his own accord or power while Hayabusa's remake counterpart Xianniang flat out had the power to shape shift whenever she desired.
Xianniang's name means to "Fairy Wolf" in Chinese.
Xianniang's actress Gong Li has compared the character to Báigǔjīng (translated as White Bone Spirit), a shapeshifting demoness from the classic Chinese novel, Journey to the West.
The name Xianniang may be a reference to Dou Xianniang, another female warrior who became Mulan's laotong in the 17th century Chinese novel Sui Tang Romance.
One piece of concept art by Pres Romanillos depicts Hayabusa as a chick along with a child version of Shan Yu. This suggests that Shan Yu has had Hayabusa ever since they were both very young.
Despite being a bird of prey Hayabusa's pupils are slitted verticals more like those of certain species of reptiles or domestic cats, rather than having round pupils like birds of prey actually have. However, his pupils did change to being round after his feathers were burned off (along with the sclera of his eyes changing from yellow to white).
An earlier version of the story for Mulan II was to have Shan Yu and the Hun army return as ghostsIt likely Hayabusa was intended to return and play a role where he probably was to reunite with Shan Yu either as a spirit or still alive thereby revealing his fate after being burned by Mushu in the first movie. Hayabusa is not seen or mentioned in the final version of Mulan II so his fate is still left unclear.
Hayabusa is similar to Diablo in that they are both birds in the mainstream animated continuities, and sorcerers who can turn into birds in the remakes. They both have their names changed (Diaval and Xianniang), and they are both presented as much more heroic than in the mainstream animated continuities (although Xianniang is a villain who turns good, while Diaval is a hero from the start).
Hayabusa is treated differently by the main villain in both versions of the movie. In the original, Hayabusa appears to be treated and well cared for by Shan Yu; in the remake, however, Xianniang is mistreated by Böri Khan simply because she is a woman.