Shan Yu is the evil leader of the Huns and the main antagonist in Disney's 1998 feature film Mulan. He is voiced by Miguel Ferrer. He has quickly become one of Disney's most recognizable villains, placing 18th in UltimateDisney's Top 30 Villain Countdown, and was awarded 48 out of 60 possible points at the Movie Villains Database.
Shan Yu is among the most ruthless, and merciless villains ever seen in the Disney universe. He proves that it is not below him to kill his enemies in cold blood to prove his strength, .He even makes jokes about it, rhetorically asking his lead archer how many men it takes to deliver a message, to which the archer is seen drawing his bow and commenting "One", and is then implied to have killed one of the spies.
Shan Yu is also supremely confident in both his and his army's strength and superiority, often deliberately allowing his enemies the advantage in order to prove his might. Such examples include his attack on the Great Wall, where he allowed a lone sentry to light the signal fire, sending word to the Emperor and giving him time to mobilize the Imperial Army. Later, he allows one of the Chinese spies to return to the Forbidden City, smugly telling the spy to inform the Emperor to send his best troops to face the Huns. He also decides to head straight for the mountain pass that would lead him straight to the Forbidden City, knowing full well that the entire Imperial Vanguard is guarding the pass and completely rejecting the option to simply go around the mountains and avoid the enemy army.
Shan Yu is a hardened fighter and a lethal combatant, armed or not as shown where he overpowers Shang in a fight. He possess superhuman strength (perhaps second only to Chen-Po). He can break down a barricaded door with no effort and simply slice a massive pillar to shreds with his sword. He is a skilled tracker and survivalist, being able to deduce a doll delivered to him by his falcon came from a village in a nearby mountainpass where imperial armies awaited him by only a few subtle clues found on the doll (white horse hair from an imperial stallion, black pine which grows in the mountains, and the smell of sulfur from a cannon).
The film's opening scene sees Shan Yu scaling the Great Wall of China and leading the Huns in an invasion of China, setting the tone for the rest of the film. His armies crush the Emperor's soldiers with ease until they get to a mountain pass where they are cut off by Captain Li Shang's troops. Though the Huns vastly outnumbered Shang's troops, Mulan managed to bury them in an avalanche by aiming a rocket at a nearby mountain.
Believed to be dead and defeated, Shan Yu and a group of surviving Huns were able to infiltrate the Emperor's palace and capture him during the victory ceremony. Mulan, Shang, Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po scale the palace wall and quickly overcome the Hun guards. Just as Shan Yu moves to strike the Emperor down, Shang attacks him and Chien-Po carries the Emperor to safety. Just as the Emperor escapes, Shan Yu overpowers Shang and soon recognizes Mulan as the soldier who caused the avalanche. Mulan lures him to the palace rooftop, where he attempts to kill her, until Mushu aims a firecracker at Shan Yu, which propels him into a tower full of fireworks and presumably to his death.
Shan-Yu appears in Kingdom Hearts II as the main antagonist of The Land of Dragons. Instead of Huns, he possesses an army of Heartless at his command. The story follows the movie for the most part, except the shadow of a Heartless has possessed him.
Shan-Yu first appears at the beginning of the world with his falcon, Hayabusa. He had burned down a village and was standing in the ruins. He next is seen by Mushu walking into a cave outside the village Sora, Fa Mulan, Donald, and Goofy were in. In order to prove herself to Captain Li Shang she entered the cave followed by the others. However, it was actually a trap. While the heroes are trapped in the cave battling Heartless, Shan-Yu attacks the village, burning it, and turning everyone into Heartless except for Captain Li Shang, Yao, Ling, and Chien Po, who managed to survive. Once the party sees the destruction they charge to the summit of the mountain to encounter the Hun. Although he charged with a mass army of Heartless, Sora and company destroy most of them and Mulan's quick thinking sends Shan-Yu and the rest of the Heartless over the edge of a ridge in an avalanche.
After surviving the avalanche as in the movie, Shan-Yu attacks the Imperial Palace and distracts Sora with a group of Captain Shang's soldiers, who were actually Heartless. But he is defeated by Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Mulan in a climatic battle. After his defeat, Sora receives the Hidden Dragon Keyblade.
- According to the writers, the reason why they decided to kill Shan-Yu in the manner they did was because they wanted to avoid the typical fall to the death.
- Considering the setting and their point of origin, Shan Yu and his "Huns" could in fact be members of the Xiongnu people, who lived in the lands north of the Great Wall.
- The Nostalgia Chick of thatguywiththeglasses.com, listed Shan Yu at #10 on her "Top 10 Evil Nostalgic Characters" list.