"And I wanna kiss you so bad I could literally cut off my own head and just throw it at your lips." ~Shane Koyczan
During the scene when Mulan decides to go to war instead of her father, she decides to do it while sitting on the foot of the Great Stone Dragon. The image of the dragon looking over Mulan is repeated several times throughout the sequence, and the bolts of lightning strike at significant times whenever the dragon is in sight. When Mulan takes her father’s scroll and when she is praying to her ancestors, the Great Stone Dragon can be seen. It is also engraved on the sword Mulan uses to cut her hair and the handles of the wardrobe containing the armor are in the shape of the dragon’s head. The dragon’s eyes glowing in the temple symbolizes Mulan’s role as protector of her family awakening, instead of the actual dragon.
The reason Mushu couldn’t wake the dragon is because the dragon was no longer there. Mulan is implied to be the Great Dragon that protects her family.
I get very defensive of film as an art form, and animation especially, because of stuff like this. People sometimes place it lower on the scale of narrative, or say it isn’t as powerful as the written word, but there are things like this; things you can only imply through the visual language that’s exclusive to film. It’s communicating an idea in a way that you might not even realize, but you feel it. It’s a whole different way of storytelling.