‘Mulan’: Why the Cast Won’t Be Breaking Out into Song in the Live-Action Remake

     February 27, 2020

They may be getting down to business to defeat the Northern invaders, but they will not be breaking out into song. Disney’s live-action Mulan will focus on telling the titular character’s epic story with stunning fight scenes. Unlike previous live-action remakes such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, the cast of the new Mulan will not be performing songs from the beloved animated original. When director Niki Caro first mentioned in an interview in 2017 that there will not be singing in Mulan, the fans were not pleased. Caro later clarified that production had barely begun and nothing was set in stone.

In one of the trailers for Mulan, we heard how they incorporated the instrumental version of “Reflection.” Is this a sneak peek at how we’ll hear “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” or “Honor To Us All”? When I visited the New Zealand set of Mulan in October 2018 with a group of journalists, we were all curious whether the songs will be performed in the movie. Alas, there indeed will not be characters breaking out into song in this new version of the film, and producer Jason Reed explained Disney’s thinking behind this particular decision:

“It will not be traditional ‘break into musical’ [songs]. They’re not going to stop their workouts to do a big musical number to camera. However, there are a number of songs that are iconic for the movie and tell a great version of the story and they are very helpful to us in how we’re putting the movie together. It gets a little easier in animation to keep the tension and the reality in place and still have people break into song and sing to camera. We made the decision that we wanted to keep the world—even though it’s a fantasy—more grounded, more realistic so those emotions really played and the threat is very real. So we are using music in a slightly different way.”

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Disney’s MULAN..Mulan (Yifei Liu) Photo: Jasin Boland © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

We asked some of the cast members about whether they wanted their character to break out into song. “I wanted to do a musical” jokes Jason Scott Lee (Bori Khan). Yoson An (Chen Honghui) who grew up watching the animated film says, “To be honest if it was going to be a musical, I might not be here. Being honest. I was a little bit disappointed, but I kind of get what they were going for [in] this version. The audience can expect a more realistic version of this story—The Ballad of Mulan. But, what we’re trying to do as well—not me, but the producers—is to embody and use some of the soundtracks throughout the film and I think it’s going to be nice.”

Composer Harry Gregson-Williams has been tasked with composing the original score for the film. Gregson-Williams worked with Niki Caro on The Zookeeper’s Wife and while we haven’t heard much of the music, here’s hoping he’ll take inspiration from Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the animated film to enhance the movie.

For more from my set visit, check out my articles on the biggest differences from the animated film and why the character of Li Shang was cut.

Mulan hits theaters on March 27th. Tickets are on sale starting today.

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