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The Real Reason There Are No Songs In The Live-Action Mulan

Disney's live-action Mulan remake may have had a rocky road to release day, between various delays and outrages, but the film is now available for streaming on Disney+. The new movie takes elements not only from Disney's beloved 1998 animated adaptation, but also the classic Chinese folktale, to create an enthralling spectacle that brings new dimensions to the story. However, as with most remakes, reboots, and adaptations, not everything from the original made the cut. 

In addition to the humor, intense action, and strong girl-power themes, the original Mulan was known for its music. Songs like "I'll Make A Man Out of You," "Reflection," and "Honor to Us All" have become some of the best-loved musical numbers of the modern Disney era. When the remake was announced, there were no doubt fans who imagined how their favorite numbers would look when performed by a live-action cast. However, early in the process, director Niki Caro announced that the remake wouldn't include the songs from the original.

For many fans of the animated classic, this probably seems like a ridiculous decision. Why produce a Mulan remake without including one of the most important aspects of the original? Even if you fundamentally disagree, though, there was a lot of thought that went into it. In fact, one of the film's producers, Jason Reed, recently broke down the decision-making process, and explained exactly why there aren't any musical numbers in the Mulan remake.

Musical numbers didn't fit the Mulan remake's new tone

During a wide-ranging interview with Collider, Reed touched on the lack of musical numbers in the Mulan remake. The producer said that the creative team made the decision to nix the music at the start of the process when it became clear to them that the remake wasn't going to keep the same style as the original. He explained that while they wanted to honor the animated film, they also endeavored to "really look at the whole breadth of how these Mulan stories had been presented over the last 1,500 years." Reed and his team decided to move the project in a more serious direction, especially as, "the animated movie already existed." This led to them landing on a new take: "What we found really exciting was, how do we use this as the foundation on which to build a big Disney branded action-adventure movie?"

Reed confirmed that the more serious and action-oriented tone of the film simply didn't leave the door open for fun musical numbers: "We thought that in order to accomplish that and to get the kind of emotional grounding we wanted [...] it should not be a break-into-song musical."

However, just because the Mulan remake doesn't have its characters dancing and singing at key moments, that doesn't mean the original film's music was scrapped, altogether. Fans should keep their ears open while watching the remake, because they will find more than a few musical references nestled in the new movie's soundtrack.

Some of the songs from the original are referenced in the remake's score

For the most part, Mulan features a mix of classic action-adventure bombast and instrumentals that draw inspiration from traditional Chinese music, but in the background, the score also seamlessly incorporates nods to the original film, as pointed out by Radio Times. For instance, when Mulan visits the matchmaker, you'll notice an instrumental callback to "Honor to Us All" has been snuck into the otherwise new composition. Similarly, the signature song from the original film, "Reflection," pops up multiple times throughout the movie at crucial moments. There are even three updated versions of the powerful ballad included on the soundtrack. Christina Aguilera and Coco Lee re-recorded vocals of their English and Mandarin versions that they performed for the original film's soundtrack back in 1998, and there's an additional cover of the Mandarin version sung by the star of the remake, Liu Yifei.

While it still might be hard for some to accept Mulan without big musical numbers, it's clear that the filmmakers didn't make this decision lightly. Besides, trying to top the original recordings of the songs would've been a feat even Mulan herself might have struggled with. 

If you're still conflicted, check out the movie for yourself on Disney+ (or wait until December, when the paywall drops).