With the success of movies like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin, it's clear that Disney live-action remakes of animated classics find the most success when they stay true to the original, and that includes making the new movies musicals like the original movie was before. This makes it more than a little surprising that Disney's next remake Mulan, isn't taking that approach.
One of the biggest questions when Mulan was first announced was whether or not it would include popular songs like "Reflection" or "I'll Make a Man Out of You." When I visited the set of Mulan back in 2018, it still wasn't entirely clear what the film's plan for music was, and while we know now the movie won't be a full musical, we were told by Producer Jason Reed that the music that fans love will still be part of the movie...somehow. According to Reed...
We’re trying to keep some of our tricks secret however I can guarantee you songs that you recognize and remember will be in the movie. It will not be a traditional break into song musical. They’re not going to stop their workouts to do a big musical number to the 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 are putting the movie together.
The trailers for Mulan may have already given us a hint as to how the familiar music will be used in the new movie. We've heard elements of "Reflection" used in the score of the movie's main trailer, and while there's no guarantee that the music we hear there will actually appear in the film, it seems like the most obvious way that the non-musical movie could incorporate the songs we're familiar with.
However, there might be a little more to the movie's musical plans. Later, we spoke with Yonson An, who plays Mulan's fellow soldier (and eventual love interest) Cheng Honghui, and he confirmed that the music we know will be part of the movie.
They’re going to embody some of the classic musical soundtracks throughout the film and I think it’s going to be nice.
While Yonson An didn't give us any details, the fact that he was aware of how the music was being used, could mean it will have a more prominent role than simply being in the soundtrack. Since the score likely wasn't being worked on while filming was still taking place, and thus the actor would have no clue how it was being handled, the music could actually end up being diegetic, part of the movie that the characters can actually hear. Perhaps the soldiers will sit around the camp fire and play instruments or get a little drunk one night and sing a bit.
Jason Reed explained that the new Mulan wanted to keep its story more grounded in reality, and that doing that in a story where characters break into song on a regular basis was going to prove more difficult, and so the decision was made to go in a different direction.
If nothing else, I would still expect to hear a song or two from the original Disney Mulan on the soundtrack. Christina Aguilera recently confirmed she recorded a new version of "Reflection" for the live-action film. Oh, can we get a new version of "True to Your Heart" with Stevie Wonder and 98 Degrees?