'Mulan': Why the Disney+ Movie Has No Songs and No Mushu

Mulan is the latest in a long line of Disney live-action remakes but is probably the one that most radically changes the original source material. While films like The Jungle Book, Aladdin and The Lion King maintained the songs from their animated version, Mulan (which is streaming now on Disney+) will not have musical numbers from the Oscar-nominated score of the original. This means no live-action versions of Disney classics like "Reflection" and "I'll Make a Man Out of You."

This is not the only difference between Mulan's animated and live-action incantations. The movie will also be without Mushu, the dragon spirit voiced by Eddie Murphy in the animated version.

According to director Niki Caro, both have been excised from the live-action version to try and tell a more realistic version of the legend than the primary-colored Disney version – a version created by a white, non-Asian team.

She told People: "Mushu, beloved as that character is in the animation, was Mulan's confidante, and part of bringing it into the live-action is to commit to the realism of her journey, and she had to make those relationships with her fellow soldiers."

mulan mushu
Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy) in the 1998 'Mulan'. The new live action version on Disney+ does not feature the character. Disney

As for the songs, she said something similar to Collider: "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."

However, in that same interview, she teased that songs like "Reflection" and "Honor to Us All" would exist in some form in the movie. She said, "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...So we are using music in a slightly different way."

There is at least one link between Mulans 1998 and 2020. Christina Aguilera recorded a version of "Reflection" for the official soundtrack, which was the singer's first release in the U.S. For 2020, the singer has released a new version of the track. 98° fans, however, will be disappointed to know that there is no new version of their "True to Your Heart."

Though not mentioned by Caro in her interviews, another reason that it was decided to cut the songs is to sidestep the more problematic elements of the original soundtrack of Mulan.

The majority of the singers in the animated version are white, with Donny Osmond and Harvey Fierstein among the singers. Of the Asian singers in the cast, only James Hong, who is one of the performers on "A Girl Worth Fighting For" is actually of Chinese heritage. Mulan's voice comes from Filipina singer Lea Salongo (who was also the voice of Jasmine in Aladdin), while Japanese-American actor Jerry Tondo also provides vocals for "A Girl Worth Fighting For."

In contrast, the cast of the Mulan is almost exclusively Chinese and Asian actors, a telling sign of how casting has changed in the 22 years since the release of the original Mulan.

Mulan is streaming now on Disney+.

'Mulan': Why the Disney+ Movie Has No Songs and No Mushu | Culture