Episode 217: I’m Totally Fine with a Non-Musical Live Action Mulan


It’s funny how you can stumble on inspiration for an article idea. I love watching cartoons with my older brother and one of the shows we recently got into is a show called Rick and Morty. It’s about a scientist and his grandson who go on adventures together but it’s definitely not for kids as most of the humor is super dark. Anyway, in the premiere episode of season 3, Rick goes on a rant about the limited offer of McDonalds Szechuan Sauce that you can order with their McNuggets.

That epic rant caught my attention but not for the reason you may think. I could’ve easily written a whole piece about foods that I love as much as Rick loves that Szechuan Sauce but that’s not where I went. Instead, that got me thinking about the Mulan, the movie McDonalds was holding the promotion for. I never really cared for Mulan all that much. It was a fine movie and all but it was far from my favorite film from the Disney Renaissance era. However, while attempting to write about the dipping sauce, I came across a blurb about the upcoming live-action remake of the movie and how some people are upset that it won’t feature the music from the original animated film. These guys really need to hear a new version of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” I guess?

Joking aside, I don’t think the live-action Mulan feature film will suffer if there isn’t any music. Okay, that seems like blasphemy, especially for any Disney fan who grew up watching their animated films. And I do find it rather surprising that I’m actually okay with a new Disney film based on one of their animated features not to have any musical numbers. With all that being said, I don’t think Mulan would actually suffer from the lack of musical numbers, especially going by Disney’s track record with the live action remakes they’ve done so far. Well, the ones that I’ve watched, anyway, which are Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.

Now, while both Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast were fine productions, they do fall short of the bar that was set by their animated counterparts, and they do so for pretty much the same reason. The live-action Cinderella tries to introduce more story elements, like Cinderella’s stepmother’s past and fleshing out Prince Charming’s backstory, and the overall flow of the film just became clogged with all of these added stuff. In Beauty and the Beast, they tried to add stuff as well, like Belle’s mother dying in the Black Plague and giving Beast a book that can teleport them to any where and any time doesn’t push the plot forward, making them distractions to the main story.

What does this have to do with the upcoming Mulan live action treatment? Well, it shows the Disney are too busy adding stuff to them and updating the stories that worked so well in the past but they’re still trying too much to keep the story similar and it doesn’t work. In fact, in the Beauty and the Beast remake, they even added a new song that wasn’t in the animated film. And you know what? That song felt like they were padding in some extra minutes to make the runtime longer… in a story that they’ve already padded with all those extra story elements! There is simply a disconnect between the story and the music. Essentially, the live-action remakes just don’t weave in the musical numbers into the story all that well. As such, they feel tacked on instead of being an integral part of the film.

Not only that, the musical numbers in the live action remakes can make the songs… forgettable. I can’t remember for the life of me if the 2015 version of Cinderella actually had the Fairy Godmother singing Bippidy-Boppidy-Boo when she was transforming the mice and the pumpkins and other miscellaneous objects for Cinderella to use to get to the ball. I know Cinderella sang… something… while she was imprisoned in the attic when Prince Charming was trying to find the foot of the woman who feet can fit the fabled glass slipper. What does she sing? I dunno. Totally forgot what it sounds like as well! Oh, I know what it is now because I looked it up, but it doesn’t bode well that I actually had to do research to find that song!

I would think that part of why the live action songs don’t hold up to the older versions is because, well, the people in the live action versions aren’t trained singers! As much as I actually liked Emma Watson as Belle singing in Beauty and the Beast, her voice just doesn’t hold a candle to the vocal performance in the original animated film because the cartoon had an honest-to-goodness classically trained singer to do the singing parts! After all, they are singing the same songs and you can’t help but compare both versions. Now, Emma Watson’s singing seemed passable but, ultimately, suffered a lot because you have something to compare it to.

I think these two problems that have been in the previous live action versions will also rear their ugly heads in the Mulan remake. However, I do have a somewhat odd solution to this. They can leave in the music but don’t make them huge song numbers. Don’t make the actors in the film sing the songs, Instead, make them background music in something like a montage of scenes. I don’t think you need Captain Li Shang singing “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” while he trains his troops. That’s a song that can be played while he’s training them.

I know a lot of fans would be upset if Mulan didn’t have music, which is why I think making them background songs would be a nice compromise. But Disney doesn’t need all their live-action treatments to be musicals like the animated films. They’ve already made some modifications to their older live-action entries. So, why not make some really radical changes and make a couple of those live-action adaptions different? There are going to be some movies like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and the aforementioned Beauty and the Beast where the music is just too iconic to remove from the story without it being missed. But there are going to be others like Sleeping Beauty (which they kinda did with Maleficent), Alice in Wonderland (again, sort of) and, yes, Mulan, where the overall plot will not suffer from the lack of musical numbers.

A Mulan without song numbers may be pushing it a little bit but I think it would still be a fine movie if they focused more on the story of a young girl who joins the army in place of her father and becomes a hero in China would still be a fine movie with huge action setpieces and a little CGI dragon for comedy relief. It would still be a good movie without those song and dance numbers.

But, just to be on the safe side, maybe McDonalds should release another batch of that Szechuan Sauce to appease the fans?

God, that clip is funny!

What do you think? Would Mulan work without the song and dance numbers? Let me know in the comments section below!

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