[Update: Director Niki Caro has confirmed the Vulture story in an interview with Moviefone. Describing the film as a “big, girly martial arts epic,” she said, “From what I understand, no songs right now, much to the horror of my children.” I repeat: BIG, GIRLY MARTIAL ARTS EPIC.]
According to a recent piece in Vulture, Disney’s live-action adaptation of Mulan “is not expected to prominently feature songs, though that could change.” I can acknowledge the soundness of this decision while mourning and loathing it. (I contain multitudes.)
Given that Mulan isn’t primarily a magical romance, like Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast, I can see how it makes sense to leave out the musical numbers. This is a story about war against an invading army, and the live-action violence will be inherently scarier and higher-stakes than cartoon. The breaks for singing could easily feel silly or out-of-place, and I definitely want Mulan’s military and martial arts training montages to be longer than one song.
In that same article, Sean Bailey, president of Motion Picture Production at Walt Disney Studios, also gave a better sense of the movie’s tone and vision–and the no-songs decision makes even more sense in this light. “Mulan is clearly an empowered-female story,” said Bailey, “but we can also do something new in this reimagining, make it a little more muscular, stronger, with touch of Ridley Scott.”
While you have to giggle a little at the stilted “empowered-female story” phrasing–he tried–I like the idea of a tough Mulan movie. It works for the plot and the original legend.
Earlier in its development, the live-action Mulan was criticized for its rumored addition of a “white savior,” but Disney has since stated that it will hire an all-Asian cast. Bailey didn’t say anything to suggest they wouldn’t stick to this plan. “Obviously the idea of working with collaborators in China is an interesting opportunity too,” he said.
Bailey also emphasized Disney’s overall commitment to “empowered-female” stories, stating that the studio has “made far more $100 million-plus movies with female leads than all the other studios combined.” And it’s true that their recent slate–Moana, Beauty and the Beast, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–included plenty of movies with women in the lead roles. Hell, Finding Dory was the only film in 2016 where female characters spoke more than 50% of the dialogue.
(Too bad you aren’t quite as committed to paying your women workers minimum wage, though, Disney.)
The live-action Mulan will be directed by Niki Caro, who previously directed the award-winning Whale Rider.
What do you all think of a non-musical Mulan?
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org