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Fingers Crossed: Niki Caro Says They’re Still Exploring Music In the Live-Action Mulan

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News circulated recently about the possibility that the live-action Mulan would omit the songs from the original animated film, which was not well received by fans. Considering how memorable so many of the songs are and how well they carry the story, it’s understandable why this wasn’t a popular decision.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Niki Caro who was said to have confirmed this news, clarified that these decisions were not yet set in stone and part of an ongoing discussion. Caro stated:

No, not at all. I mean, I haven’t even started on the movie yet. I haven’t seen a single casting yet, and these are conversations that are all ongoing. The live-action is based on that inspirational Chinese ballad and on the animated Disney classic. We’re still exploring the role that music’s going to play in it, but for sure there will be music.

Caro’s answer here makes a lot more sense than the “big, girly martial arts epic” description she gave which was a big factor in my skepticism towards this adaptation, despite me being a fan of her as a director. While I love the classic (Mulan was my first Halloween costume as a 5-year-old), there are many parts of the animation that wouldn’t translate as well in person because the medium allowed for a certain kind of exaggeration and expression. Mushu, for instance, would probably need some adjustment (if he’s included at all) to not end up like some kind of Beauty and the Beast uncanny-looking goof/monster. Also, if you’re really itching for a non-musical, different Mulan there’s already a 2009 Chinese movie you can check out.

However, I can definitely see songs like “Reflection” working beautifully in live-action. While balancing these tones might be difficult, it’s also not as if the songs took away from serious moments either. Remember the emotional whiplash of going from “A Girl Worth Fighting For” to the destroyed encampment? It’s heartening to hear the team isn’t completely writing out these musical moments. While I’m cautious about this film (with the “Asian” stories mainstream media is telling right now, can you blame me?) and I would’ve loved to see an Asian female director, I still want it to be good.

Part of that optimistic light is that when asked whether she was seeking out cultural experts, Caro responded:

Of course, of course. In all my work that is centered in cultures not my own, I hope that comes through, because that is incredibly important to me. When I made Whale Rider, I saw that to be specific and authentic is to be universal, and I’ve continued to work in an identical way ever since. As the projects get bigger, the more certain I am that cultural authenticity and specificity is the only way to approach my work.

What are you thoughts about incorporating Mulan‘s music into live-action?

(via Heroic Hollywood, Image: Disney)

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