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Original Mulan music duo called in at “11th hour” to reintroduce classic songs to live-action movie

David Zippel and Matt Wilder, who wrote the music for Mulan 1998, talk about how they were called in to give their opinion and 'explore' options.

Mulan is more war focused

The music duo behind the original Mulan soundtrack came in to lend a hand on the remake’s music after an early screening had audience’s asking: “Where’s the music?”.

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While Mulan 2020 has been praised for going back to the true story behind Mulan it’s also had a bumpy journey to date, from delays thanks to COVID-19 to some fans taking issue with changes compared to the original animation, from no Mushu and a replaced Li Shang to no musical numbers.

But it appears that the team behind the live action movie went some way to answering fan concerns after an early test screening.

Way before the movie even entered production, director Niki Caro revealed in an interview that there would be no music.

The fan outcry that followed saw her revise this statement in a later interview where she said they were looking into how music would work in the movie.

With the live action Mulan now out on Disney+ with premier access we know the outcome – instrumental music but no songs.

Mulan 2020

While this approach has divided fans, it turns out the final soundtrack could have been even more different.

David Zippel and Matthew Wilder, the original musical duo behind 1998’s Mulan, revealed on The Bancroft Brothers podcast that they had been called in to help out at “the 11th hour.”

Speaking about their involvement on the new movie, Wilder said: “In my work on the new film we were called in, in the 11th hour, the film had already been in production for quite some time. They probably had 80 percent of it in the can at the time.”

Read More: Mushu song that was cut after Eddie Murphy ‘refused to sing’

Wilder continued to explain that the call had come after a screening of the movie to test audiences. “There was apparently quite a push back from the audience at the time at the screenings: ‘Where’s the music?’.

“So they called us up, David and myself, and said let’s explore and see what we can drum up.”

Taking a look at what the remake team had so far, the original pairing went back to the originals. “We revisited I’ll Make a Man Out of You and Reflection were the two moments and a little bit of Honour to Us All,” he said.

Wilder explained that Mulan 2020 composer Harry Gregson Williams eventually “used Reflection in such a way…that it really came full circle for me.”

“Because the theme kept coming back and back, and back…. by the time it came back for the third or fourth time… it just sent a shiver, lightning up my spine. I was just going along for the ride.”

The Bancroft Brothers also worked on the animated Mulan, with Tony Bancroft directing alongside Barry Cook and speaking on the podcast about the new live-action version.

Tony said: “You watch it and think, ‘wow, that little thing we did, that quaint little movie we made’ – you see people reinterpreting the story ideas and Niki Caro’s take on it as a director.

“She’s the perfect person to make that [live-action] movie. You do feel part of it, you feel like a proud parent sort of… grandparent maybe! We talked about that in a similar moment, creating it with the guys and figuring it out… and here it is realised in a whole new way and different way of telling the story. It’s sort of exciting.”

The original team also approved of the new Mulan, played by Yifei Liu.

Director Barry Cook said: “As a character, the heart and soul of the character is definitely there. I think so. She makes some different decisions than the original Mulan would have made.

“There she is in the flesh. It was astounding to me. That character you invented before this actress was even born, or close to it. She was probably a baby.”

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