The Music of Mulan

A Brief History

"I...ring the gong." - Mushu

In 1995 composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz was announced as the songwriter for a film tentatively titled Fa Mulan. Schwartz's contributions to Disney included the lyrics for Pocahontas (winning an Oscar for the song "Colors of the Wind") and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. While working on Fa Mulan Schwartz also picked up the songwriting job for Dreamworks' The Prince of Egypt.

Mulan was undergoing major story and character changes in 1995. The artists working on the story found Mulan too angry, too unhappy, and too Western, and ultimately Schwartz's songs ("Written in Stone" and "Destiny") were cut. "Written in Stone" was originally sung by Mulan as she rebelled against having her fate set for her (including an arranged marriage with Shang). This song was cut since it no longer fit the character. The other song was set during the scene where Mulan disguises herself as a soldier and runs away from home to save her father. Storyboard artist Dean DeBlois was asked to depict the sequence with minimal dialogue. The end result was proved to be so powerful that the song was no longer needed. With his songs cut, Schwartz moved on to other projects, including Prince of Egypt, musical workshops for students, and the Disney ABC-TV musical Geppetto.

Music executive Chris Montan found a new song composer in Matthew Wilder, best known as the singer-composer for the song "Break My Stride" and as a respected album producer. Wilder had been working on a stage musical adaption of Anne Rice's Cry To Heaven. Montan heard a demo performance of his music and asked Wilder to join the Mulan team. David Zippel, who worked with Alan Menken on Hercules, was tapped to write the lyrics.

As for writing the score, one composer considered for the job was Rachel Portman, the Oscar-winning composer of Emma. But she had to drop the project due to personal reasons (namely expecting a baby). Other composers considered included Randy Edelman (whose Dragonheart theme can be heard in the Mulan trailer) and Kitaro. Ultimately the job went to veteran film composer Jerry Goldsmith.

Who wrote the songs and the score?

Matthew Wilder and David Zippel; Jerry Goldsmith

Matthew Wilder (music - songs) wrote and performed the 1982 hit "Break My Stride" (from the album I Don't Speak the Language) and wrote the song "Wild Women Do" (sung by Natalie Cole) for the Pretty Woman soundtrack. His songs have been recorded by Jimmy Cliff, Sheena Easton, Patti LaBelle, Aaron Neville, and Wild Orchid. He has also been the producer for a number of albums, including No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom and is working on a musical adaptation of Anne Rice's Cry to Heaven. Wilder also provided the singing voice for Ling in Mulan.

David Zippel (lyrics) contributed lyrics to the off-Broadway musicals Diamonds and A...My Name Is Alice before writing the lyrics for his first Broadway musical, City of Angels, winning the Tony and Drama Desk awards. Zippel also wrote lyrics for the Broadway musical The Goodbye Girl and the animated film The Swan Princess. He was nominated for the Best Song Oscar for "Go the Distance" from Hercules. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Zippel is delighted he is not practicing law.

Jerry Goldsmith (music - score) won five Emmys and one Oscar. Most recently he was nominated for Mulan, along with Matthew Wilder and David Zippel. Other scores include The Mummy, Air Force One, A Patch of Blue, The Omen, Alien, Patton, Chinatown, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek - The Motion Picture, Basic Instinct, L.A. Confidential and many more. He also composed the theme music for TV series including "The Waltons," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "Dr. Kildare," "Barnaby Jones" and "Star Trek: Voyager." He composed a fanfare for the annual Academy Awards which is still being used. In December 1998 he conducted a concert of his music at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. Goldsmith died on July 21, 2004 at age 75.

What's on the soundtrack?

The lyrics are now online and are also printed in the cassette and CD notes. In addition there are lyrics to a longer version of "Reflection" (sung by Lea Salonga) to which Michelle Kwan has skated. "True to Your Heart" has different lyrics in the movie than on the soundtrack.

The U.S. soundtrack contains the following:

  1. Honor to Us All (Beth Fowler, Marni Nixon, Lea Salonga, and chorus) - 3:01
  2. Reflection (Lea Salonga) - 2:24
  3. I'll Make a Man Out of You (Donny Osmond and chorus) - 3:19
  4. A Girl Worth Fighting For (Harvey Fierstein, James Hong, Lea Salonga, Jerry Tondo, Matthew Wilder, and chorus) - 2:23
  5. True to Your Heart (98 Degrees and Stevie Wonder) - 4:14
  6. Suite from Mulan - 7:04
  7. Attack at the Wall (score) - 4:57
  8. Mulan's Decision (score) - 3:20
  9. Blossoms (score) - 6:25
  10. The Huns Attack (score) - 4:26
  11. The Burned-Out Village (score) - 5:51
  12. Reflection (pop version - Christina Aguilera) - 3:36

The soundtrack was released June 2, 1998. Soundtracks sold at Target came with a 12-minute bonus CD with five songs on it. The first three are medleys, the fourth is "Meet Me In St. Louis," and the fifth is "Little Old Lady From Pasadena" (sung by Goofy).

There is also a rare promotional CD with all of Goldsmith's score on it.

Information about non-U.S. soundtracks

Where is the music in the trailer from?

The music in the theater and video trailer is called "To the Stars" and originally from the film Dragonheart, scored by Randy Edelman. This piece has been used as underscore for film trailers and also for film montages in the Academy Awards.

Some other interesting notes: an ad shown during the 1998 Tony Awards used music from the film The Power of One, scored by Hans Zimmer (The Lion King). At least one other preview (full of fight and comedy scenes) used the song "Kung-Fu Fighting."

Why is the synthesizer "transformation" theme missing from the soundtrack? Is it available?

The middle section of "Mulan's Decision" is different on the soundtrack than in the movie. In the film the middle section heavily uses the synthesizer in a driving beat rather than the orchestra. Why this theme isn't on the U.S. soundtrack is unknown, but it appears on the British, German, and French soundtracks and the promotional CD. The "Haircut" track also has been made into MP3s at a couple of sites.

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