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Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
Hal Rosenfeld
Jennifer Hammond
Jim Honeyman
Ladd McIntosh

Additional Music by:
Stephanie Economou

Co-Produced by:
Richard Harvey
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Walt Disney Records
(September 4th, 2020)
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Commercial download release only, with high resolution options available.
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Buy it... if you can forgive this soundtrack for its many, many ills, Harry Gregson-Williams providing a handful of lovely lyrical moments with attractive ethnic instrumentation.

Avoid it... if you expect Gregson-Williams to provide due respect for Jerry Goldsmith or for the titular character's ethnicity by the end of the score, his themes poorly enunciated and unnecessarily Westernized at climactic moments.
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WRITTEN 2/21/21
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Mulan: (Harry Gregson-Williams) Little did the production of a live-action remake of Walt Disney's popular 1998 animated film know the extent of the ultimate nightmare that awaited along its ten-year journey to what it thought would be the big screen. The studio lost substantial money on the delays of 2020's Mulan, the movie never opening widely in America due to the global pandemic and frustrating families with a $30 streaming price point when the film finally debuted much later in the year than anticipated. Beyond that hassle, however, was lead actress Yifei Liu's inconveniently timed politically commentary supporting Hong Kong, a lack of ethnic diversity on the production team, the removal of character Li Shang, a LGBTQ favorite, from the story, a Chinese cast speaking with distinctly American accents in the English version of the movie, and filming in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, where ethnic minorities are still interned by the government. Add on top of that the fact that director Niki Caro decided to take the film to far more serious, dramatic levels, stripping it of its musical status and instead shooting it to a PG-13 rating, a first ever for one of these remakes of an animated Disney picture. Parents and enthusiasts of the 1998 entry were perhaps bothered the most by the last part, the entire personality of Mulan changed even if the basic plot elements all remain the same. Middling response from American audiences was better than the outright disdain that faced the movie in China, where box office returns were also disappointing. Caro's decision to excise most of the comedic elements of the story and replace that charm with solemn and serious explorations of Mulan's pursuit of loyalty, bravery, and truth has a massive impact on the music for 2020's Mulan, the soundtrack stuck in a no-win situation trying to address Caro's vision while also making some token references back to the soundtrack for the animated favorite. The extended production timeline for Mulan allowed composer Harry Gregson-Williams ample time to ponder these complexities.

The veteran Gregson-Williams was hired based on his collaboration with Caro for 2017's The Zookeeper's Wife, and his experience with the franchise entries for The Chronicles of Narnia, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Kingdom of Heaven gave him a good base for this similarly ethnically dominated action/fantasy entry. The project was Gregson-Williams' most substantial mainstream entry since the impressive The Martian in 2015, and he put an extraordinary amount of time into finding the right sound for Mulan. First, however, he had to ban the 1998 film and its soundtrack from the children in his household; despite his respect for Jerry Goldsmith's score and Matthew Wilder's songs, he knew his direction would have to be different. One could argue quite easily that Gregson-Williams' prospects here were immediately sunk by Caro's directives. There was really no possible outcome with this score that could shake the inexplicable disrespect shown especially to Goldsmith's acclaimed score via its total abandonment. While Alan Menken and Hans Zimmer were both alive and active for the live-action remakes of their respective Disney classics of the 1990's, Goldsmith is now long dead, which must have meant for Caro that his music died with him. Even if you can forgive the elimination of the songs, neglecting any attempt to substantially interpolate Goldsmith's score is inexcusable and alone diminishes Gregson-Williams' achievement even in the best light. And the decision exhibits laziness, too. Musicals don't have to be childish by nature, and Wilder was available to assist with the new Mulan. Goldsmith's score could have easily been adapted for this new application, whether by Gregson-Williams, Brian Tyler, or a host of others. All of that said, Gregson-Williams proceeded as best he could under ridiculous circumstances, conducting extensive research into Chinese instrumentation to combine with a 90-piece Western orchestra, 48-voice choir, and his typical electronics. The composer contends that there is only a small touch of synthetic accompaniment in this score, but that statement is definitely incorrect, as his electronics figure prominently in portions. A cynic could argue that he's become so attached to his synths that he doesn't know how to lay off them now.

The preparation and production periods of Gregson-Williams' involvement with Mulan lasted 18 months, admittedly the longest assignment of his career, from pre-recorded drum sequences for use during shooting to substantial recalibrations of the score as the film experienced changes in tone during post-production. His application of Chinese instrumentation included consulting with experts in the region's music, and he ultimately brought woodwind expert Richard Harvey with him from the United Kingdom to a studio in Bangkok where they could assemble and record a variety of appropriate specialty instruments. These contributions included a dizi and xiao (both variants on a bamboo flute), a guanzi (double-reed pipe), a pipa (Chinese lute), a guzheng (a plucked, harp-like instrument), a suona (double-reed horn), and the expected erhu, the two-string bowed instrument most commonly associated with the region. Thrown into that mix are Taiko drums alongside various Chinese percussion instruments and Tuvan throat singing for a villain of the tale. Gregson-Williams cannot resist applying his synthetic arrays to enhance and manipulate some of these sounds, which is a tremendous shame, as the highlights of his work here are in the softer passages when such electronic embellishment is not needed or desired. It should be noted that Goldsmith's score for Mulan came at a time when his recordings sounded their most fantastic; the late 1990's offered his music with expansive spread and perfect reverb. By comparison, Gregson-Williams' recording for the remake has gain levelling issues (softer and louder portions not balanced) and a more conventional mix that does push the bass a little too heavily at times. There are certainly very impressive moments in the 2020 score for the concept. As in Gregson-Williams' other ethnic adventure scores, the composer does crank out some lavish and tonally accessible moments of grandeur. Unfortunately, they are surprisingly few in Mulan, and the action and villains' material aren't always engaging. Gregson-Williams' villain tones are generally unpleasant throughout, the suspense element often inaccessible and failing to extend the musical narrative to any satisfying degree. The comedy aspect is minimized, concentrated in the duo of "Honor to Us All" and "The Matchmaker."

Ratings Icon
Average: 2.7 Stars
***** 11 5 Stars
**** 23 4 Stars
*** 32 3 Stars
** 28 2 Stars
* 26 1 Stars
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The tattoo on Gregson-Williams's butt cheek
Kathy - May 7, 2021, at 10:29 a.m.
1 comment  (66 views)

Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 82:45
• 1. Ancestors (3:21)
• 2. Tulou Courtyard (3:14)
• 3. The Desert Garrison (3:27)
• 4. Böri Khan & Xianniang (1:37)
• 5. The Lesson of the Phoenix (3:14)
• 6. Honor to Us All (1:54)
• 7. The Matchmaker (2:30)
• 8. Mulan Leaves Home (3:50)
• 9. Four Ounces Can Move a Thousand Pounds (3:40)
• 10. Mulan Rides into Battle (5:41)
• 11. Honghui (1:34)
• 12. Training the Men (3:02)
• 13. Mulan & Honghui Fight (1:25)
• 14. Oath of the Warrior (1:24)
• 15. The Witch (3:42)
• 16. I Believe Hua Mulan (3:56)
• 17. The Charge (5:21)
• 18. Imperial City (3:36)
• 19. Chasing the Hawk (2:24)
• 20. Fight for the Kingdom (5:43)
• 21. Mulan & the Emperor (0:57)
• 22. Return to the Village (1:32)
• 23. The Fourth Virtue (5:41)
• 24. Loyal Brave True - performed by Christina Aguilera (2:46)
• 25. Reflection 2020 - performed by Christina Aguilera (3:38)
• 26. Reflection (Mandarin Version) - performed by Yifei Liu (3:39)

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There exists no official packaging for this album.
Copyright © 2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Mulan are Copyright © 2020, Walt Disney Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/21/21 (and not updated significantly since).
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