So, let's first address the elephant in the room: "Mulan" was not that good. Critics applauded the film's visuals, but felt the plot was lacking in pizzazz and noted difficulty staying engaged with the story. Vanity Fair called it a "dull reflection" of the original, while the Verge dubbed it "the year’s most beautiful letdown."
Which is pretty on par with audience reactions. There were the viewers who weren't aware of the fact that Disney wasn't making an exact replica of the 1998 animated version who were disappointed in key and much-loved missing plot points, like Mulan cutting her hair and the visceral presence of her family's ancestors. And for those who were prepared for the changes, like me, the resulting film just sort of fell flat.
Personally, 2020's "Mulan" felt disconnected; Disney wanted to make a war epic to stay true to the original Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, but also needed to add a signature Disney edge to it. At the end of the day, "stoic Disney war movie" just...doesn't land.
Of course, there were a lot of high points to an otherwise underwhelming remake: The colors and cinematography are stunning, the entirely Asian cast is a huge milestone and the addition of a shape-shifting adversary is eye-catching. But one particularly appealing aspect of the film came after its release: a new version of "I'll Make a Man out of You," the action-packed song that plays over a training montage in the animated movie.
When lyricist David Zippel and composer Matthew Wilder, both of whom worked on the music for the 1998 film, were asked back to work on the score for the updated movie, they thought they'd try their hand at a new version of the fan favorite. Sung by Nayana Holley, Toni Scruggs and Kara Britz, known as Gang of Three, the song maintains the integrity of the original tune while giving it a female empowerment makeover.
Disney ultimately passed on putting it in the film, but now, with the studio's blessing, they've released it on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play.
"We were really excited about it, and we pitched it and I think that the music people at Disney share our enthusiasm, but, ultimately, it doesn't really fit the tone of the picture," Zippel told Insider.
The tune was tweaked to reflect the changes in the movie; for example, there's no mention of Huns, as the Imperial Army is up against insurgent Bori Khan in the 2020 version.
Let's get down to business, to defeat the Huns / Did they send me daughters, when I asked for sons? is swapped for Let's get down to business / Better listen good / Don't have time to be / Miss Misunderstood, while where Donny Osmond once sang, We must be swift as the coursing river / With all the force of a great typhoon / With all the strength of a raging fire / Mysterious as the dark side of the moon, the lyrics now read, With all the strength of a coursing river / With all the force of a great typhoon / But, baby, show me respect, oh I am / Mysterious as the dark side of the moon.
In addition to updated lyrics, the song comes with a girl power-infused video, where flashes of prominent female leaders flash alongside videos of young Asian women being little bad*sses. It's impossible to watch this and sing along without feeling like you can conquer the world.
"We were thrilled with the way it turned out," Zippel said. "It was just an idea that I threw at Matt. I had no idea what he was going to do with that or how he would reinterpret it, but it's so much fun. We just thought it, let's put it out there and see if the world embraces it."