Disney’s new live-action adaptation of Mulan might not be a movie musical, but that doesn’t mean it is without music. The Niki Caro-directed film, which dropped on Disney+ for “premium access” this weekend, has a score composed and conducted by Harry Gregson-Williams that makes up most of the official Mulan soundtrack. However, the film soundtrack also features two versions of “Reflection,” a tune made famous in America by Christina Aguilera for the soundtrack of the original 1998 animated feature. Twenty-two years later, Aguilera is singing another rendition of “Reflection” for the film’s soundtrack—one of two versions of the song that appears on the 2020 soundtrack. (The other is a Mandarin-language version of the song sung by Mulan star Liu Yifei.) The return of “Reflection” seems to be the main exception to Disney‘s efforts to distance the new, live-action film from the animated version as a way to communicate to Chinese audiences in particular that they are not using the 1998 version, which flopped in China where it was criticized for being too westernized, as a template.
While Disney’s recording of multiple versions of “Reflection” in many different languages may seem like a modern business model, Disney’s distribution and marketing model for the 1998 animated Mulan also included Asian audiences, as evidenced by its strategy around the release of singles and videos for “Reflection.” In addition to the English-language version of the song, Disney also recorded and released a video for a Mandarin-language version of “Reflection,” sung by Coco Lee. Let’s take a look at the main versions of Mulan‘s “Reflection,” both in 1998 and in 2020…
Mulan 1998 Soundtrack: Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection”
“Reflection” was originally written and produced by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel for the soundtrack of Disney’s 1998 animated film Mulan. In the film, the song is performed by Filipina singer Lea Salonga, who is responsible for Fa Mulan’s singing voice in the movie. (Salonga also voiced Jasmine’s singing in Aladdin.) However, a single “pop” version of “Reflection,” performed by 17-year-old Christina Aguilera, was also released on the soundtrack for American audiences. The song was Aguilera’s debut single, and the success of it would fund Aguilera’s self-titled debut album, which was released in 1999.
Check out the original “Reflection” music video, which features Aguilera, a white-passing Latinx woman, wandering around the China Pavilion at Epcot—a choice.