Jerry Goldsmith

Rating: 8.8

The musical disaster that was Hercules signaled a change in Disney animated movies. Menken was no longer the go-to composer, and Zimmer had proven a popular choice for Lion King; perhaps he would become the composer of choice for Disney animation. While this did indeed end up being the case, there was a brief venture into the possibilities of famed composer Jerry Goldsmith, and what he could bring to the table in the animated genre. The result is rather stunning and intriguing. The maturity of Mulan's score is perhaps unrivaled in children's animation, and yet still fits its genre like a glove. I would love to have seen more of this style from Disney.

The album begins with five songs from the movie, which, it is commonly agreed, are nothing great, but serve their purpose. Goldsmith did not write the music for these (though he did incorporate some of the melodies into the suite), and so the album does suffer somewhat from lack of congruity between songs and score. "Suite from Mulan" starts off the score, and weaves the "Reflection" melody nicely through the orchestra, before moving to a playful rendition of "Honor To Us All", employing string pizzicato and muted brass staccato to great effect. From here the suite uses more of Goldsmith's own themes, doing as good a job as could be hoped for of trying to tie the two together.

"Attack at the Wall" follows, and the action beginning immediately. Rhythmically charged and powerfully brassy, it then turns to some playful banter between orchestral choirs. Goldsmith infuses oriental elements into his scores in a very convincing manner, while retaining a very approachable feel the whole way through. "Mulan's Decision" begins right away with perhaps the most instantly recognizable motif in the score. Seven notes, a triplet up and a triplet back down, ending on the note below, serves very well in reflective moments, but is perhaps best used in action sequences.

For me, "Blossoms" is the highlight of the commercial release. Some of the best percussion ever written for an animated movie is to be found here. A low timpani or bass drum keeps a quiet, slow but steady rhythm which is accentuated by three strikes, two high one lower, on higher register percussion instruments. The effect is brooding and powerful. Anything but over-the-top, it shows the power in tasteful restraint, even in a children's movie.

While the score is excellent, it is sadly under-presented on the album, with only thirty-two minutes appearing, seven of which are the suite. Thankfully, there was a promo score which featured fifty-four minutes and is a much better presentation of the epic scope and sweeping yet understated quality of this Goldsmith work. After, of course, the regular release has been bought, sending the money to those who work to make movie scores available to us, the promo is definitely worth looking into for those who enjoyed the score.

As a score, Mulan is far above most any other score for an animated movie. While comparisons with Beauty and the Beast are useless because of their differing styles, Mulan employs a method all its own for its effect. Not as innocent as Menken, not as over-the-top 'big' as Zimmer, the Goldsmith animation style is something which I certainly wish we could have had more of. 

-Colin Thomson 

Track List

Honor to Us All
I'll Make A Man Out of You
A Girl Worth Fighting For
True to Your Heart
Suite from Mulan
Attack on the Wall
Mulan's Decision
The Hun's Attack
The Burned out Village

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