Why Donny Osmond Punched Himself for a Part in a Disney Film

While the Osmonds were major celebrities in the 1970s, Disney turned down Donny Osmond when he auditioned for a role in one of their classic 1990s films. However, Osmond did sing a famous song for their next major movie. Here’s a look at why Osmond punched himself to get his performance just right.

Donny Osmond | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Donny Osmond was ‘too old’ for this Disney film

Firstly, a little background. During Walt Disney’s years at the Walt Disney Company, major stars rarely appeared in Disney movies. That all changed in the 1990s. Over the course of that decade, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, and Rosie O’Donnell all had parts in Disney films. CNN reports Donny Osmond also tried out for a part in one of the 1990s Disney films: Hercules

“They said ‘You’re too old,’ and it kinda killed me a little bit,” Osmond said. “So they called me a few months later and said, ‘We’re doing Mulan and we compared all of your audition tapes to B.D. Wong, who’s doing all the spoken parts, and you’ve got very similar voices.'” Ultimately, Wong played the role of Captain Li Shang in Mulan while Osmond provided the character’s singing voice — notably during the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”

“I’ll Make a Man Out of You”

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Why Donny Osmond literally beat himself up for his role in Disney’s ‘Mulan’

Osmond revealed he was very dedicated to his role. “There’s this one part where Shang gets hit in the stomach and I have to sing like I’m getting hit in the stomach,” Osmond said. “So for an hour I’m hitting myself in the stomach. I was black and blue after that session.”

How Donny Osmond’s family reacted to ‘Mulan’

Mulan is a classic family film — so how did Osmond’s family react to Mulan? “I took my wife and children to the premiere of Mulan a couple weeks ago,” Osmond says. “During the song, I look down and they’re just smiling ear to ear. They’re like ‘Yeah Dad. That’s my dad up there.’ And afterwards they said, ‘You know Dad, now that you’ve done a Disney film, you’re successful.”

The Mulan trailer

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Was ‘Mulan’ more successful than ‘Hercules’?

This raises an interesting question: Which was more successful — Hercules or Mulan? According to Box Office Mojo, Hercules earned over $252 million. Osmond’s absence from the film clearly didn’t stop it from becoming a success. It even spawned a Saturday morning cartoon series.

On the other hand, Box Office Mojo reports Mulan grossed over $304 million. So far Mulan has been remade as a live-action movie whereas Disney has yet to remake Hercules. In addition, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” is arguably more famous than “Zero to Hero” or any of the other songs from Mulan. Disney didn’t think Osmond was right for Hercules, however, he was right for a more successful Disney film.