Even though "Mulan" shares some common themes with another animated adventure, "Quest for Camelot" (which also takes a somewhat feminist attitude toward women participating in a war), the two films couldn't be more different.
"Quest for Camelot" moves at a snail's pace and features some of the dullest original songs in any cartoon which seem to be there to pad out the movie.
By comparison, "Mulan" practically flies by, and it downplays the music (though there are some animated production numbers) in favor of furthering and developing the story.
Also, the animation in "Mulan" done in a style that recalls Asian cartooning is vastly superior to that of "Quest for Camelot." As are its voice talents, which include several veteran Asian-American actors (including Pat Morita, George Takei and James Hong).
If the film does have a fault, it's that the action is too fast. As a consequence, the movie never really settles down long enough to allow viewers to appreciate the jokes and character development.
On the whole, however, "Mulan" is quick, funny, has genuine warmth and is certainly better than almost anything else out there that is aimed at children. It is a Disney animated feature, after all.
Based on a 2,000-year-old Chinese legend, "Mulan" follows the title character (voiced by Ming-Na Wen, from "One Night Stand," and sung by Lea Salonga), the only child of ailing, aging warrior Fa Zhou (voiced by Soon-Tek Oh).
Mulan is considered too headstrong and lacking in a serious nature to be good marriage material. So, desperately seeking her father's approval, she disguises herself as a young man and joins the Imperial army in his stead fearing that her father will be killed if he tries to serve in the army.
Joined and advised by Mushu (voiced of Eddie Murphy), a small but feisty "guardian" dragon sent by her ancestors, Mulan actually finds respect among the other recruits and from her commanding officer Shang (voiced by B.D. Wong, sung by Donny Osmond).
And with them, she serves as the last defense against hordes of villainous Huns, led by the imposing Shan-Yu (Miguel Ferrer).
As mentioned, the animation is topnotch and the songs (by lyricist David Zippel and composer Matthew Wilder) are reasonably catchy even if they aren't quite up to the best Disney musical numbers.
Helping greatly is the cast, especially Wen, who makes her character very likable, and Wong and Osmond, whose voices sound eerily similar. And while Murphy tries too hard to ape Robin Williams' film-stealing vocal performance in "Aladdin," he still has his share of amusing one-liners.
"Mulan" is rated G but does contain some violent animated images (martial-arts fighting and wartime violence).