The Swan Princess
My final #childhoodfavourites, a Richard Rich film called The Swan Princess. Based on the famous world renowned Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (who knew !!). I remember being mystified by the title sequence as a child and that reeled me in. But several years later lets see if I still have the same eyes for it.
Our story opens with narration and a king pacing up and down in worry. We are told that he is waiting for the birth of his child. For a few more minutes we are clued in by the narrator that there is a banished sorcerer called Rothbart who wanted to be King. Plus we are told how Odette’s father and Prince Derek’s Mother, decide on a way to unite their two kingdoms: have their children fall in love and marry.
But obviously in typical romance fashion Prince Derek and Princess Odette grow up with a strong dislike for one another and their incompatibility is shown to us via montage and song. Finally, there is a change once they meet again as adults and it is love at first site. Derek, lost for words, hastily proclaims his love for Odette- calls for their marriage and all within a few seconds throws years of “bonding” away when he implies that he wants to marry her because she is beautiful and nothing else.
Odette and Father leave the Queen and Derek on bad terms, and on their journey back to their kingdom, are attacked by Rothbart, who fights the King and guards all in the appearance of a dragon. Odette is kidnapped and Derek turns up to the scene just in time to speak to a dying king. Derek swears to find Odette and defeat the beast that had killed the king and his men.
Odette has been held hostage by Rothbart and through very detailed exposition- we are clued in that there is a curse on Odette that turns her from Swan to human and back when the moon reflects on the lake. Rothbart lets Odette know this will continue to happen unless Odette marries Rothbart making him king or very specifically, she must have the man she loves confess his undying love for her to the whole world.
And in very typical fairy tale fashion! Odette makes friends with some critters and they dedicate themselves to helping her find her one true love and breaking the curse. Through misunderstandings, near death experiences, actual death and sudden changes on how ownership of the kingdom works; Odette and Derek are reunited again, Rothbart is defeated (far too quickly) our couple marry and live happily ever after.
There are many and I mean many issues with the plot, more than can be numbered. You can bet that this review is going to be pretty hard to write without making a single reference to Disney. Urgh my winx club senses are tingling because a romance that doesn’t need to exist is existing.
I realised how nonsensical it was to decide to have your kids marry, when both the King and Queen could have got together and this film would have wrapped up in an instant. They were both widows, if my memory serves me well. The whole scheming to have their children fall in love was unnecessary and a waste of time especially during a time when it was normal to marry for political or monetary gain; but this is a fairy tale and what not.
Child and teenage Odette seemed more rounded and interesting than adult Odette but Prince Derek stayed stiff throughout, never really having any changes. Eventually, both characters remain incredibly uninteresting and under-developed throughout the whole film. They merely exist as tropes to the fairytale genre. While they weren’t the very dirt from the bottom of the barrel, the laziness of their characters had them competing with the worse.
“She started out as such an ugly duckling and somehow suddenly became a swan.”
I found both of their instantaneous attraction to one another shallow and unconvincing, at some point I thought some justice could have been given to the story of the couple started off married, then probably more time could have been spent on making them more interesting and a bit more dimensional.
Instant attraction after years of loathing all because they are both now hot? Maybe this film could have gone somewhere with their shallow attitudes towards love but I have to hand it to Derek for potentially liking her way before they meet as adults. This film could have been Shrek before Shrek, something that subverts the fairy tale tradition. It is a shame it took itself seriously. If only the antagonist didn’t attack Odette, she would probably go on to rule her kingdom unwed and be the best queen there ever was. Derek was an idiot by saying “what else?” but I really think he is simply an idiot and Odette should have been better off without his “love” and darn it what was so wrong that no one could be King or Queen without being married? Wouldn’t being an only child and no one left to rule be fine? If Derek was actually friends with Odette or made a promise to her dying father to save her, I would have understood his obsession to find her. But how did he not move on? Was the power of attraction telling him she was still alive? He really should have given up and then one day received a lead on her whereabouts that reignited the engines of love.
Rothbart’s motives felt all over the place. He wants a kingdom without stress and the only way to get it, would be to marry into the family? But then he goes back on this plan several times, most of all by letting Odette die. He really could have taken advantage of her kidnapping by appearing to defeat the dragon, “rescue” Odette, maybe turned her ugly and pretended to love her, have her fall in love with him and that would have been enough of a thorn in Derek’s side.
I guess Rothbart’s final plan was pretty substantial, I mean if his assistant was ok being fake Odette for the rest of her life then the plan would have worked, up until he revealed she was the imposter.
Why did Odette die? Derek did make his vow to her! Even if an imposter took her place the imposter wasn’t called Odette and was it necessary for Odette to be there for the vow? It only required he declared his love in front of others. I don’t understand! Nothing makes sense! What they had didn’t count as everlasting love. Why was 3D water randomly used at the end?
It’s animation alright but it isn’t anything distinct. While the animation isn’t stiff, it still feels very calculated and staged. Nothing, about the character’s performances feels natural.
The animation for puffin and Swan Odette flying is a lot more nicer. The Swan Princess reminds me why storytelling with inspiration from real people in mind is important to creating a believable world and cast even if the story is a bit daft. When your reference of work are other animated works you get something stale and uninspired, ripping off bits here and there. There is very little about The Swan Princess that would ever make me think it was inspired by the swan lake- except the names of characters.
But what would be a good point, if I squint really hard? I have to say the transformation sequence is truly gorgeous even today it sends shivers down my back, and the score suits it frighteningly well but that’s as far as it goes and whoever thought that this film was better than The Lion King… For shame.
Character design, and background art aren’t anything exciting. Character designs feel quite formulaic what you’d normally come across in animated tv shows. No real sense of identity or personality. They aren’t inspired by real people, and are as generic as generic can get. Backgrounds are also dull and lifeless.
I feel bad being so harsh but it was really quite disappointing that there really wasn’t a high regard to attention to detail. Nothing really stood out or was memorable.
I noticed that the lyrics to almost every song were quite tacky haha. The first number was simple but my is the montage a drawn out piece of work. My favourite song was ” Far longer than forever”. The melody is beautiful but the lyrics are average at best or don’t make much sense. My goodness Odette! What do you want?! This girl left Derek’s palace sad and couldn’t accept him because she didn’t feel like he really loved her but then she sings that she knows he is on her way to her and they were meant to be? What happened since she got kidnapped? This song is happening because it needed a number that is the 90’s duet ballad of every animated film of the age. The voice acting is full of character but it is just a shame that the animation and character design didn’t match.
While there is much and I mean MUCH wrong with The Swan Princess, it was very entertaining to watch. It is something you can switch your brain off for and passively consume. Most of the enjoyment came from the nostalgia of it than it actually being a film of substance.
It is ashame to review this again and see the flaws so painstakingly well, it is almost like adouble edged sword I got them joy of the nostalgia but felt the pain of a critic.