Of all the recent Disney wannabes, THE SWAN PRINCESS comes closest to capturing the ineffable magic of THE LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. With its scrupulous attention to background detail and buoyant song score, this animated delight is a children's film crafted with enough
sophistication to weave a spell around cynical grown-ups.
Groomed since childhood for a royal merger, tomboyish Odette and headstrong Derek find that their mutual antagonism evaporates once they mature into lovestruck teens. The match is encouraged by Derek's mom, Queen Uberta (Sandy Duncan), and Odette's father, King William (Dakin Matthews), but the
disgraced sorcerer Rothbart (Jack Palance), who was banished for traitorous acts but is itching for a return bout with the king, has other plans. At the soiree announcing the couple's engagement, the willful Odette (Michelle Nicastro) calls off the wedding because Derek (Howard McGillin) only
appreciates her surface beauty, not the inner qualities she feels a husband should prize. Transforming himself into a ferocious beast, wizard Rothbart attacks the king and his guards. Odette refuses his offer of marriage, but Rothbart controls the defiant princess by transforming her into a swan;
only by moonlight can she resume her human form. Meanwhile, Derek trains for battle (using his servants for target practice) and sets off to slay the beast and reclaim his vanished bride-to-be.
Befriended by a wise bird, Puffin (Steve Vinovich), and a vain frog, Jean-Bob (John Cleese), Odette keeps Rothbart at arm's length and enlists her animal friends help in obtaining the sorcerer's book of remedies. When she flies off in search of her prince, Derek nearly shoots her down before
witnessing her transformation from swan to swan-like beauty. Since only a public declaration of undying love can break the curse, Rothbart slyly substitutes an Odette-lookalike at the ball held by Uberta for her son. Derek confronts Rothbart, who again assumes the form of a beast, and vanquishes
him with his archery skills. Professing his undying adoration for the innate virtue of the swan princess, Derek frees Odette from the evil spell.
Action packed yet fetchingly romantic, THE SWAN PRINCESS weaves a storybook tale of wide-ranging appeal. Its primary deficiency lies in the animation of the two lovers, whose features lack character. Although Disney's spunky human protagonists sometimes resemble blandly pretty, high-fashion
dolls, the slick draftsmanship used to bring them to life has a sharpness that this movie can't match. (Director Richard Rich, who co-directed 1985's THE BLACK CAULDRON for Buena Vista, knows the Disney style inside and out, but his animation studio can hardly be expected to muster the lavish
resources available to the makers of LION KING.) Still, the animators are quite successful in realizing the egotistical villain and the woodland stalwarts.
The usual moral lessons are tempered with peppery supporting turns--particularly Cleese's foppish frog, who fancies himself a royal rascal, and Palance's Rothbart, a male version of SLEEPING BEAUTY'S Maleficent, torturing himself with the caustic wit of a Freddie Krueger. The craftsmanlike song
score, by Lex De Azevedo and David Zippel, boasts a Broadway-style showstopper, "Princesses on Parade," whose catchy lyrics and razzle-dazzle choreography beat Disney at their own musical game; the love theme, "Far Longer Than Forever," deservedly picked up a Golden Globe nomination.
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: G
- Review: Of all the recent Disney wannabes, THE SWAN PRINCESS comes closest to capturing the ineffable magic of THE LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. With its scrupulous attention to background detail and buoyant song score, this animated delight is a childr… (more)