As a heavily hyped, non-Disney theatrical cartoon in 1994, THE SWAN PRINCESS held a touch of the old Magic Kingdom in its gentle, retro fairy-tale setting. Although former Disney animator Richard Rich also presided over this sequel, it's just another pale follow-up for the video shelves.
Nearly a full year after Prince Derek (voice of Douglas Sills) wed the lovely Princess Odette (voice of Michelle Nicastro), His Royal Highness is already an inattentive spouse, constantly distracted by affairs of state and mysterious disasters, like numerous forest fires. Behind the arson is the
magician Clavius (Jake Williamson), ex-partner of Rothbart, the warlock earlier vanquished by Derek. Clavius knows that an all-powerful crystal ball known as "the Forbidden Arts" lies hidden in the castle; that was the reason Rothbart coveted the throne in the first place. Now Clavius sparks
blazes to draw Derek away from the palace and assassinate him. When that doesn't work, he kidnaps Derek's imperious mother Queen Uberta (voice of Christy Landers) and imprisons her in his Castle Mountain.
Sure enough, Derek rides to the rescue, and Clavius invades the unguarded royal home in search of the orb. But Odette and her entourage of animal friends are first to find the Forbidden Arts. To warn Derek of the trap, they tap the magic to reactivate Rothbart's old spell that turned Odette into a
swan. She flies to her husband's aid and explains all, but meanwhile Clavius gains possession of the Forbidden Arts. Despite the villain's apocalyptic powers, Derek challenges Clavius to a fight to the finish, and in the process the glass globe is smashed, causing a tremendous explosion/meltdown
that consumes Clavius and Castle Mountain. Derek, Uberta, and all their allies escape in a balloon, but Odette remains a swan. As per Rothbart's original sorcery, moonlight returns her to human form. Derek now appreciates his princess even more.
The artwork is skilled but merely serviceable, and frequent references back to the original SWAN PRINCESS--which didn't have a very intricate or multilayered plot line in the first place--demonstrate just how hard up the filmmakers were to find inspiration for a second excursion. Transforming
Odette once again seems a real act of desperation. And since when do warlocks have business partners? "You're always going to be a third-rate villain!" scolds a nagging Uberta at Clavius, and she's absolutely correct. The scrawny, cackling antagonist evokes little menace and even less interest.
Themes of marital neglect (and a subplot about Uberta's dread of turning 50) seem to be pitched toward parents, but the script's flashes of sophistication are only fleeting, such as Rothbert's onetime hag, now evidently rehabilitated as Odette's personal maid, still displaying a fondness for sharp
knives and devilment. In the climax, Jean-Bob (voice of Don McKay), a common frog desperately trying to convince everyone he's an enchanted prince, gets hit by Clavius hoodoo and for a heartbreakingly brief instant does indeed turns into human royalty.
While John Cleese voiced the character in the original, a soundalike takes the celebrity's place here; similar moves were made to replace the presumably too-expensive Sandy Duncan and Steven Wright (Jack Palance was a memorable Rothbart the first time around). Michelle Nicastro returns to voice
the Barbie-dollish Odette, who reprises the Golden-Globe nominated song "Far Longer than Forever." Musical interludes (by Lex De Azevedo and Clive Romney) run the gamut from rock to hip-hop, a singularly bad idea, and closing credits scroll to the tune of the catchphrase-ridden "No Fear Rap,"
which the onscreen Jean-Bob professes to detest. More power to him.
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: G
- Review: As a heavily hyped, non-Disney theatrical cartoon in 1994, THE SWAN PRINCESS held a touch of the old Magic Kingdom in its gentle, retro fairy-tale setting. Although former Disney animator Richard Rich also presided over this sequel, it's just another pale… (more)