The Swan Princess
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|The Swan Princess|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Rich|
|Produced by||Jared F. Brown
|Screenplay by||Brian Nissen|
|Story by||Brian Nissen
|Based on||Swan Lake
by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
|Music by||Lex de Azevedo|
|Edited by||Armetta Jackson-Hdamlett
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Box office||$9.7 million|
The Swan Princess is a 1994 American animated musical fantasy film based on the ballet "Swan Lake". Starring the voice talents of Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright, and Sandy Duncan, the film is directed by a former Disney animation director, Richard Rich, with a music score by Lex de Azevedo. It was released theatrically on November 18, 1994 where it received generally mixed reviews by critics and was a box office bomb. The film was followed by four direct-to-video sequels: The Swan Princess: Escape from Castle Mountain (1997), The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom (1998), The Swan Princess Christmas (2012), and The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale (2014).
King William (Dakin Matthews), widowed father of newborn Princess Odette, and Queen Uberta (Sandy Duncan), widowed mother of young Prince Derek, decide to betroth their children in the hopes of uniting their kingdoms. Rothbart (Jack Palance) is an evil sorcerer who wishes to take William's kingdom for himself, but before he can make his move, he is attacked by William's men. Although banished from the kingdom, Rothbart vows to return to get his revenge.
William and Uberta have Odette and Derek meet every summer in the hopes that they'll fall in love. As children this fails miserably, but when the years pass and the two reach adulthood, they do fall in love. Derek (Howard McGillin) declares that the wedding preparations begins, but when he expresses his wish to marry Odette (Michelle Nicastro) solely for her beauty, she rejects him. Odette and William leave, but they are intercepted by Rothbart, who transforms into a "Great Animal" (a mythological creature with the head of a wolf, the body of a bat, the feet of an eagle, and the tail of a lizard), kidnaps Odette and fatally injures William. Derek arrives on the scene, where William tells him with his dying breath that they were attacked by a "Great Animal", and that Odette is "gone". Believing that Odette is dead, Uberta encourages Derek to find another princess, but he is determined to find Odette, believing that she can still be alive. He and his best friend Bromley (Joel McKinnon Miller) practice hunting every day in preparation for facing the Great Animal.
Elsewhere, Rothbart is keeping Odette at his castle lair at Swan Lake. He has cast a spell that turns Odette into a swan during the day, and she is able to temporarily turn human at night if she is on the lake under moonlight. Every night Rothbart asks Odette to marry him so he can rule William's kingdom legally, but she always refuses. During her captivity, she befriends a turtle named Speed (Steven Wright), a frog named Jean-Bob (John Cleese), who dreams of being human, and Puffin (Steve Vinovich), a puffin.
Puffin and Odette, in her swan form, fly together to find Derek. By chance they stumble upon Derek in the woods, for he is searching for the Great Animal with Bromley. Derek mistakes Odette for the Great Animal and tries to kill her. The ensuing chase leads Derek to Swan Lake, where he witnesses Odette's change from swan to human when the moon rises. The two share a loving reunion, and Odette explains that the spell can only be broken by a "vow of everlasting love" that's "proven to the world". Derek invites Odette to his mother's ball the following night, in the hopes of declaring to the world of his love for her. Derek leaves just as Rothbart arrives. The enchanter has heard the whole conversation and imprisons Odette as a swan in the castle dungeon, along with Bromley whom he had found in the woods.
Rothbart, fearing that Derek's vow would ruin his plans, sends his hag sidekick to the ball disguised as Odette. Odette's friends free her from the dungeon and she flies to Uberta's castle, but she is unable to warn Derek in time. Derek makes the vow to the wrong woman, which causes the spell to start killing Odette. Upon realizing his error, a panicking Derek races after Odette back to Swan Lake, where Odette transforms back into a human just before she dies in Derek's arms. A furious Derek confronts Rothbart, ordering Rothbart to revive Odette. Rothbart transforms into the Great Animal. A battle ensues with Rothbart overpowering Derek and nearly killing him. Odette's animal friends return Derek's longbow to him, and Bromley, who has escaped the dungeon, provides Derek with a single arrow. Derek catches and fires the arrow into Rothbart's heart, killing him. Derek confesses to Odette that he loves her for her kindness and courage, and Odette returns to life, the spell on her broken. The two are married and live happily ever after.
- Michelle Nicastro as Odette
- Howard McGillin as Derek
- Sandy Duncan as Queen Uberta
- Jack Palance as Rothbart
- Lex de Azevedo as Rothbart (singing)
- John Cleese as Jean-Bob
- David Zippel as Jean-Bob (singing)
- Steven Wright as Speed
- Jonathan Hadary as Speed (singing)
- Steve Vinovich as Puffin
- Dakin Matthews as King William
- Mark Harelik as Lord Rogers
- Joel McKinnon Miller as Bromley
- Wes Brewer as Bromley (singing)
- James Arrington as Chamberlain
- Davis Gaines as Chamberlain (singing)
- Brian Nissen as the narrator
Richard Rich was one of several animators to leave Disney during the 80s and 90s, and he subsequently formed his own company. The film was created by hand painting cels, a tedious technique which caused Rich and his crew to take over four years to produce the final product.
Pilsbury partnered with Turner Home Entertainment for a marketing campaign, to create a product costing $24.98. The campaign had a 20 million dollar budget, despite the movie having only made 10 million when it was announced.
- This Is My Idea
- Practice, Practice, Practice
- Far Longer than Forever
- No Fear
- No More Mr. Nice Guy
- No Fear (Reprise) (featured only in the film; not in the soundtrack)
- Princesses on Parade
- Far Longer than Forever (End Titles) - Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne
- Eternity (End Titles) - Dreams Come True
The Swan Princess received U.S. theatrical release on November 18, 1994, and only made $2,445,155 on its opening weekend. It eventually had a total domestic gross of $9,771,658, resulting as a major box office bomb due to struggling competition with Star Trek Generations, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, The Santa Clause, Léon: The Professional, Stargate, Pulp Fiction, Miracle on 34th Street, and the re-release of The Lion King.
Disney's reissuing of The Lion King just as this film was being released was seen as "sabotage" by Variety.
The Swan Princess was originally released on home video on August 1, 1995 by Turner Home Entertainment, and sold over 2.5 million units. In certain European countries, the full The Swan Princess trilogy was released in a 2-disc double-sided set on February 16, 2004. On March 30, 2004 the film was re-released to mark its 10-year anniversary, with a new cover for the video and Special Edition DVD. The Special Edition DVD contains a few extras, including trailers, a read-along feature, a sing-along feature and games. On August 2, 2005, The Swan Princess was released as a double-feature DVD with its sequel The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom. In the US the film along with its sequels is only available in FullScreen, as opposed to the European releases where the film is preserved in its original 1.85:1 Widescreen aspect ratio.
As of 2014, Rotten Tomatoes has a 44% ("rotten") score, based on 9 reviews with an average score of 5.3/10. The film was praised for its animation and voice acting, but was criticized for its script, plot, Derek and Odette's bond and for the fact that it borrows plot points from Disney films.
However, one of its four "fresh" ratings there was from Roger Ebert (three out of four stars), saying "Despite the comparatively limited resources at his disposal, Richard Rich shows that he understands the recent Disney animated renaissance and can create some of the same magic. The movie isn't in the same league as Disney's big four, and it doesn't have the same crossover appeal to adults, but as family entertainment it's bright and cheerful, and it has its moments." Similarly, Hal Hinson of The Washington Post said it was a better film than The Lion King, praising its "fluid, unhurried pace" and "lush, original sense of color", though deeming the score "[not] terribly distinctive".
More negative reviews came from Brian Lowry of Variety who said the film was "technically impressive but rather flat and languid storywise", and James Berardinelli of ReelViews said "much of The Swan Princess is trite and uninspired" in his 2.5/4 star review, though added "nevertheless, despite its problems, The Swan Princess is actually one of the better non- Disney animated productions to come along in a while".
- "The Swan Princess (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
- "Review: The Swan Princess". Reelviews.net. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- Hollywood Musicals Year by Year - Stanley Green - Google Books. Books.google.com.au. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- Billboard - Google Books. Books.google.com.au. May 20, 1995. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- "Weekend Box Office : Appealing to All 'Generations'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
- "Company Town : 'Swan' Sticks Its Neck Out but Still Gets the Ax : Film: Poor box office opening resurrects age-old question: Can an animated movie be a hit if it isn't made by Disney?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
- Brian Lowry TV Columnist @blowryontv (November 20, 1994). "The Swan Princess". Variety. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- Villa, Joan (June 23, 1997). "Swan sequel to have limited theatrical release". Video Business (Reed Business Information) 17 (26): 4.
- "The Swan Princess". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
- "The Swan Princess Movie Review (1994) Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. November 18, 1994. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
- "‘The Swan Princess’ (G)". Washingtonpost.com. November 19, 1994. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
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