|The Swan Princess|
|Directed by||Richard Rich|
|Screenplay by||Brian Nissen|
|Based on||Swan Lake|
by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
|Music by||Lex de Azevedo|
|Box office||$9.8 million|
The Swan Princess is a 1994 American animated musical fantasy film based on the ballet Swan Lake. Featuring Michelle Nicastro, Howard McGillin, Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright, Sandy Duncan, and Steve Vinovich, the film is directed by former Disney animation director Richard Rich and scored by Lex de Azevedo. The film was distributed by New Line Cinema in the United States and by Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International outside the US. It was released theatrically on November 18, 1994, and grossed $9.8 million against a $21 million budget, becoming a box-office bomb, partly due to struggling competition with a re-release of The Lion King (1994). The film later became popular through home video releases and has since been followed by a series of direct-to-video sequels starting in 1997.
King William and his friend Queen Uberta both have a child; Uberta has a son named Derek and William has a daughter named Odette. The two want their children to marry when they grow up so they can unite their two kingdoms forever. However, sorcerer Rothbart plans to take King William's kingdom for himself. William discovers his plans and Rothbart is banished. He swears revenge.
Derek and Odette hate each other as children but when they reach adulthood, they do fall in love. However, when Derek can't think of anything he loves Odette for besides her beauty, she rejects him, disappointed. On her way home, she and her father are ambushed by Rothbart, who transforms into a "Great Animal", kidnapping Odette and fatally injuring William. The dying William tells Derek about the Great Animal and Odette. The kingdom assumes that she is dead, but Derek is determined to find her.
Rothbart is keeping Odette captive at Swan Lake. To make her unable to leave, he has cast a powerful spell that turns Odette into a swan during the day. She can temporarily return to her true form at night if she stands on the lake when the moonlight touches it. Rothbart's goal is to marry Odette so he can rule the kingdom. During her captivity, she befriends a turtle named Speed, a French frog named Jean-Bob, and an Irish puffin named Lieutenant Puffin.
In the woods, Derek mistakes Odette for the Great Animal and tries to kill her. The ensuing chase leads him to Swan Lake, where he witnesses her reverting to a human. Odette tells Derek that to break the spell, he must make a vow of everlasting love. He invites her to the ball, hoping to declare to the world his love. Rothbart transforms his hag sidekick, Bridget, into a doppelgänger Odette to fool Derek into making his vow to the wrong woman, which will kill the real Odette. On the night of the ball, he imprisons Odette and Derek's friend Bromley.
Odette's animal friends free her and she flies to the castle to warn Derek, but she is too late; Derek has made the vow. Realizing his mistake, Derek follows Odette back to Swan Lake, where she dies in his arms. A heartbroken Derek battles Rothbart and with the help of Bromley and Odette's animal friends, kills him.
Derek confesses his love to Odette, realizing that it's the person Odette has become that he loves about her, and she comes back to life; the spell on her is broken by his love. Derek and Odette get married and they, along with his mother, Rogers, Bromley, King William's servants, and the animals move into Rothbart's castle.
- Michelle Nicastro as Princess Odette
- Liz Callaway as Princess Odette (singing voice)
- Adrian Zahiri as Young Princess Odette
- Howard McGillin as Prince Derek
- Adam Wylie as Young Prince Derek
- Jack Palance as Sir Rothbart
- Lex de Azevedo as Sir Rothbart (singing voice)
- John Cleese as Jean-Bob
- David Zippel as Jean-Bob (singing voice)
- Steven Wright as Lorenzo "Speed" Trudgealong
- Jonathan Hadary as Speed (singing voice)
- Steve Vinovich as Lieutenant/General Puffin
- Sandy Duncan as Queen Uberta
- James Arrington as Sir Chamberlain
- Davis Gaines as Sir Chamberlain (singing voice)
- Dakin Matthews as King William
- Mark Harelik as Lord Rogers
- Joel McKinnon Miller as Bromley
- Brian Nissen as the Narrator
- Tom Alan Robbins as a flute-playing musician
- Bess Hopper as Bridget
The chorus consists of Catte Adams, Stephen W. Amerson, Beth Andersen, Susan Boyd, Amick Byram, Randy Crenshaw, Michael Dees, Jim Haas, Debbie Hall, Angie Jaree, Bob Joyce, Jon Joyce, Kerry Katz, Tampa M. Lann, Rick Logan, Susan McBride, Bobbie Page, Sally Stevens, Susan Stevens-Logan, Gary Stockdale, Carmen Twillie, and Oren Waters
Having previously directed The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985) at Walt Disney Feature Animation in Burbank, California, Richard Rich was slated to co-direct Oliver & Company (1988) until he was fired by Disney feature animation president Peter Schneider. Following his departure from Disney, he subsequently formed his own studio, Rich Animation Studios with about 26 employees, in which most of his key employees came from Disney, including the company's marketing chief, Matt Mazer. Subsequently, Jared F. Brown from Living Scriptures, Inc. tapped Rich into producing half-hour animated videos based on the audio cassettes readings of the Book of Mormon.
Inspired by the success of Don Bluth's animated films as well as Disney's early-1990s animation renaissance, Rich decided to adapt the German folk tale version of Swan Lake. During production, the script went through twelve drafts over the course of two years. Rich would later attempt to sell his script to several Hollywood studios to no success. Later, Brown struck on the idea on merging Rich Animation Studios, Family Entertainment Network, and Cassette Duplicators Inc., a cassette-duplicating operation in West Valley City, Utah, into one production holding company called Nest Entertainment.
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. Most of the cel painting was done at Hanho Heung-Up in Seoul, South Korea. Overall, 275 animators and artists worked throughout the film's production.
The theme song "Far Longer than Forever" was written by de Azevedo and Zippel. In the film, the song was performed by vocalists Liz Callaway (as the singing voice of Princess Odette) and Howard McGillin (as the speaking and singing voice of Prince Derek). In the closing credits, a pop/R&B rendition of the song was performed by recording artists Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne. In the 1997 sequel Escape from Castle Mountain, Michelle Nicastro sings a reprise of the song.
Caryn James of The New York Times noted the "melody of 'Far Longer Than Forever' ... echoes the first five notes of 'Beauty and the Beast'." Animation historian Jerry Beck wrote in his book The Animated Movie Guide that the song had a theme of faith. The pop single was jointly released by Sony Wonder and Sony 550 Music. MusicHound Soundtracks: The Essential Album Guide to Film, Television and Stage Music called the "seemingly mandatory big ballad" "extremely annoying" due to "strik[ing] a totally different artistic note" in the context of the film's musical landscape. The 1995 edition of The Motion Picture Guide felt the "love theme" was deserving of the Golden Globe. John Hartl of The Seattle Times deemed the song "insistent", noting that audiences may "quickly get their fill" of the tune.
When The Swan Princess was nearing completion, New Line Cinema purchased the distribution rights in the United States, and Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International obtained the foreign distribution rights.
Turner Home Entertainment first released The Swan Princess on VHS and LaserDisc in the Turner Family Showcase collection on August 3, 1995, and sold over 2.5 million units. Outside the United States, Columbia TriStar Home Video released it on VHS. On March 30, 2004, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment released the film for the first time on DVD. The Special Edition DVD contains a few extras, including trailers, a read-along feature, a sing-along feature, and games. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment later re-released the DVD on August 18, 2009. It was also released as a double-feature DVD with its sequel The Swan Princess 3: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom. A Blu-ray version of the film was released on October 29, 2019, for its 25th anniversary.
The Swan Princess received favorable reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, writing "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". Caryn James of The New York Times noted the film's similarities to Beauty and the Beast (1991), writing it was "not quite as good or fresh, but it's delicious all the same, bound to amuse children and entertain their trapped parents, too."
Brian Lowry of Variety stated the film was "technically impressive but rather flat and languid storywise". James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film 2+1⁄2 stars of 4, writing that "much of The Swan Princess is trite and uninspired", 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". Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune gave the film two out of four stars, writing the film is a "casually drawn tale of a boring prince and princess tormented by a dull sorcerer. The songs are weak, and no relationship is developed between the principals." On Rotten Tomatoes, The Swan Princess has an approval rating of 50% based on 12 reviews and an average score of 5.4/10.
During its opening weekend, The Swan Princess opened in tenth place at the box office, earning $2.4 million. It eventually grossed $9.8 million against a $21 million budget, becoming a box office bomb, mostly due to struggling competition with several other family films and a 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.
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