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
|Narrated by||Brian Nissen|
|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 mixed reviews from critics. The film was followed by five 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), The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale (2014), and The Swan Princess: Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today (2016). A seventh film is also in production.
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, by mastering a type of dark magic known as The Forbidden Arts. But before he can make his move, he is attacked by William's men. Although banished from the kingdom, Rothbart vows to get his revenge.
William and Uberta have Odette and Derek meet every summer, hoping 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) only for her beauty, she rejects him. Odette and William leave, but they are ambushed by Rothbart, who transforms into a "Great Animal", kidnaps Odette, and fatally injures William. Upon being tipped off by the arrival of King William's captain, 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 her son to find another princess. But Derek 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 powerful 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, but she refuses. During her captivity, she befriends a turtle named Speed (Steven Wright), a French frog named Jean-Bob (John Cleese), who dreams of being human, and an Irish puffin (Steve Vinovich).
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. Derek mistakes Odette for the Great Animal, (Derek having deduced that the creature is a shapeshifter), 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 tells Derek that the spell can only be broken by a vow of everlasting love. Derek invites Odette to his mother's ball the following night, hoping to declare 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. Furthermore, because there is a new moon on the night of the ball, Odette remains a swan that night.
Fearing that Derek's vow would ruin his plans, Rothbart sends Bridget, his hag sidekick, to the ball disguised as Odette. Odette's friends manage to 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 of everlasting love to the wrong girl. Upon realizing his mistake, Derek races after Odette back to Swan Lake, where Odette transforms back into a princess. Odette dies in Derek's arms, but not before telling him that she loves him. A furious Derek confronts Rothbart, ordering him to revive Odette. Rothbart transforms into the Great Animal. A battle ensues with Rothbart overpowering Derek. Odette's animal friends return Derek's bow to him, and Bromley, who has escaped the dungeon, provides Derek with a single arrow. Derek catches and fires the arrow into the Great Animal's heart, destroying him.
Derek confesses to Odette that he loves her for her kindness and courage, and Odette returns to life; the spell on her is broken. The two are married and they moved into Rothbart's former castle, and they lived happily ever after.
- Michelle Nicastro as Odette
- Howard McGillin as Derek
- Sandy Duncan as Queen Uberta
- Jack Palance as Rothbart
- John Cleese as Jean-Bob
- David Zippel as Jean-Bob (singing voice)
- Steven Wright as Speed
- Jonathan Hadary as Speed (singing voice)
- Steve Vinovich as Puffin
- Dakin Matthews as King William
- Mark Harelik as Lord Rogers
- Joel McKinnon Miller as Bromley
- Wes Brewer as Bromley (singing voice)
- James Arrington as Chamberlain
- Davis Gaines as Chamberlain (singing voice)
- Brian Nissen as the Narrator
Richard Rich was one of several animators to leave Disney during the 1980s, 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.
It is sung within the context of the film as a love song and again performed over the credits as an rnb ballad by Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne. In the 1994 animated 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 popular rendition of the song was performed by renowned R&B recording artists, Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne. Michelle Nicastro sings a reprise of the song in the 1997 sequel: Escape From Castle Mountain.
The lyrics of the song revolve around the incredible bond between two lovers who, although they are far apart, have faith that their love would eventually draw them together once again. In the film version, Princess Odette and Prince Derek are pledging their love for each other, despite the fact that distance and circumstances separate them. However, they truly believe that their love shared could overcome any barrier.
The New York Times wrote "The melody of 'Far Longer Than Forever'...echoes the first five notes of 'Beauty and the Beast.'"  Everything's Better With Bob deemed it the best song of the film due to being "void of all daft rhyming schemes that hit the rest of the songs in the film". The Animated Movie Guide said the song had a theme of faith. This commercial 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" as "extremely annoying" due to "strik[ing] a totally different artistic note" in the contect of the film's musical landscape. The Motion Picture Guide 1995 Annual: The Films of 1994 said the "love theme" was deserving of the Golden Globe. Star-News deemed the song "insistent" noting that audiences may "quickly get [their] fill" of the tune
- 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, becoming a huge box office bomb due to struggling competition with Star Trek Generations, Interview with the Vampire, 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.
Roger Ebert gave the film 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".
Brian Lowry of Variety 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".
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