The Swan Princess

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The Swan Princess
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Rich
Screenplay byBrian Nissen
Story by
  • Richard Rich
  • Brian Nissen
Based onSwan Lake
by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Produced by
  • Richard Rich
  • Jared F. Brown
Edited by
  • Armetta Jackson-Hamlett
  • James Koford
Music byLex de Azevedo
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 18, 1994 (1994-11-18)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$21 million[2]
Box office$9.8 million[3]

The Swan Princess is a 1994 American animated musical fantasy film[1] 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.[4][5]

The theme song "Far Longer than Forever" is performed by Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1995 for Best Original Song.[6]


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.

Voice cast

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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[9]

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.[11][12] 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.[10]


David Zippel was approached by Richard Rich to write the lyrics to songs for The Swan Princess,[13] while the songs and score were composed by Lex de Azevedo.

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.[14]

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'."[15] Animation historian Jerry Beck wrote in his book The Animated Movie Guide that the song had a theme of faith.[16] The pop single was jointly released by Sony Wonder and Sony 550 Music.[17] 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.[18] The 1995 edition of The Motion Picture Guide felt the "love theme" was deserving of the Golden Globe.[19] John Hartl of The Seattle Times deemed the song "insistent", noting that audiences may "quickly get their fill" of the tune.[20]

"Far Longer than Forever" was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1995 for Best Original Song.[21]


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.[10]


Pillsbury partnered with Turner Home Entertainment for a marketing campaign to promote the film's home video release.[22][23][24]

Home media

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.[4] 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.[25]


Critical response

The Swan Princess received favorable reviews.[26] 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."[27] 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".[28] 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."[15]

Brian Lowry of Variety stated the film was "technically impressive but rather flat and languid storywise".[29] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film 2+12 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".[11] 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."[30] On Rotten Tomatoes, The Swan Princess has an approval rating of 50% based on 12 reviews and an average score of 5.4/10.[31]

Box office

During its opening weekend, The Swan Princess opened in tenth place at the box office, earning $2.4 million.[32] 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.[26][2]

Disney's reissuing of The Lion King just as this film was being released was seen as "sabotage" by Variety.[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "The Swan Princess (1994)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  2. ^ a b McNary, Dave (April 3, 1995). "Walt Disney Co., in a bid to continue its..." United Press International. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Swan Princess (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Villa, Joan (June 23, 1997). "Swan sequel to have limited theatrical release". Video Business. Reed Business Information. 17 (26): 4.
  5. ^ "About Swan Princess". The Swan Princess August 2016. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  6. ^ "Far Longer than Forever | Golden Globes". Golden Globe Awards. Archived from the original on October 19, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  7. ^ Hahn, Don (2009). Waking Sleeping Beauty (Documentary film). Burbank, California: Stone Circle Pictures/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
  8. ^ Citron, Rich (December 21, 1993). "Rich Hopes to Strike It in Animation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Porter, Donald (November 19, 1994). "Richard Rich". Standard-Examiner. Retrieved February 6, 2018 – via Blogger.
  10. ^ a b c Hicks, Chris (November 18, 1994). "The Swan Princess". Deseret News. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Berardinelli, James. "Review: The Swan Princess". Reel Views. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  12. ^ Green, Stanley (1999). Hollywood Musicals Year by Year. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 9780634007651. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  13. ^ Longsdorf, Amy (December 17, 1994). "Lyricist David Zippel Helping To Put The Tune In Cartoons". The Morning Call. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  14. ^ Grant, Edmond (1998). The Motion Picture Guide, 1998 Annual. Cinebooks. ISBN 978-0-933-99741-7.
  15. ^ a b James, Caryn (November 18, 1994). "Movie Review: Sexism and Rothbart As Obstacles to Love". The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  16. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 271. ISBN 978-1-569-76222-6.
  17. ^ McCormick, Moira (November 26, 1994). "Child's Play". Billboard. Vol. 106, no. 48. p. 99. ISSN 0006-2510 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Deutsch, Didier C. (1999). MusicHound Soundtracks: The Essential Album Guide to Film, Television and Stage Music. Schirmer Trade Books. p. 575. ISBN 978-0-825-67257-6 – via Internet Archive.
  19. ^ Pallot, James (1994). The Motion Picture Guide 1995 Annual. Cinebook. p. 348. ISBN 978-0933997356 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ Hartl, John (July 28, 1995). "August to see plenty of one-week wonders". Seattle Times. Star-News. p. 3D – via Google News Archive.
  21. ^ "Film, TV Nominees for the Golden Globes". Chicago Tribune. December 23, 1994. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  22. ^ Fitzpatrick, Eileen (May 20, 1995). "Timing Key for Pillsbury 'Swan Princess' Tie-In". Billboard. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  23. ^ "Infinite ad a Real Billboard". Advertising Age. May 3, 1995. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  24. ^ "Pillsbury Dough Boy "The movie's about to start!" Advert". Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved May 25, 2020 – via YouTube.
  25. ^ "The Swan Princess Announced for Blu-ray (and Digital 4K HDR)". June 10, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  26. ^ a b Bates, James (November 22, 1994). "'Swan' Sticks Its Neck Out but Still Gets the Ax". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  27. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 18, 1994). "The Swan Princess Movie Review (1994)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 16, 2014 – via
  28. ^ Hinson, Hal (November 19, 1994). "'The Swan Princess' (G)". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  29. ^ a b Lowry, Brian (November 20, 1994). "The Swan Princess". Variety. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  30. ^ Siskel, Gene (November 18, 1994). "'Last Seduction' Proves Dahl Is Very Good At Going Bad". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  31. ^ "The Swan Princess". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  32. ^ Welkos, Richard. "Weekend Box Office: Appealing to All 'Generations'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.

External links