The Swan Princess Reviews
In the end, The Swan Princess is at least memorable enough to make up for it's cons.
The story of prince & princess forced into marriage and then the princess is cursed by the King's old enemy and turned into a swan.
Filled with a lot of humor (I guess you'd call it that) & the characters are fairly one dimensional. It's pretty fun & easy watching with lots of musical numbers will appeal largely to girls.
A day after having seen the Swan Lake ballet, I have to say that the filmmakers did a good job of creating a slightly fuller animation-friendly story than the original, with a very welcome contemporary dimension.
This is offered by a key moment at the beginning of the film when the princess, Odette, refuses to marry the prince, Derek, because he can't voice any other motive for his love than her looks. At the end, he finally comes out with talk of her kindness, generosity and so on, and comes across as much less of a douche (shame she's busy dying and probably doesn't hear him).
Many people compare this film with Disney animations, not in a flattering way for the most part, but I have to say that thanks to that underlying theme, it is far more moral than most Disneys I can think of, a majority not venturing off the beauty-alone-equals-love path too often.
Having said this, even though the storyline intention in the Swan Princess is admirable, in effect it reveals quite a few shortcuts. The prince and princess dislike each other during their entire childhood and teenage years, then suddenly, hitting adulthood and maturity, they fall madly in love within less than three minutes, and though the "coup de foudre" seems mutual, Odette requires an explanation from Derek (the prince) as to why they should marry. Then comes the unsatisfactory answer and applaudable reaction on her behalf, but I find the succession of event somewhat unrealistic. Either a "coup de foudre" is indeed taking place, and as an irrational feeling sprouting between two people it requires no justification, either you are showing a couple gradually falling in love in which case explanations may have more of a place.
Some other parts of the storyline aren't very believable, such as the fact no one would recognize the Odette double who appears at the end ball - it may have been have been a few years, but come on. Talking of years, how come Odette, Derek and his friend are the only characters to age? Just wondering...
To finish on the negatives, in terms of animation, this film does lack visual subtlety in terms of photography, colour palette or background detail, fields in which one must admit that Disney set the expectations very high.
Other than that, the actual animation is not bad at all - if it weren't for the oddly large hand here and there I'd actually say is was very good; the acting is so (and not only John Cleese) and despite what I have read elsewhere, I find the music excellent. The lyrics may not be anything to write home about, but then that is often the case, even with Disney, but the tunes are really nice.
The secondary characters and overall humour of the Swan Princess are another of its highlights, as well as the balance between that side of the storytelling and the drama which is actually quite poignant for an animated film, though not especially in a tear-jerking way.
I also find the multiple allegations concerning the production's "borrowing" of many themes or items from Disney completely unfounded and ill-informed - it's borrowing from the original ballet story to which it is surprisingly faithful in essence, so review your classics please, peer reviewers.
Overall, I'm glad to say that I can still enjoy this very much as an adult, which is always a good sign, but deep-down some frustration comes from the fact it had potential to be quite exceptional.
The story deserved a higher level of visual sophistication, leaning more towards the ballet in a similar way The Sleeping Beauty did - a blue feathery Rothbart, a grander and more daring style and a bit of Tcha´kovsky would have been welcome. As it stands though, it does the job well enough.