Facts to know:
- This is NOT a Disney film, but strangely enough Richard Rich (the director) left Disney during the 1980s, and he ended up creating his own company.
- The film was created by hand painting cells, which is time-consuming, and it took 4+ years to finalize this film; that shows major dedication.
- The U.S. theatrical release on November 18, 1994, of The Swan Princess became a huge financial disappointment, probably because Disney decided to re-release The Lion King at the same time in theaters. Even Variety was convinced this was completely scandalous.
Have you ever watched a fairy tale story and noticed that the Prince (or young lad) usually almost always falls for the young maiden/Princess due to her good looks? It seems to be a trend in the world of fairy tales. But have you ever seen the fair maiden question why he likes her? He, of course, responds with the fact that she is beautiful… Can you honestly say that this is considered real love?
The answer to that last question is “No”. Love is so much more than looks. In fact, if you ask me, beauty is only skin deep. A beautiful person can become ugly if their personality is unattractive. Like when someone is obsessed with their looks, it shows that this person is superficial.
Our two main characters had to figure this out the hard way. Princess Odette (Michelle Nicastro) and Prince Derek (Howard McGillin), at very young ages they became betrothed in a way (meaning: their parents set it up so that over the years they’d fall in love, hopefully). Their parents: Queen Umbra (Sandy Duncan) and King William (Dakin Mathews), wanted nothing more than to join their houses together. But, there’s always a villain standing in the way to victory. In this case – a dark enchanter named Rothbart (Jack Palance), whose idea of sweet revenge involves becoming ruler of King William’s land.
Years ago, Rothbart the Spell-Weaver (as he was known for using the Forbidden Arts) used his powers to overthrow King William (Princess Odette’s father) so that he’d become king. But he failed and was banished in exile. However, he vowed to return one day to get his revenge.
Years go by with visitations in the summertime to Queen Umbra’s castle (Prince Derek’s mother), but not a trace of fireworks between the two until they were around the age of eighteen or so. Her “ugly duckling” days a thing of the past, as well as his attitude towards her. Their relationship mostly consisted of teasing and foul horseplay from his end growing up – that is until she wised up and learned how to outsmart his ways.
There’s music and singing to signify their sudden love for each other – embracing in a kiss at the end of the song. Immediately Prince Derek announces that the wedding is on! Princess Odette questions his motives on the spot with everyone watching. When he says because she’s beautiful, she asks, ” Is beauty all that matters to you?” He looks to everyone around him for some sort of hint, and the only thing he can seem to conjure up is, “Well, what else is there?”. Wrong answer!
A solemn sigh is all she needs to exude her disappointment. Needless to say, the engagement was called off. King William and Princess Odette leave the castle in the carriage but are attacked on route home. Prince Derek catches word of what happens and upon his arrival, only a withered King William is left behind to inform him that “Odette is gone”, and mentions a “Great Animal” before his death.
No other news of Princess Odette from anyone or anywhere. As if she has vanished into thin air. But fear not! Taken to a secret castle residing atop a grand waterfall where a charming lake dwells, our dear Odette lives. But unfortunately, Rothbart has taken her prisoner to this castle.
A powerful curse he has placed upon Princess Odette causing her to take the form of an angelic swan with glistening wings during the daytime. However, when the moonlight shines on her while touching the lake, she transforms into her true form. Only one way to break her curse: the man she loves has to give her a true love’s kiss, AND has to prove a promise of everlasting love to her by showing it to the world. Geez leweez – give her a break already… All I can say is she’s lucky to have fallen in love prior to the curse, and that this guy happens to love her back. Most people under such a curse wouldn’t be so lucky.
Rothbart intends to be the one she falls in love with, so he visits her every evening after gaining human form. Each night she dismisses his proposal as well. In the mind of Rothbart, a marriage to Princess Odette would be a sure-fire way to become king. Meanwhile, back at the palace, Prince Derek trains day after day doing archery and swordplay, while also seeking answers from the palace’s vast library collection. After some time (whether it be days or weeks is unclear), Prince Derek reads that the “Great Animal” is an unlikely small animal that transforms into a large ferocious beast.
Beginning his hunt at once, Prince Derek sets out to kill this “great animal”. Ends up mistaking Odette’s swan form as his hunt. She right off the bat notices his chase to her, so she flees to her lake in hope that she can escape him there. Just seconds before he finds the opportune moment to shoot his arrow at her, she changes form miraculously before his eyes. The timing with the moon couldn’t have been more spot on not to mention.
Both reunite in complete bliss, that is until the voice of Rothbart calling her name repeatedly disrupts them. Odette rushes Derek off but not before telling him how to break her curse. He ponders for a second on how to show his love to her before the world. A ball his mother is planning for the next day would be the ideal moment. Dozens of people will be attending – perfect. Then she’d arrive, all dolled-up in human form, and he would make his proposal of everlasting love to her. Seems too good to be true…
Of course, it is! Rothbart overheard everything and points out the one flaw in their little plan. Tomorrow would have no moon (as in a new moon)! No moon = no human form = no proposal to Odette! Except Rothbard has got a trick up his sleeve. A fellow ally of his will disguise herself using magic as the beautiful Princess Odette. Then the prince will proclaim his love to the wrong person and cause Odette’s curse to last.
When the time comes, Princess Odette appears at the ball clad in a black dress with red accents compared to her usual white dress with turquoise accents. That should’ve been a red flag to the prince, but he paid it no mind. On he goes with the proposal, while the real Princess Odette (in swan form) watches mid-air from outside the palace windows.
By the time Prince Derek discovers this treachery, a heartbroken Odette is already on her way back to the lake castle. He makes haste to the hidden castle to retrieve his true love, the only problem is Rothbart is awaiting his arrival. Transforming into a fearsome flying dragon, Rothbard reveals himself to be the Great Animal! With a bit of luck, Rothbard was defeated and killed. The Prince’s training proved to be useful after all!
In an unfortunate turn of events, Princess Odette is seen dying at a rapid pace due to the hold on her from Rothbart’s curse. In a desperate attempt, Prince Derek makes his vow of everlasting love to her. Just when you think his words are enough to save her, Odette passes out. But what’s this? She’s alive! Better yet, she’s human! She managed to outlast the curse for it to be broken by her true love. Hip hip hooray!
Our royal pair gets hitched of course and the whole kingdom rejoices in their holy union. Even Odette’s woodland friends celebrate with her! One of these friends happens to be a frog named Yo-han (voiced by John Cleese) that believes himself to be a real prince under a curse. With Odette no longer cursed, she gives the frog a kiss on his head to break his curse. The thing is though, only his reflection shows his true form. Poor guy. Kinda makes sense if you think about it though, after all, she just married her true love. She couldn’t possibly have room in her heart for another – none the less a frog. On a side note, I find his somewhat French accent intriguing, considering the frog in Disney’s version of The Princess and The Frog has the same kind of accent. Coincidence – I think not!
Were it not for the Prince realizing that looks are not the most important thing when it comes to relationships, I don’t believe this story would’ve ended on a happy note. He remembered being outsmarted by her numerous times as kids – she’s got beauty and brains = the perfect package. Prince Derek could’ve had any girl at his ball (considering multiple princesses attended), but he decided to go with the one whom he has a real connection with. A connection only possible due to personality, hard work, respect, and trust – not looks. As you go on in life, if you decide to marry at all, make sure there’s something substantial in the mix, because good looks don’t last forever.