The Swan Princess
The Swan Princess is another movie that I mildly enjoyed as a kid. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it, I think my mom did though. But re-watching this, I still don’t hate it but I really don’t like it as it has a lot of issues in addition to it ripping off that sweet Disney formula.
It was released in 1994 by Nest. It was very loosely based on Swan Lake and tanked at the box office because Disney is a jerk and re-released The Lion King.
Odette Transforming into a Swan
The plot is thus, Princess Odette and Prince Derek have a sort of understanding that that they should marry to unite their kingdoms but instead of just arranging a marriage outright their parents try to get them to fall in love by having them spend their summers together. Eventually they grown up and Derek’s hormones kick in and wants to marry Odette because she is pretty but when asked if that’s all that matter, Derek derps and Odette peaces out.
As Odette and father ride home they are attacked by Rothbart who wants Odette’s kingdom. Derek finds Odette’s dying dad who gives Derek some vaugeness about their attacker and tells him that Odette is gone.
Rothbart who has been working on this grand scheme to get Odette’s kingdom for a while now has turned her into swan. She can only turned back into a human when the moonlight touches her on the lake. To break the spell, she either has to agree to marry Rothbart so they can legally rule the kingdom or her true love has to make a vow of everlasting love and prove it to the world. I can’t tell you how lame this is but moving on.
Odette now has some pond pals, Speed, a kind turtle and egomaniac frog named Jean-Bob. A puffin named Puffin (so fucking clever) also joins them too. They try to help Odette to break her spell by getting Derek to follow her and Puffin back to the lake, so Rothbart’s lair was like 10 miles away from Derek’s castle at max? Not so far apart after all. In fact closer than her Kingdom.
Anywho, Derek and Odette somehow love each other deeply even after she left him for being an idiot. So Odette gives Derek the low-down and they plan to break the spell by having him make the vow at a ball his mother is planning. Rothbart shows up to asks Odette to marry him as is his nightly custom and she agrees so she can go to the ball but Rothbart heard their plan and tells her there is no moon the next night so she can’t even sneak off as a human but he locks her up for good measure.
Rothbart decides that he done playing “nice,” kidnapping and murder are apparently nice, and decides that his servant will go to ball as Odette so Derek will make the vow to the wrong girl and Odette will die, kinds works agaist his plans but then again if he could just turn his severant into Odette why did he need Odette to marry him in the first place?
Rothbart’s plan goes off without a hitch except Odette escapes but she can’t do anything as she watches Derek makes the vow to the fake Odette. Derek follows her back to the lake as she’s dying and Derek challenges Rothbart so Odette can live. Derek defeats Rothbart who transforms into the great animal that was a major plot point that I didn’t really mention. Derek learns that he loves Odette for her kindness and courage and she lives, they marry and Jean-Bob is still a frog … he thought he was a prince.
Odette and Rothbart
Saying this movie is clunky is understatement, this movie is full of characters that have no logic. Rothbart’s plan is to marry Odette so he can have her kingdom despite that he killed her father and has her captive, have you ever heard of the right of conquest because he is pretty much there.
Also Rothbart’s plan of forcing her marring to him by turning her into a swan by day is silly. Literally, all she really has to do is agree to marry him and then arrest him when they got to her kingdom as she is the sole heir, I think her people and guards will listen to her over him. But No, she has to be defiant and declare she would rather die than marry him.
Then we have the vow. Derek makes a vow of love to Odette but because she wasn’t standing there it is voided? I mean he said her name to fuck sake. This spell is so stupid or it was written by strict contract lawyers. Why doe she have to be there for the vow to work? Could Derek have written a letter to every ruler in the world that says he loves Odette? I mean written contracts are better than verbal ones or does she be there as he writes it? The spell is so weird and demanding.
How long had Odette been at Rothbart’s lair? Also why did Rothbart gives Odette free run of the place? Where was he during the day? Why was the moon full and then the next day it’s it like a new moon, not kidding literally a day passes between the full moon and new moon. Oh this hurts.
Derek and Odette as Kids
Let’s get back on track because in addition to the lack logic that is pervasive to the characters there are more problems like the characters are boring but the movie operates on the assumption that they are not boring especially where our lovely Princess is concerned.
This movie builds up Odette’s and Derek’s personality as bitter children who are forced to hang out together. In the song This is my Idea, we see Derek and Odette evolving as characters from little kids to adolescents. It’s nice to see that they don’t like each other but you get the sense they do like each other in some ways but that all comes crashing down when they have to be pretty and in love.
Seriously, despite the hints that they could like each, the love and wanting to marry each other comes out of no where but that is not the problem. After they enter the realm of pretty “adults” the become devoid of the personalities that song was trying to establish. So when Odette asks what else Derek likes about her and he can’t site anything because it doesn’t matter. We know that she was at least clever and decent aim with a slingshot but after that point Odette never displays any personality traits she had in the song.
To be frank, at each interval in the song, Odette has a different personality. When she is a little kid she a polite yet rough little girl, then she is awkward tomboy to a flirty clever dare I say even vindictive teenager. I can’t truly blame Derek for not knowing what else is there to her it since it ever changing and then gone.
Odette with Speedy and Jean-Bob
I’ll get to more on Odette proper in a second but let’s talk about the other characters. Derek is he’s like… You know! How about… And then… Am I right? Seriously though, he’s a boring hero. He is also cocky and a good marksmen but not very smart when it comes to the ladies. Rothbart is supposed to be smart and evil but we already proven that he’s not. The pond pals are boring though I enjoy Jean-Bob’s selfish antics, it’s a nice counterpoint to Speed who is nice but I admit the pond pals parts are boring. Derek’s mother and best friend are weird and amusing at points but Rogers is the most likable character and wholly unimportant to the narrative though he did suggest that BS arrow maneuver but some other character could have done that.
And then we come to Odette. Odette would like you to believe that there is more her than being pretty. At the end of the flick Derek says that he loves her for her kindness and courage.
Odette does exhibits some kindness as she saves Jean-Bob from the crocodiles, takes an arrow out Puffin’s wings and tried to help Derek’s friend escape from Rothbart. Basically she isn’t dick, not sure if this equals kindness, I mean she’s not a mean. Is the absence of meanness kindness? Also her courage is in her own self interest. Odette doesn’t really go out of her way her way to be kind or helpful to others.
Its Derek’s arc really, he needed to learn how to articulate his thoughts about his supposed true love. “I love you baby for your vague positive attributes.” Kindness and courage are good starting places for a character but Odette hardly showcases these attributes, she’s just bland and pretty.
Derek and Odette
As far as the songs go, they are okay at best. Most are meh. I would like Far Longer than Forever if I believed in the depth of their romance. Hands down the best is This is my idea, The rest are meh and forgettable. Though I remembered Princesses on Parade for the sexist connotations.
The animation is nice for the most part. Though it’s kind jarring with the hyper-ness versus the soft and sweet moments, but hell it could been worse, it could have been so much worse.
Derek and Odette
The thing is this movie actually has some good set-ups and pays off, like that thing with bow and arrow is set-up and there is a pay off. The movie probably would have been stronger if they had either had Odette and Derek love grow more organically OR follow the ballet where we see them meet and develop their relationship that’s from point of romantic interest.
It’s admirable that the film tried to have them start as bitter kids but since the gradation of affection is jarring and that they love each other in a second it’s not strong. Since the film centers on their romance having that fail means the movie fails as whole.
The Swan Princess is a clunky yet pretty mess of a film that tries its damndest to suggest that these are well-thought out characters in a compelling story but it fails to do this and in then end what else is there but its beauty.
And yes, it does annoy me that they antagonist crocodiles don’t talk.