Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why The Swan Princess is Amazing!

The other day, I spotted The Swan Princess at my local library. I grew up with this movie (I would watch it all of the time!) but I hadn't seen it in at least 3-4 years, so my husband and I ended up watching it on Halloween. Honestly, I had forgotten how much I love this movie. This 90s animated movie is considered a failure by many people because of its cliches, bad puns, song and dialogue failures, and because many people think there are far more superior movies. In fact, word is that John Cleese was offered a role in The Lion King, but declined and instead chose the role of Jean-Bob in this movie, because he thought it would do better-and I'm guessing that he regretted his decision later on! Nevertheless, I love this movie for the childhood nostalgia that it brings and for so many great elements. So, for all of you who love, hate, or haven't seen the movie, I want to share with you why I think The Swan Princess is amazing! 

It's a sweet fairy tale story with some adorable parent-child relationships. I am not too familiar with Swan Lake, from which the inspiration for this movie comes, but I've read that this movie definitely veers off from the Swan Lake plotline in many places. This isn't too strange; I mean, Disney movies do this all the time! 
"Once upon a time, there was a king named William who ruled a large and mighty kingdom. And yet, he was sad, for he was growing old and had no child to inherit the throne."
So the narrator begins the movie, and we get our first glimpses at William, and his joy when Princess Odette is born. Unfortunately, Odette's mom is completely absent (we don't hear her mentioned once, but we know she has to exist at some point, because Odette had to come out of someone's womb!), but we do see a sweet relationship between Odette and her father develop. As the story goes, you have Princess Odette and Prince Derek thrown together each summer so that they can fall in love, which is what their parents want. Do they want to fall in love? Nope! And so the fun of the story begins. There's a villain, a spell that turns Odette into a swan by night, and a cast of fantastic animal characters. I love to see the interactions between King William and Odette, and the banter & eye-rolling between Derek and Queen Uberta. King William tenderly loves his daughter, and Queen Uberta, a former puff-puff girl (whatever that is!) is an over-the-top, meddling mother who dearly loves her son. It's quite entertaining and a bit cute. 

Odette and Derek have a great love-hate relationship. 
One argument that many people have is that Odette and Derek seem to go from hating each other one minute to being head-over-heels in love the next. I beg to differ, though. As you watch the musical sequence where they grow up together, you see a love-hate friendship start to develop. Yes, they fight and chase each other with sticks, but you also see them play cards and banter back and forth. When they do fall in love later on (in another musical sequence, of course), I feel like a large part of that happens because they already have an established relationship.  
Such a great introduction between Derek and Odette! 
King William shows us mercy in his rule. Towards the beginning, the evil enchanter, Rothbart, is captured by the king's guards. Some people call for Rothbart's death, but King William displays mercy. Instead of killing Rothbart (which would have been perfectly legal), he lets the man live and banishes him instead. While I question the king's judgment on banishing the villain and not imprisoning him for life or something, I applaud the merciful judgement call that William makes. 

Odette won't settle for anything less than true love. In perhaps one of the most famous scenes of the movie, Derek announces that he and Odette will marry. Her response? Wait. She stops Derek so that she can listen to him explain why he loves her. When Derek fails to meet Odette's standards, she turns away and leaves.  

The villain is interesting. Sometimes, you have villains who are fairly two-dimensional. They want something that they don't have, they employ force, and they get what they want. Not so with Rothbart. Sure, he pulls out the typical villainous actions with his use of the dark arts, but will he forcefully conquer the kingdom? Nope, because then he would spend his whole life fighting to keep it. Instead, he wants to acquire the kingdom to legally rule as his own instead. I find this a pretty fun take on the villain character, and I love the antics of Rothbart's partner-in-crime, the hag who doesn't speak. 

The parents allow their children free will. Okay, so they are a bit forceful in the whole "hang out with each other all summer, every summer" gig, but King William and Queen Uberta aren't going to force their children to marry. 
They respect the free choice of their children, and when Odette does not want to marry Derek, although the parents are disappointed and don't like this decision, they don't force them into marriage.

We really learn that appearances can be deceiving. The whole theme that "It's not what it seems" steadily runs throughout this movie. Characters say it over and over again, we see it in the physical changes of Odette into a swan, we observe it in the villain, and we even see it in the lavish ball that Uberta throws! 
The very lavish ball. I always loved this scene when I was young,
because it is so over-the-top and outrageous! 
Yes, this is a very blatant lesson, but still a good one to talk about in a princess movie. Appearances aren't everything, and things aren't always as they seem. I particularly love how this idea comes into play with Bromley, the prince's friend and complete klutz. Bromley is super clumsy and not good at anything, yet he has a moment where he really shines, and the story depends on him stepping up and surprising us with his awesomeness. 

The animal sidekicks are super fun. 

You've got a turtle, Mr. Lorenzo Trudgealong (ha! Get it? Trudge-along? Like I said, this movie is chock-full of bad puns) whose nickname is Speed. There's Lieutenant Puffin, a bird that lands in their laps and runs life like an army regiment. And, my personal favorite, Jean-Bob the frog, who fully believes that he is a prince. His complete arrogance is quite hilarious, and I love the banter that these three animals exchange. 
Jean-Bob is also a bit sarcastic. When told that Speed will rush
to help him, Jean-Bob replies, "Yes, Mr. Molasses will rush to help. Suddenly,
I'm full of comfort." 
There are some wonderful quotations. I know that some people take issue with the bad puns (for example, "this masquerade is more than I can bear!" sung by the man in the bear costume), but there are some moments of dialogue that are complete gems. For example, Prince Derek's councilor, Lord Rogers, reprimands him for his failure with Odette. 
Rogers observes, "You should write a book! How to offend women in five syllables or less!" 
Or how about the wonderful threat that Jean-Bob makes? 
 "If anything happens to her, I'll have you whipped, flogged, put on the rack and then have your back legs fried in butter!" 

Derek displays unfailing hope. Even when the whole kingdom believes that Odette is dead, even when his mother is lining up women for him to consider marrying, he holds onto the hope that Odette is alive, and he actively prepares to rescue her.

This movie also does a great job at reminding us that in the end, it's all about taxes and the economy.
"Someday these two will marry, two lands will be united! And with some luck their marriage may result in lower taxes!" 
So sing the villagers as they hope and dream about Derek and Odette marrying. I really like how this movie gives us a little glimpse into the life of commoners, and reminds us that while life could be a big fairy tale for the royalty in these stories, it often was not the same way for the peasants and workers. 

Derek sees that he failed to love Odette, and he strives to love her better. Derek spoke some pretty pathetic words to Odette, but as the adage says, "actions speak louder than words." Since Derek can't take back his moment of utter stupidity, he decides to devote large amounts of time training and doing research so that he can find Odette and kill the monster who captured her. I love how he rises to change himself after she shows him how incomplete his idea of love is! 
And yes, I also love how he plays chess. 
Odette lets her love come rescue her, but she is no ordinary Damsel in Distress. 
When Odette is first captured, she cries and sees how desperately horrible her situation is. But then, as she grows in friendship with the local animals, she comes to realize that she can't sit around forever and expect Derek to find her. The "damsel in distress" image may fit Odette at first, but she sees that this lifestyle just won't work, so she throws aside her fears and charges onward to help Derek! 

Finally, I must point out that The Swan Princess is one princess movie that actually shows a wedding between the man and woman. It drives me crazy when so many princess movies end with the couple madly in love and planning to get married, but we never actually see them commit and get married. This movie is different. While we don't see the actual ceremony, we do see them exit the church and talk together at their wedding reception. 

Feel free to disagree with me or hate the movie, because everyone is entitled to his or her opinion! Plus, if you don't like it, then it means that the library's copy will probably always be there for me to check out, right? ;) KIDDING! Feel free to enjoy this movie as much as I do. Walk around and sing the cheesy songs all day, doodle pictures of Odette in your notebook, and have a new appreciation for swans. It's a fun movie, and I hope you enjoyed hearing about why I think it's pretty amazing! 

There are some people out there who quite passionately dive into analysis of The Swan Princess, and I found a very interesting, very thorough article where a person compares and contrasts The Swan Princess with another popular princess movie: Sleeping Beauty. Check that out here if you're interested! 

Also, I want to remind y'all that TODAY is the last day to enter the drawing for the Weeping Angel doll (for yourself or the favorite geek in your life). It ends at MIDNIGHT tonight, so if you want to enter, head on over here! 


  1. I always sort of hesitate to watch non-Disney animated movies, I have this perception that they'll be lacking in that magical feel, but if I can find this one I'm going to give it a try! It seems pretty fun, and I don't mind bad puns :). The lavish ball scene looks lovely! (Though I'm sure St. Francis de Sales would disagree, haha) :).

    1. HAHA! You are so right, St. Francis de Sales is probably rolling his eyes and moaning & groaning while in Heaven at this movie! Except that Heaven is a place of sheer joy. So maybe not. But he'd probably completely disapprove, nonetheless :P

      Your perception kinda makes sense to me. I mean, Disney does such a good job with the magical, special feel in their movies, & plenty of animated movies (especially those super cheap knock-off fairy tale movies) don't carry that same magic. I think this movie really gets it in the swan transformation scene especially, but you'll just have to watch it and see for yourself! (oh, and as a warning, the songs will probably get stuck in your head. In fact, after reading this post, one of my friends declared that she's going to re-listen to all off the music from this movie now haha)