The Swan Princess is a 1994 American animated musical fantasy film based on the ballet "Swan Lake". Starring the voice talents of Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright, and Sandy Duncan, the film is directed by a former Disney animation director, Richard Rich, with a music score by Lex de Azevedo. It was released theatrically on November 18, 1994 where it received mixed reviews from critics. The film was followed by four direct-to-video sequels: The Swan Princess: Escape from Castle Mountain (1997), The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Treasure (1998), The Swan Princess Christmas (2012), and The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale (2014).
King William, widowed father of newborn Princess Odette, and Queen Uberta, widowed mother of young Prince Derek, decide to betroth their children in the hopes of uniting their kingdoms. Rothbart is an evil sorcerer who wishes to take William's kingdom for himself, but before he can make his move, he is attacked by William's men. Although banished from the kingdom, Rothbart vows to return to get his revenge.
William and Uberta have Odette and Derek meet every summer in the hopes that they'll fall in love. As children this fails miserably, but when the years pass and the two reach adulthood, they do fall in love. Derek declares that the wedding preparations begins, but when he expresses his wish to marry Odette only for her beauty, she rejects him. Odette and William leave, but they are ambushed by Rothbart, who transforms into a "Great Animal", kidnaps Odette, and fatally injures William. Upon being tipped off by the arrival of King William's captain, Derek arrives on the scene, where William tells him with his dying breath that they were attacked by a "Great Animal," and that Odette is "gone." Believing that Odette is dead, Uberta encourages Derek to find another princess, but he is determined to find Odette, believing that she can still be alive. He and his best friend Bromley practice hunting every day in preparation for facing the Great Animal.
Elsewhere, Rothbart is keeping Odette at his castle lair at Swan Lake. He has cast a spell that turns Odette into a swan during the day, and she is able to temporarily turn human at night if she is on the lake under moonlight. Every night Rothbart asks Odette to marry him so he can rule William's kingdom, but she refuses. During her captivity, she befriends a turtle named Speed, a French frog named Jean-Bob, who dreams of being human and thinks he's a prince, and Puffin, an Irish puffin.
After obtaining a map from Rothbart's castle while avoiding his hag sidekick Bridget, Puffin and Odette, in her swan form, fly together to find Derek. By chance they stumble upon Derek in the woods, for he is searching for the Great Animal. Derek mistakes Odette for the Great Animal and tries to kill her. The ensuing chase leads Derek to Swan Lake, where he witnesses Odette's change from swan to human when the moon rises. The two share a loving reunion, and Odette explains that the spell can only be broken by a vow of everlasting love. Derek invites Odette to his mother's ball the following night, hoping to declare to the world of his love for her. Derek leaves just as Rothbart arrives. The enchanter has heard the whole conversation and imprisons Odette as a swan in the castle dungeon, along with Bromley whom he had found in the woods. Furthermore, because there is a new moon on the night of the ball, Odette remains a swan that night.
Fearing that Derek's vow would ruin his plans, Rothbart sends Bridget to the ball disguised as Odette. Odette's friends free her from the dungeon and she flies to Uberta's castle, but she is unable to warn Derek in time. Derek makes the vow of everlasting love to the wrong girl, which causes the spell to start killing Odette. Upon realizing his mistake, Derek races after Odette back to Swan Lake, where Odette transforms back into a princess just before she dies in Derek's arms. A furious Derek confronts Rothbart, ordering him to revive Odette. Rothbart transforms into the Great Animal. A battle ensues with Rothbart overpowering Derek. Odette's animal friends return Derek's bow to him, and Bromley, who has escaped the dungeon, provides Derek with a single arrow. Derek catches and fires the arrow into Rothbart's heart, destoying him.
Derek confesses to Odette that he loves her for her kindness and courage, and Odette returns to life, the spell on her broken. The two are married and live happily ever after, while Bridget switches sides and falls in love with Chamberlain.
- Michelle Nicastro as Odette
- Howard McGillin as Derek
- Sandy Duncan as Queen Uberta
- Jack Palance as Rothbart
- John Cleese as Jean-Bob
- David Zippel as Jean-Bob (singing voice)
- Steven Wright as Speed
- Jonathan Hadary as Speed (singing voice)
- Steve Vinovich as Puffin
- Dakin Matthews as King William
- Mark Harelik as Lord Rogers
- Joel McKinnon Miller as Bromley
- Wes Brewer as Bromley (singing voice)
- James Arrington as Chamberlain
- Davis Gaines as Chamberlain (singing voice)
- Brian Nissen as the Narrator
Richard Rich was one of several animators to leave Disney during the 1980s, and he subsequently formed his own company. 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.
Pilsbury partnered with Turner Home Entertainment for a marketing campaign, to create a product costing $24.98. The campaign had a 20 million dollar budget, despite the movie having only made 10 million when it was announced.
- Main article: The Swan Princess (soundtrack)
- This Is My Idea
- Practice, Practice, Practice
- Far Longer than Forever
- No Fear
- No More Mr. Nice Guy
- No Fear (Reprise) (featured only in the film; not in the soundtrack)
- Princesses on Parade
- Far Longer than Forever (End Titles) - Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne
- Eternity (End Titles) - Dreams Come True
The Swan Princess received U.S. theatrical release on November 18, 1994, and only made $2,445,155 on its opening weekend. It eventually had a total domestic gross of $9,771,658, becoming one of the biggest box office bombs in history, due to struggling competition with Star Trek Generations, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, The Santa Clause, Léon: The Professional, Stargate, Pulp Fiction, Miracle on 34th Street, and the re-release of The Rescuers Down Under.
Disney's reissuing of The Rescuers Down Under just as this film was being released was seen as "sabotage" by Variety.
The Swan Princess was originally released on home video on August 1, 1995 by Turner Home Entertainment, and sold over 2.5 million units. In certain European countries, the full The Swan Princess trilogy was released in a 2-disc double-sided set on February 16, 2004. On March 30, 2004 the film was re-released to mark its 10-year anniversary, with a new cover for the video and Special Edition DVD. The Special Edition DVD contains a few extras, including trailers, a read-along feature, a sing-along feature and games. On August 2, 2005, The Swan Princess was released as a double-feature DVD with its sequel The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom. In the US the film along with its sequels is only available in FullScreen, as opposed to the European releases where the film is preserved in its original 1.85:1 Widescreen aspect ratio.
Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, saying "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." 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".
Brian Lowry of Variety mostly panned the film, by calling it "technically impressive but rather flat and languid storywise", and James Berardinelli of ReelViews said "much of The Swan Princess is trite and uninspired" in his 2.5/4 star review, 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".