The Swan Princess
The Swan Princess is a 1994 American animated musical fantasy film based on the ballet Swan Lake. Featuring the voice talents of Michelle Nicastro, Howard McGillin, Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright, Sandy Duncan, and Steve Vinovich, the film is directed by former Disney animation director, Richard Rich, with a music score by Lex de Azevedo. The film was distributed by New Line Cinema in the United States and by Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International outside the US. It was released theatrically on November 18, 1994, where it received mixed reviews from critics and gross of $9.8 million against a $21 million budget, becoming a huge financial disappointment, partly due to struggling competition with a re-release of The Lion King. The film would later become popular through home video releases and has since been followed by eight direct-to-video sequels and is the only film of the series to have a wide theatrical release.
The theme song "Far Longer than Forever" is performed by Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1995 for Best Original Song.
PlotKing William's chancellor, Sir Rothbart, plans to take King William's kingdom for himself by mastering a type of dark magic known as The Forbidden Arts. Before he can strike, Rothbart is arrested. Despite calls for his death, King William spares Rothbart's life and banishes him forever. A hateful Rothbart swears revenge on King William and tells him that he will one day get his power back and take everything William owns and loves, but is banished to the evil and dangerous Swan Lake, which he makes his home. King William and his friend, Queen Uberta, make their children, Odette and Derek, meet every summer, hoping that they will fall in love and marry, uniting their two kingdoms. When they meet for the first time, the royal children take an immediate dislike towards each other, but as the years pass they somehow reformed themselves and gradually fall in love.
However, Derek only expresses love for Odette's beauty and she and her father leave disappointed. On their journey home, they are ambushed by Rothbart, who is now a sorcerer and transforms into a "Great Animal" with his new powers, kidnapping Odette and fatally injuring William. Derek arrives on the scene and William tells him about the Great Animal, and that Odette is gone. After searching and finding no sign of Odette, the entire kingdom assumes that she is dead. Uberta encourages her son to find another princess, but Derek is determined to find Odette, believing that she is still alive. Derek and his best friend Bromley practice hunting every day in preparation to face the Great Animal, with help from Uberta's valet, Lord Rogers. Elsewhere, Rothbart is keeping Odette captive at Swan Lake. He has cast a powerful spell that turns Odette into a swan during the day. At night, she can become human temporarily if she is on the lake when the moonlight touches it. Every night, Rothbart asks Odette to marry him so he can rule William's kingdom legally, but she refuses, then the moonlight leaves the lake, and she turns back into a swan. During her captivity, she befriends a turtle named Speed, a French frog named JeanBob, who claims to be a prince, and an Irish puffin named Lieutenant Puffin.
Puffin and Odette fly together to find Derek. By chance, they stumble upon Derek in the woods as 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 tells Derek that to break the spell, he must make a vow of everlasting love and "prove it to the world". Derek invites Odette to the ball at the castle the following night, hoping to declare to the world of his love for her. Derek leaves just as Rothbart arrives and doesn't know the enchanter heard the whole conversation. Rothbart tells Odette that she will never make it to the ball, for there will be "no moon" on that night. Further, Rothbart transforms his cheerful hag sidekick, Bridget, into Odette, hoping to fool Derek to make his vow to the wrong woman, which will kill the real Odette. On the night of the ball, Rothbart imprisons Odette in the dungeon of his castle, along with Bromley, whom he had found in the woods the other night. Bridget, in the form of human Odette, arrives at the ball where she dances with Derek, who is unaware of her true identity.
At Swan Lake, Puffin, Speed, and JeanBob manage to free Odette from the dungeon through a duel with two hungry alligators and she flies to the castle, but is too late. Derek makes the vow to the wrong girl and Rothbart bursts in, revealing to Derek the fake's true form. Realizing his mistake, Derek races after Odette back to Swan Lake, where she finally transforms back into her human form. As Derek holds a dying Odette in his arms, she tells him she loves him before succumbing. A furious Derek confronts Rothbart, demanding he undo the spell. Rothbart transforms into the Great Animal, and a battle ensues with Rothbart overpowering Derek. Odette's animal friends return Derek's bow to him, and Bromley, who has also escaped the dungeon, provides Derek with a single arrow. Derek catches and fires the arrow into the Great Animal's heart, killing him.
A heart-broken Derek confesses his love to Odette, and she revives; the spell on her is broken. Derek and Odette get married and they, along with Rogers, Uberta, King William's servants, Bromley, and the animals move into Rothbart's former castle. Meanwhile, Bridget redeems herself and falls in love with Uberta's lackey, Sir Chamberlain, Puffin becomes the general of an army of swans, Odette kisses Jean-Bob who goes into convulsions but does not turn into a prince, and Odette and Derek live happily ever after.
ProductionHaving previously directed The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron at Walt Disney Feature Animation in Burbank, California, Richard Rich was slated to co-direct Oliver & Company until he was fired by Disney feature animation president Peter Schneider. Following his departure from Disney, he subsequently formed his own studio, Rich Animation Studios with about 26 employees, in which most of his key employees came from Disney, including the company's marketing chief, Matt Mazer. Subsequently, Jared F. Brown from Living Scriptures, Inc. tapped Rich into producing half-hour animated videos based on the audio cassettes readings of the Book of Mormon.
Inspired by the success of Don Bluth's animated films as well as Disney's early-1990s animation renaissance, Rich decided to adapt the German folk tale version of Swan Lake. During production, the script went through twelve drafts over the course of two years. Rich would later attempt to sell his script to several Hollywood studios to no success. Later, Brown struck on the idea on merging Rich Animation Studios, Family Entertainment Network, and Cassette Duplicators Inc., a cassette-duplicating operation in West Valley City, Utah, into one production holding company called Nest Entertainment.
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. Most of the cel painting was done at Hanho Heung-Up in Seoul, South Korea. Overall, 275 animators and artists worked throughout the film's production.
Musicwas approached by Richard Rich to compose songs for The Swan Princess, while the score was composed by Lex de Azevedo.
The theme song "Far Longer than Forever" was written by lyricists by de Azevedo and Zippel. In the 1994 animated film, the song was performed by vocalists Liz Callaway and Howard McGillin. In the closing credits, a pop/R&B rendition of the song was performed by recording artists Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne. Michelle Nicastro sings a reprise of the song in the 1997 sequel, Escape From Castle Mountain.
The New York Times wrote "The melody of 'Far Longer Than Forever'&... echoes the first five notes of Beauty and the Beast." Everything's Better With Bob deemed it the best song of the film due to being "void of all daft rhyming schemes that hit the rest of the songs in the film". The Animated Movie Guide noted that the song had a theme of faith. The "Far Longer Than Forever" commercial single was jointly released by Sony Wonder and Sony 550 Music. MusicHound Soundtracks: The Essential Album Guide to Film, Television and Stage Music called the "seemingly mandatory big ballad" "extremely annoying" due to "strik a totally different artistic note" in the context of the film's musical landscape. The Motion Picture Guide 1995 Annual: The Films of 1994 said the "love theme" was deserving of the Golden Globe. Star-News deemed the song "insistent", noting that audiences may "quickly get their fill" of the tune.
"Far Longer than Forever" was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1995 for Best Original Song.
ReleaseWhen The Swan Princess was nearing completion, New Line Cinema purchased the distribution rights in the United States, while Sony Pictures obtained the foreign distribution rights.
Marketingpartnered with Turner Home Entertainment for a marketing campaign to promote the film's home video release.
Home mediaTurner Home Entertainment first released The Swan Princess on VHS and LaserDisc in the Turner Family Showcase collection on August 3, 1995, and sold over 2.5 million units. Outside the United States, Columbia Tristar Home Video released it on VHS. On March 30, 2004, Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment released the film for the first time on DVD. The Special Edition DVD contains a few extras, including trailers, a read-along feature, a sing-along feature, and games. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment later rereleased the DVD on August 18, 2009. It was also released as a double-feature DVD with its sequel . A Blu-ray version of the film was released on October 29, 2019, along with a digital exclusive in 4K UHD HDR, for its 25th anniversary.
Critical responseof the Chicago Sun-Times 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 " terribly distinctive".
Brian Lowry of Variety said the film was "technically impressive but rather flat and languid storywise". James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film 2.5 stars of 4 writing that "much of The Swan Princess is trite and uninspired", 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". Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune gave the film two out of four stars writing the film is a "casually drawn tale of a boring prince and princess tormented by a dull sorcerer. The songs are weak, and no relationship is developed between the principals." On Rotten Tomatoes, The Swan Princess has an approval rating of 50%, based on 12 reviews, with an average score of 5.4/10.
Box officeThe Swan Princess received a theatrical release in the United States on November 18, 1994, and only made $2.4 million on its opening weekend. It eventually had a total domestic gross of $9.8 million against a $21 million budget, becoming a huge financial failure, mostly due to struggling competition with other movies release around the same time, including Stargate, Pulp Fiction, and a re-release of The Lion King.
Disney's reissuing of The Lion King just as this film was being released was seen as "sabotage" by Variety.