Saturday, 8 May 2010

Looking Back: The Swan Princess

Nostalgic viewing never hurt anybody, did it? The Swan Princess, one of my most memorable animated romances from my childhood, was dug up on VHS a few days ago.

Hardly straying from the ever-popular story of everlasting love, Prince Derek and Princess Odette have been visiting each other every Summer ever since they were babies, unaware of their parents' hopeful plans that the pair fall in love and marry once of age. Sadly, evil sorcerer Lord Rothbart wishes for King William's (Odette's father) kingdom. Therefore, one stormy night, Rothbart transforms himself into an unspeakable evil, terrorizing and murdering King William and his men and kidnapping Odette. Keeping her hostage, he places a spell under the Princess, changing her into a graceful swan until the moon rises when she is transformed back, but kept under the watchful eye of Rothbart. Will Derek save his damsel in distress?

Amidst the countless Disney fairytales, The Swan Princess didn't particularly stand a chance. Having re-watched it, the similarities to The Little Mermaid are undeniable. Still, what makes the film entirely worthwhile is it's predictably romantic plot. Everybody loves
a sappy, musical-infused romance.

From the wonderfully colourful opening credits, The Swan Princess charms and 'woos' with the meeting of the adorable two-some, Derek and Odette, and the series of me
etings followed, leading to Odette and Dereks' first, fully-fledged feelings towards each other. The 'look' which is shot between both characters is knee-quivering, which is rare for two characters stuck inside a 2D animation. Once kidnapped, Derek's realisation of Odette's 'death' is heartbreaking. Screaming her name into the rain, he drops to his knees in a fit of sheer emotion. Melodramatic, yes, but visually and emotionally effective.

Adding traditional humor to the animation are the friends Odette meets in captivity, soft-spoken turtle Speed, courageous puffin..Puffin, and French frog Jean-Bob (played by John Cleese) who thinks he's a Prince in disguise. Watching now, the humor is undoubtedly less effective, but as a kid, i ate it up.

Villain-wise, it fails. Disregarding the monstrous creature Lord Rothbart transforms into -- which i still actually found rather frightening --, the character himself is anything but frightening. In fact, the most disturbing thing about him is his hair. I personally wished for Odette to throw a comeback his way about the unmanageable mess located on his head.

Re-discovering the film was a worthwhile experience. Clearly not as impressive as i remembered it being, but not exactly tainting the film to the point where it's entirely ruined. Made completely by the chemistry of the two leads - and the song, "Far Longer Than Forever", they sing for one another, it's a film which i would happily find on DVD to add to my collection, and, if possible, the two sequels which followed after.


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