The Swan Princess is an American animated film based on the ballet “Swan Lake”, with a few minor adjustments. It is directed by the former Disney-animation director Richard Rich, and written by his good friend Brian Nissen (who also provides the voice of the narrator), with original music and songs by Lex de Azevedo. Starring the voice talents of Michelle Nicastro (Liz Callaway provides her singing voice), Howard McGillin (Adam Wylie provides his singing voice), John Cleese as Jean-Bob the frog, Steven Wright as Speed the turtle, and Academy Award winner Jack Palace as Rothbart. (Running Time: 90 minutes)(Rated G)
Ah, who can’t resist a little tug-away (of sorts) from the same old same old Disney classics? I mean, I don’t know about you folks, but this is a classic to me.
(A little background information on this animated “epic”…) Not long after Richard Rich’s semi-success with The Fox and The Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985), he pitched the idea of adapting the ballet Swan Lake to the big screen in animation, with his good friend Brian Nissen writing the screenplay. They turned down the proposal, which prompted Rich to leave Disney and create his own animation company and even partner with the creative-accepting New Line Cinema, who put several million into the project and distributed in North America. The budget was tight, though, and the filmmakers had to cut corners with hiring only a few selected “well-known” actors, the most prominant being Jack Palace who had recently won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in City Slickers (1991).
Now, where to begin with my review? Well, one of the obvious matters to mention would be the music and songs. Truly original, in their own right; a different sort of animated musical, with a similar trend of Disney but branching out into a new sort of theatrical portrayal. That may not make much sense, but watch the film and you may see what I mean.
I have been somewhat fascinated with the story of Swan Lake for some time now, though. And their adaption was very well induced. They deserve a clap on the back for efforts to put such a well-known story onto the big screen with lovable characters, beautiful art and animation, and touching music.
And in my opinion, the movie ends in a different format than any Disney movie, but that is just my thought…
Unfortunately, The Swan Princess did not meet expectations at the box office, having to compete with other popular films of 1994 like Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Lion King, Speed, and Interview With A Vampire. It grossed just under $10 million, with mixed to positive reviews from critics. It did better on the video market, though, and sold three million copies soon after its VHS release.
But the filmmakers Richard Rich and Brian Nissen had a vision, and went on to make two direct-to-video releases in the following years: The Swan Princess: Escape from Castle Mountain (1997), and The Swan Princess: Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom (1998).
In the end I would give it one of the highest 4 out of 7 stars I can bestow. If you have not seen The Swan Princess, I would encourage you–if you are by chance apart of a movie-watching family who like the classic Disney animated flicks–to sit down with your kin and plop this into the player. Who knows, it may become your new family favorite!