The Swan Princess

It's Disney-time again. Or almost. It seems that Richard Rich (I take it no relation to the Archie gang), who used to work for Uncle Walt back in the days of The Black Cauldron, has taken it upon his shoulders, back, and bank account to conceive, produce, and direct this idiotic version of "Swan Lake". Let's dance.

Okay, here we go. Full of cliches, it depends all too often on the viewer's (be it child or otherwise) conditioned reflexes (indoctrination) and, as a result, winds up being a sublime exploration into the non-thinking man's mind.

Let's just take a few asinine examples:

  1. Princess Odette and Prince Derek do not get along as children because (as we all "know") it is not "normal" for boys and girls to get along with each other (and, besides, such angles create "fun" situations for the animators).

  2. Beauty is only skin deep, as the adage goes, and Odette reprimands Derek because he only cares for her looks, yet this concept didn't deter the creators from designing two "beautiful" cartoon characters for these roles. Isn't that what we call a built-in contradiction?

  3. The King is disappointed with Prince Derek's frank admission that he is attracted to Odette by her beauty. Appallingly, it seems as if the King is more disturbed by Derek's honesty than the implication of his statement. Not to worry. All these differences and indifferences fade into insignificance once Odette is turned into a swan.

    In short, the viewer is, without consideration, presumptuously slung back and forth between any number of issues, many extremely questionable in nature, and the assumption is made that the viewer will not analyze them, but just "go with the flow". Have we really come to that?

A word about nobility. This kingdom (wherever it may be) must have been ruled for centuries by the most remarkable family. They have no protocol, they speak in colloquial phrases, and they don't spend too much time thinking (as proven almost every time Derek opens his mouth). It's no wonder the creatures of the forest go around talking: simply one more example of evolution and the survival of the fittest.

The creatures of the wood, however, bear an unfortunate resemblance to the "sortilege" objects in Beauty and the Beast, especially the frog with the French accent (Is this a nationalist slur or simply unintentional stupidity? Neither would surprise me at this point.) As far as the story line is concerned, Richard Rich would probably have done better with a different scriptwriter and songwriter. The other elements seem to be in place.

The animation is high-quality, hand-crafted, good old-fashioned cell work (only on one occasion is the edging visible from a matte). Especially notable is the effect created for the transformation of the swan into the princess. It's a pity they decided to use that one for the opening titles of the film as well. It sort of makes it anti-climactic, doesn't it? You sort of sit there and say, "Oooh. There she goes again."

This, coupled with the fact that most of visual and textual jokes throughout suffer from anemia, causes tedium. (I must have been forced to stay in those enchanted woods too long.) There are one or two moments that manage to get a laugh, such as when the villain (voice of Jack Palance), reflecting on his evil deed, says, "I don't enjoy it." then takes a dramatic pause and adds, ."..not a lot." John Cleese's voice-over for Napoleon, the frog, also adds the odd moment of laughter, once we get past the unmistakable resemblance to the aforementioned Maurice Chevalier candlestick.

And the songs. What can I say? They're there. That about sums it up. Have fun, kiddies.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett