A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Swan Princess is less scary than most animated fairy tales, though it does contain some of the typical action scenes common to these films. In most instances, these sequences are brief and do not depict injury or death. There's an evil enchanter, a flying beast, some fiery backgrounds, sounds of thunder and lightning. A scene in which the royal family's carriage is attacked is cut short before the princess is taken and the king wounded. King William delivers an important message to the prince, who comes to his aid, then simply disappears from the film. The longest "battle" is a paintball practice exercise, played entirely for humor. The final conflict takes place between the prince and the enchanter, who has turned himself into the flying creature. Princess Odette is portrayed with modern sensibilities, and is greatly offended when she believes the Prince loves her only for her beauty.
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What's the story?
In THE SWAN PRINCESS, Princess Odette and Prince Derek are forced to spend all their childhood summers together. Their royal families hope they'll eventually fall in love and unite the two kingdoms. But Odette and Derek don't like each other much. They're almost adults when Derek finally realizes he does love Odette. By then she loves him too, but she wants him to value her for more than her beauty. He must prove he knows her worth. After refusing Derek's proposal, Odette is kidnapped by the Lord Rothbart (voiced by Jack Palance), an evil enchanter who places her under a spell, hoping to force her to marry him so that he can claim her kingdom as his own. Every morning Odette is transformed into a swan, where she remains until the moonlight shines upon the lake and she becomes a princess once again. Derek alone believes Odette is still alive. He sets off to find her, fight for her return, and declare his everlasting love.
Is it any good?
Delightful music, rich characters, and a classic love story make this a very enjoyable, family-friendly animated film. The featured players, including a turtle (voiced by the droll comedian Steven Wright), an eccentric European frog (voiced with gusto by John Cleese), and a brave puffin (voiced by character actor Steve Vinovich) are particularly fun and memorable. Taking on Disney's successful "princess" monopoly, Richard Rich (who'd worked for "the Magic Kingdom" for many years) struck out on his own to create a stylish, beautifully drawn fairy tale with a modern spirit and unique humor. Though The Swan Princess shows that he didn't have the enormous resources and funding of the Disney offerings, Rich succeeds admirably and spares his audience the innumerable tie-in products.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what inspired The Swan Princess: the story of "Swan Lake," the ballet. It might be fun to read the ballet story together and see what the two tales have in common.
Why did Odette refuse to marry Prince Derek when he first asked her? What was she hoping he would say?
The music here is more contemporary than in most animated fairy tales. How did the modern songs and dancing add an element of humor and energize this old-fashioned story?
Do you think the King's early leniency toward Lord Rothbart was a mistake? Other than destroying the villain, what could the king have done to ensure that the villain didn't cause any more trouble?
- In theaters: November 18, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: March 30, 2004
- Cast: Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright
- Director: Richard Rich
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: October 25, 2019
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