Making the Grades
There is nothing like an independent animated production to throw confusion into the entertainment ranks. Enter The Swan Princess. An animated movie? Not Disney? Not Warner Brothers? These mind bending questions are why excellent features like this are largely overlooked by critics, distributors, and the public.
This movie is made by Richard Rich, who has made a living producing animated videos about biblical and historical heros. No wonder Hollywood has a hard time with this guy. The last thing Tinseltown thinks it needs is a goody-two-shoes former Disney animator, but Rich has kept his Disney talents in shape and is now using them to produce family material that rates very close to Disney in animation quality.
I'm not a big fan of fairy tales, or even animation for that matter, so The Swan Princess must be well done, as it held my complete attention. The story certainly isn't new. A magic spell is cast upon the princess and she is turned into a swan. The only way out is to have a prince vow his love to her for the whole world to hear. Yes, we know the story and the end, but it is the journey that makes this movie work. The script has wit and humour without sexual innuendo, and it's nice seeing characters that are fresh and new. My favorite scene is where the prince's mother, eager to find a replacement for his bird-brained love, brings every princess she can find to the castle so her son may view them. In a perfect beauty pageant spoof, the princesses march by, each representing their kingdom.
One area requiring improvement is the score. The main love theme is beautiful (and should have spawned a hit single) but the rest of the music just doesn't seem to flow together all that well. However, this is a minor complaint in an otherwise fine family film that deserves your rental dollars. Not since last year's My Neighbor Totoro has there been a non-Disney animated feature of this quality.