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Western Animation: Quest for Camelot

Quest for Camelot (also known as The Magic Sword) is an animated film released by Warner Bros. Animation in 1998. It was generally disliked by most critics, but did receive several award nominations for its soundtrack (composed by Patrick Doyle, with songs written by David Foster), which won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for "The Prayer." As with most Follow the Leader animated features of the decade (the leader being Disney), it had a big-name voice cast, including Gary Oldman as the villain, Ruber; Cary Elwes as the male lead, Garrett; Jessalyn Gilsig as the female lead Kayley; Pierce Brosnan as King Arthur; Sir John Gielgud as Merlin; Gabriel Byrne as Kayley's father, Sir Lionel; Jane Seymour as Kayley's mother, Lady Juliana; and Eric Idle and Don Rickles as a two-headed dragon with the names Devon and Cornwall. The songs also got a pretty impressive cast of singers like Céline Dion, The Corrs and Bryan White.

The film is very loosely based on a book by Vera Chapman called The King's Damosel (AKA The King's Damsel), inspired by Arthurian lore. The story was made more 'family friendly' during production by the additions of songs and cute animal friends, but they'd have done much better to have left it alone; these concessions to the Animation Age Ghetto were some of the main criticisms leveled at the film when it was released.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The Griffin, at least when he isn't interacting with the good guys; could arguably even be an example of Dark Is Not Evil, since he's just Ruber's pet anyway.
    • A memorable quote by said Griffin (upon being berated by Ruber for not replying): "Sorry master, my mouth was full!"
  • Analogy Backfire: In "If I Didn't Have You", Cornwall says he'd "be rockin' with the dinos", which is later countered by Devon, who says "You'd be extinct, you'd cease to be!"
  • Animated Musical
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Ruber's potion, which somehow transforms his henchmen into metalized versions of themselves. Not that it helps anyways.
  • Award Bait Song: Looking Through Your Eyes is the one that has all the trope characteristics, but The Prayer was the one which actually won an award.
  • Ax-Crazy: Ruber — his Twitchy Eye makes it clear. And he's so glad you noticed! He's been working at it for years!
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Ruber is the only knight of the round table who is not generically attractive. He promptly betrays everyone else - and kills Kayley's father - for his own ambitions
  • Become Your Weapon: Ruber uses a potion that causes this on his army.
  • Bound and Gagged: Kayley, near the end.
  • Butt Monkey: Poor, poor Griffin. First he is harassed by a falcon that is ten times smaller than he is, then at the very moment we discover he is owned by Ruber he is threatened and harmed. It's all downhill from there, as no matter how loyal he is, he's incompetent as hell, and Ruber has no problems with punishing him for that. At the end, when he finally gets to have revenge on the falcon, he is burned, presumably to death, by a two-headed dragon. On top of that, many consider him The Scrappy, even though in the end he is probably one of the most sympathetic characters in the movie (aside from the leads if they aren't considered Mary Sues). Alas, Poor Scrappy indeed.
  • The Caligula: Ruber
  • The Cameo: When Ruber and his mechanical army arrive in Camelot at the film's climax, Buffy Binford from Brad Bird's Family Dog can be clearly seen in the background. Clearly animators from The Iron Giant came in and decided to have a little fun.
    • Brosnan and Gielgud voice-acting could be considered cameos given how little they do.
    • Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood can be seen in the "If I Didn't Have You" musical number.
  • Character Tics: Ruber has an eye tic when he's agitated, and his irises even tend to disappear.
  • Cool Sword: Excalibur, of course.
  • Composite Character: To the extent that any of the characters resemble the ones in The King's Damosel, Garret appears to be a cross between Gareth (would-be knight, the name) and Lucius (blind loner).
  • Conspicuous CGI: Often, especially the "ogre" (aka the rock monster) and the round table scene.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Once Ruber has Excalibur, he fuses it to his arm so that he can hold it forever. The end result is cool looking, but it doesn't seem to benefit him in any way in terms of sword-fighting and it later gets him killed.
  • Dark Reprise: Garret's "I Stand Alone" gets a brief and impressively bitter reprise after he decides not to go with Kayley to Camelot.
  • Deadpan Snarker: At least half the words that come from Garret's mouth are dripping with this.
  • Deus ex Machina: In the climax, Kayley (with Garret's help) causes Ruber, who has fused his arm with Excalibur, to thrust the sword back into the stone — as he is not the rightful king, he cannot remove it. This is clever. However, it then turns out the inherent magic of the stone, which was only hinted at visually, serves as this, too. It kills Ruber.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: More of a dragon in this case. Ruber does this to one of the evil dragons while it has him cornered, despite seemingly giving in by tossing away his sword first.
  • Disabled Love Interest: Garret is rather pretty, there's attraction between him and Kayley, and he's blind.
  • Die or Fly: It doesn't work. (Un)Fortunately, no one dies either.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "If I Didn't Have You" is a particularly jarring example as it looks like the kind of short funny cartoon Warner Bros. is rightfully better-known for — randomly placed in the middle of what's supposed to be a dramatic epic.
  • Disneyfication: What happened to the original story. Ironic, considering that Warner Bros.. were actually competing with Disney at the time. See Executive Meddling in the Trivia section.
  • Excalibur
  • Expy: As pointed out by The Agony Booth, the Nostalgia Critic and Lauren Faust (who worked on the film as an animator) Kayley is, both looks and personality-wise, Belle. Faust, commenting on the similarity, goes even further and points out that Garret looks like the human form of the Beast.
  • Evil Redhead: Ruber.
  • Falling in Love Montage: Kayley and Garret, during their "Looking Through Your Eyes" duo.
  • Faux Action Girl: Kayley aspires to knighthood and heroism, but when things get dangerous it quickly becomes clear that a background of farm chores and haphazard self-training hasn't left her very well equipped to defend herself, and she spends most of the film running away or relying on Garrett.
  • Feelies: The VHS release came with a necklace whose charm featured Devon and Cornwall. Annoyingly, said necklace was under not the shrinkwrap on the new movie, but under the plastic of the clamshell cover — meaning that you either had to partly ruin the cover to get the blasted thing out, or you had a heck of a time lining it up neatly on your video shelf.
  • Forbidden Zone: The Forbidden Forest. No, not that one.
  • The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: Devon and Cornwall. Also Bladebeak quoting Dirty Harry for some damn reason.
  • Gonk: Ruber.
  • Handicapped Badass: Garret.
  • Hand Wave: The only explanation for the moving plants is a blink-and-you-miss-it reference to the forest being "enchanted". Where Ruber got his potion might also qualify - he states in his Villain Song that he bought it from some witches.
  • Happily Ever After: The ending features Kayley and Garret riding off together on a horse which is adorned with a sign reading "Just Knighted." One presumes there was a wedding in there too, but it's never specifically stated.
  • Happily Married: Kayley's parents. He takes care to kiss her goodbye before riding off to Camelot, and it's clear she misses him after his death.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Bladebeak undergoes one of these after he finds his mate locked in a cage by Ruber, though he was hardly the embodiment of "evil" to begin with.
  • High Fantasy: Attempted, but not executed too well. Since the film is loosely based on the King Arthur mythos and is supposed to be taking place in Britain, many feel that some of its unexplained fantastic elements like the moving plants and Ruber's potion seem out of place (though see Hand Wave above).
  • Horrible Judge of Character: King Arthur for knighting Ruber in the first place.
  • Huge Rider, Tiny Mount: During "The Prayer".
  • "I Am" Song: Garret's "I Stand Alone".
  • Identity Concealment Disposal: When he attacks Juliana's farm, Ruber enters the house wearing a face-concealing horned helmet that he then takes off, tosses aside and never puts on again for the rest of the film.
  • "I Want" Song: Kayley's "On My Father's Wings," in which she expresses her desire to become a knight. The other characters get their own songs, too.
  • I Work Alone: Garret. He also has a song — "I Stand Alone", mentioned above — about this.
  • Just Between You and Me: Ruber details his Evil Plan to Kayley and her mother, mostly in song.
  • Kissing Cousins: Apparently, Devon and Cornwall are the result of this.
    Devon: Frankly, we're the reason cousins shouldn't marry.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Garret.
  • Large Ham: Ruber. Which is downright shocking, given his voice actor.
  • Laughably Evil: Ruber.
  • Lip Lock: The lip sync looks a little bit off sometimes, especially during songs. Yes, even in English.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I will not serve a false king!" Said first by Lionel to Ruber and then, later, by Kayley.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The movie starts with Kayley as a child, later followed by a cameo of a young Garrett during the first song.
  • Multiple Head Case: Guess who?
  • Nature Hero: Garret.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Devon and Cornwall fall under this, as do Bladebeak and Ayden.
  • Obviously Evil: At the beginning of the film we get a panning shot of the Round Table. Seated at it are several identical-looking generic knights... and one creepily deformed one with a banana-shaped head, greenish skin and yellow eyes. Apparently one of the virtues Arthur espouses is not judging by appearances. And just look where that got him.
  • Off Model: Not constantly, but enough to make you take notice. Combines poorly with the Conspicuous CGI.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They're conjoined twins. And they're purple. And they can't fly (for which they even say they're shunned by their own kind).
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: Looks like a traditional griffin, but the one in the story is kind of weird. The bird front half is much larger then the lion hindquarters, and rather than eagle-like the head must belong to a bat-eared-cat-eyed-vulture-beaked thing.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Devon and Cornwall.
  • The Power of Friendship/The Power of Love: Devon and Cornwall lament their inability to fly through most of the movie, then find themselves able to do it once Kayley is kidnapped. Garret realizes that they can't fly unless they agree on things, and pushes them to do so by prompting, "You both love Kayley, right?"
  • Prophet Eyes: While not a prophet, Garret has these eyes.
  • Purple Eyes: Lady Juliana, Kayley's mum, has them.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Rock Monster: The ogre.
  • Scotireland: Camelot basically turns into this for some reason, largely thanks to the sorta-Celtic-ish soundtrack. Riverdance was popular at the time so...
    • Also the involvement of The Corrs. Their style is specially prominent in "On My Father's Wings," which almost sounds like ripped off from their album Talk On Corners.
  • Shout-Out: There are lots of Looney Tunes gags to be found, the most obvious being ACME written on Ruber's potion.
    • Also during Devon & Cornwall's musical number, at one time they're falling down a canyon ripped straight from a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.
      • Also a Monty Python shout-out during the dragons' song, when Devon (voiced by Python Eric Idle) declares, "You'd be nothing without me — you'd be extinct! You'd cease to be!"
      • And during the lines when Cornwall sings about being "the Dragon King", he holds Devon up on a kopje in open parody of Simba's presentation in The Lion King.
      • During the scene where Cornwall has a chainsaw, he is wearing a hockey mask. (Although Jason Voorhees isn't the slasher who wields a chainsaw)
      • Devon also turns into Godzilla during the song, with the line "I'd be a fire breathing lizard!"
    • Garret is a teenager/young adult dressed in green with a wooden weapon looking in an enchanted forest for a mythical sword. Think about that for a second.
      • Funnily enough, the Gameboy Color game was obviously based on the 2D Legend of Zelda games.
    • During the Final Battle, John Williams ' Superman Main Theme makes an appearance - although, oddly, the subtitles for this scene refer to it as "Star Wars Theme".
    • Garrett and Kayley's embrace during the Through Your Eyes segment resembles the poster from The Princess Bride, which also starred Cary Elwes.
  • Sidekick Song: "If I Didn't Have You"
  • Slipknot Ponytail: During her escape, Kayley runs into a forest where one of the branches snags her hair tie and undoes her ponytail. After she's freed from Garret's net a short time later, she's seen finding another hair tie and fixing it back up. Which is funny, since a lot of the promotion material used ended up using the loose-haired Kayley over her ponytail version.
  • Small Annoying Creature: Bladebeak.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "The Prayer" and... well, lots of other songs.
  • Stealth Pun: Andrea Bocelli drops by for an Italian version of The Prayer over the credits. This is appropriate when you remember that he became blind in a very similar manner to Garret, after being hit in the head as a child. Was he perhaps the inspiration for Garret's backstory?
  • Surrounded by Idiots: To a ludicrous extent. Ruber's minions take Bladebeak's mate along, but allow Kayley to escape.
  • Theme Park Version: Of generic fantasy films. The plot chugs along whether the characters are coming or not, leaving the characters free to think in cliches when they think at all. The end result is that it hits all the major plot points of such a movie, but it doesn't explain why they're happening to begin with.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Garret delivers one of these to Kayley when they first meet. It doubles as his character song.
  • Those Two Dragons: Cornwall and Devon - who HAPPEN TO SHARE ONE BODY ! ! !
  • Villain Song: "Ruber's Song", though with no melody, tune or rhythm it truly stretched to the vaguest of limits what qualifies as a "song". There actually is a bit of rhyming in it, so it's less of a "song" and more of a "long-winded mediocre poem". Then again, it's Ruber. He's a bit too erratic for a proper song.
  • Villainous Valour: Ruber is a psychotic murderer, no doubt of it, but you must admit is also exceptionally strong and brave. He kills a scary-looking dragon with his bare hands and then cooks it for lunch.
    • There is also a scene toward the beginning where Kayley tries to hit him from behind with a good-sized mace. He turns around, catches it, and then twists the head. Never mind that the spikes should have skewered his hands.
  • Virtue/Vice Codification: Various virtues are lauded in a song sung during the introduction to Camelot.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: A particularly Anvilicious case. Devon and Cornwall are drawn to look rather silly and harmless. Bladebeak is also silly-looking. Ayden has a round, sweet face, big soft eyes and cute fluttery movements. In contrast, the "evil" dragons are sharp-toothed, have squinty eyes, and look altogether more feral, and the griffin henchman has another set of scary evil eyes, a long crooked beak, bat ears, and a small head compared to his thick-maned neck — and the voice of Bronson Pinchot (we're not sure what to make of that last thing).
  • What Would X Do?: Juliana and Kayley get into an argument about Kayley's dream to become a knight. After her daughter runs off in anger, Juliana wonders what Lionel would have done about the issue.
  • With My Hands Tied: Kayley is captured and tied up, but is able to sweep her legs under a mook's feet while still tied, giving her time to free herself with Bladebeak's help.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Why Devon and Cornwall stick around with the group. Apparently, dragons are forbidden to interact with humans.
    • Evoked with Garrett as well when he initially declines to return to Camelot with Kayley after they get Excalibur: on one level there's probably still some bad memories of his time there and the events that led to him seemingly losing any chance of becoming a knight, and then of course his feelings that he would appear inferior and undesirable to Kayley when juxtaposed with the current Knights of the Round Table.
  • You Killed My Father

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alternative title(s): Quest For Camelot
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