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Western Animation: The Swan Princess

Odette: Will you love me, Derek, until the day I die?
Derek: No. Much longer, Odette. Much longer.

Ex-Disney animation director Richard Rich made this animated feature in 1994, which adapts the plot (though not the music) of the ballet Swan Lake.

Odette and Derek are betrothed royalty of neighboring kingdoms, though it isn't until they're grown that they actually fall in love. Too bad that first, Derek doesn't know what he loves about her besides her beauty, which upsets her, and second, the evil Rothbart — banished from her kingdom years ago for practicing the "Forbidden Arts" — kidnaps her.

When she refuses to marry Rothbart and make him king, he curses her to become a swan during daylight hours and moonless nights. The remorseful Derek seeks and finds her, but with Rothbart staying one step ahead of the lovers — and One-Winged Angel, too — invoking the Curse Escape Clause is not easy, even with Talking Animal friends helping them out.

While no blockbuster, it did spawn sequels: The Swan Princess II: Escape from Castle Mountain (1997), The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom (1998), The Swan Princess Christmas (2012), and The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale (2014). The first pits them against Rothbart's old partner Clavius, the second against his consort Zelda, the third against a resurrected Rothbart, and the fourth against The Forbidden Arts themselves.

Poor Odette keeps getting turned into a swan and back again the whole way.

This film (and its sequels) contain examples of:

  • All-CGI Cartoon: The sequels from 2012 onward.
  • Almost Dead Guy: King William's captain in the first film. After the king's carriage is attacked and Odette taken prisoner, he manages to stumble all the way back to Derek's kingdom and lives just long enough to tell Derek they were attacked by "a great animal."
  • Alternate Animal Affection: Lt. Puffin has no problems kissing the back of Odette's hand in a very humanlike manner.
  • Amusing Injuries: The animals, fairly often - after they steal the map from the tower, for example. The human characters generally don't get these, with the notable exception of one point in the opening montage where you have the main characters - including Odette - as kids getting involved in a goofy and haphazard accident and cutting away to the group of them in the traditional amusingly exaggerated slings and bandages.
  • Anachronism Stew: We would like to know how Prince Derek has an air force. Then again, maybe we're better off not thinking about it.
    • Not to mention Rothbart in boxing clothes during his Villain Song "No More Mr. Nice Guy", and Clavius playing a (magical, understandably) electric guitar and a keyboard.
    • Zelda knows who Cruella and The Wicked Witch of the West are.
    • The clothes: fashion styles range from the 1300's to the 1700's, to the 1980's.
    • During the opening song, Derek and Odette are playing poker as teenagers, which didn't exist until sometime in the 1800's.
    • Bromley and Odette both use slingshots (1839 at the very earliest), and Clavius flies a hot air balloon (1782).
    • After Derek's "What else is there?" Rogers imitates a game show's losing buzzer.
  • Animated Musical
  • Annoying Arrows: Puffin's first entrance is with an arrow through his wing. As soon as it gets taken out, he's all better.
  • Arrow Cam: Unfortunately, the arrows don't wobble, as they would in a real situation.
  • Arrow Catch: Derek's skill at this proves vital in the climax when he runs out of his own arrows and Bromley shoots one over to him. The fact that the two had actually practiced this move, and apparently did so every day, makes it a lot easier to swallow.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the second film, where Derek walks into a trap and has several crossbow bolts launched at him, but catches them all in one motion. All that "Practice, Practice, Practice" must've paid off.
  • Artifact Title: In the third film, Derek and Odette are absent for most of the movie, as it puts more focus on the Queen and Rogers' love life. And Odette is only turned into a swan for about forty-five seconds before it's undone, and it's completely unexplained why she was made a swan again. By A Royal Family Tale, Odette doesn't transform at all.
  • Award Bait Song: "Far Longer Than Forever" and "Eternity" (the latter is over the end credits only).
    • The third film also had "Because I Love Her".
  • Back from the Dead: In the third movie, Odette is Killed Off for Real, but thanks to completely unexplained reasons, our heroine is revived after Rothbart's notes are burned.
    • In the fourth film, Rothbart, the villain of the first film returns as the Big Bad.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Oddly, given that part of the film's moral is "Looks aren't all that matters", the bad guys are ugly and the good guys pretty (though the hag does a Heel-Face Turn at the end which extends to the sequels, thus proving the moral right).
    • Odette's initial rejection of Derek's idea to get married was because he was doing it just because she was beautiful and couldn't think of anything else he liked about her. It's not that her beauty was the problem, but Derek's shallowness.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Hints of this are in the montage song about them meeting every summer. Bromley even points out that he thinks Derek likes Odette during the song.
  • Berserk Button: You do not make Uberta's age sound like a joke at her expense, and you don't ruin her birthday. Clavius found that out the hard way.
  • Big "NO!": Odette has one when Derek professes his love to the disguised hag.
    • In the second film, Clavius lets one out when he finds out the magical orb has been stolen.
  • Bigger Bad: Rothbart in the first two sequels, and the Forbidden Arts as a whole.
  • Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics: Arrows do not work that way.
  • Black Magic: The "Forbidden Arts". To Create, Change, and Destroy.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: "Princesses on Parade".
  • Butter Face: Bridget as Fake!Odette in the first film. Ugh.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Possibly the first two sequels, as the CGI ones either simply gloss them over, or pretend they never happened.
  • The Cast Showoff: Howard McGillin (Derek) is just about the only cast member to do all of his own singing, being a respected Broadway alumni.
  • Catchphrase: Puffin as "No fear!" which even gets it's own song, which itself has reprises through the series. He most often says it to Jean Bob, who constantly lampshades it throughout the second movie.
    "Do you know how much that phrase makes me want to hit you?"
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: In the first movie Bromley tries cheating twice, first while playing chess with Derek, then during the training session with the band, and he still loses both times.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Derek's bow.
    • Chekhov's Skill: "Catch and Fire", in which Bromley shoots an arrow at Derek's back and Derek turns around, catches the arrow, and fires it at a different target.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: As part of their arranged marriage, Derek and Odette spent every summer together from the time they were young children, right up until adulthood. They start off somewhat roughly, due to being, well, kids, and thus not having any real desire to form a romantic attraction, but they do become closer (though begrudgingly so) over time. Bearing this in mind, it does make them falling in love as adults a little more believable than most other animated couples, as they virtually had their entire lives to get to know each other (as opposed to say a single day, like almost every Disney fantasy film).
  • Christmas Special: The fourth film.
  • Combat Pragmatist: In the first movie, Derek blinds Rothbart with a lump of mud, smashes a rock into Rothbart's talon and when disarmed grabs a stick and starts flailing at him.
  • Cool Old Guy: Rogers, Derek's advisor.
    • Also, Speed; he's an old turtle, but wise and heroic.
    • Puffin, too. He's of particular help to Odette since he's able to accompany her more conveniently than their non-flying friends.
  • Convection Schmonvection : In the second film, the villain's lair is in a volcano, with a moat of boiling lava surrounding it. The only way to cross the moat is in a small wooden box pulled along by a rope and pulley system-all parts of which should easily have been incinerated within moments of exposure to the heat rising off the lava. Also, at the end there is a great deal of frothing, exploding lava being tossed about-sometimes within millimeters of the heroes, and filling up the space directly below them completely-and none of them get even slightly scorched.
  • Covers Always Lie: Ever so slightly. The DVD cover seems to have a much different character design for Derek, mostly making his hair look more manly.
    • The DVD cover for the second movie has King William standing near Queen Uberta, despite the fact Rothbart killed King William in the first movie.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Bromley, Derek's best friend.
  • Curse Escape Clause: If Derek can make a vow of love to Odette and prove it to the world, that will be enough to break the curse. Rothbart is sharp enough to build a condition into the first half of this: Odette will die if the vow is subsequently made to another woman...fulfilling the second half can still save the day, but it turns out to require killing Rothbart, aka the Great Animal.
  • Damsel in Distress: Odette. Notably, while she does require saving, she had previously done everything she could to try and liberate herself or at least get Derek's attention to help free her. While she does need Derek to save her, it's somewhat justified since Rothbart's spell can only be broken either by him or be Derek making a vow of everlasting love to the whole world, so Derek is an integral part in breaking the spell. Odette even basically says if she could break the spell by herself she would.
    • Also notable is that Odette actively tries to seek out Derek, including breaking into Rothbart's castle to steal a map and then flying to Derek's hunting grounds to find him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rogers delivers most of the best lines in the movies as this.
    Rogers: You should write a book: How to Offend Women in 5 Syllables or Less.
    • Jean-Bob is also a prime example.
    Jean-Bob: Mad? Why should I be mad? I enjoy hanging on for dear life! Next to snorkeling, it's one of my favorite activities!
    • Don't forget Speed, who has fewer lines but is voiced by Steven Wright in the first film.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Jean-Bob fails to think of how he's going to return to shore after retrieving the flowers for Odette. Lampshaded by Speed.
    Speed: Just curious, how are you going to get back?
  • Disappeared Dad: It is mentioned in the prologue that Uberta was a widow, so Derek's dad is assumed to be dead. The original ballet even has her character as a Queen Mum sort of figure, only ruling as Sovereign Princess until her son is able to take a wife.
  • Disney Death: Odette in the first film, Jean-Bob in the second, and Odette again in the third.
  • Disneyesque: Incredibly so.
  • Disneyfication
  • Distant Duet: "Far Longer Than Forever".
  • Dub Name Change: The French version changes many names: Arthur (Derek), Juliette (Odette), Albéric (Rothbart), Aldo (Jean-Bob), Rapido (Speed), Capitaine Anatole (Lt. Puffin), Melchior (Rogers), Barnabé (Bromley).
  • Duck!: Done during the song "Practice, Practice, Practice" when Derek launches (harmless) arrows at a group of servants acting as targets. Cue the musician dressed as a duck popping his head up to say "Yes?" and then getting hit.
  • Epic Fail: When Odette confronts Derek about what else he likes about her other than her beauty, his response is a bewildered "What else is there?". Thorougly lampshaded by Rogers later, who tells him he should write a book on "how to insult a woman with five syllables or less."
  • Everyone Can See It: By the time they're teenagers, Bromley is teasing Derek about his feelings for Odette, and the entire village around the castle is singing about how they can't wait for the wedding.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Apparently Swan Lake wasn't a good enough title.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Rothbart in the first movie and Clavius in the second one.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Jean-Bob's attempts to become a prince.
  • Falling in Love Montage: In the third movie, while Derek is singing "Because I Love Her", it shows clips from the first movie. Though for some reason they chose some decidedly unromantic clips for this love song, such as Odette dying, and Derek hunting down and murdering the Big Bad in an action sequence.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Rothbart may be a sadistic Jerkass, but man, does he have style! He never loses his temper (fully) either.
  • Final Love Duet: "Far Longer Than Forever", the reprise (though it's not sung on-screen).
  • Follow the Leader: That teaser poster above swipes from the teasers for both The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, a good indicator of how much the film itself directly imitates Disney Animated Canon fare.
    • Specifically, the choreography for "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is... suspiciously similar to Aladdin's "Friend Like Me".
    • The scene near the end where Derek rides his horse and uses his sword to cut through trees to reach Odette is pretty reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty.
  • Foreshadowing: Young Derek gives baby Odette a locket with a swan on it and when they grow into young adults, he tells her she's as beautiful as a swan. Later in the movie, she's cursed to become a swan each time the moon sets.
  • Freudian Excuse: In the sequel Uberta tries to get Clavius to talk about how he was raised and if his parents neglected him. Clavius just wants her to shut up.
  • Genki Girl: Queen Uberta, so much, despite her old age!
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Odette is the traditional sweet and innocent princess.
  • Happily Married: Derek and Odette, at the very end of the first film and in the sequels.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Bridget, Rothbart's hag sidekick at the end of the first movie. Apparently the Chamberlain had something to do with it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the third movie, when Odette tries to escape, Zelda responds by turning Odette into a swan and trapping her inside a magical barrier that will vaporize anything that touches it. Later, Zelda is destroyed when she is thrown at said barrier.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Rothbart's sidekick Bridget is a subversion. She spends most of the film either dealing with the animals or wordlessly supporting Rothbart's decisions, but, when he turns her into an exact copy of Odette (save for a black and red dress) her acting is perfect.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Rothbart won't lift the curse unless Odette marries him.
  • Insufferable Genius: Lord Rogers.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: Odette.
    • Well, except in the second movie, since Puffin can't fly due to an injury he suffered early in the movie, Odette asks to be turned into a swan so she can fly to where Derek is and save him from being killed by a guy working for the Big Bad.
  • I Owe You My Life: After she takes the arrow out of his wing, Lt. Puffin vows service to Odette.
  • Ironic Echo: The song "This is My Idea" is made of this. Particularly Odette's line, "So happy to be here..."
  • Ironic Nickname: Speed, the turtle. Subverted. While Speed is pokey on land, he's a blindingly fast swimmer.
  • It Only Works Once: Firing an arrow into Rothbart's heart killed him in the first movie, but in the Christmas Special, when Rothbart assumes his One-Winged Angel form again, not even throwing a knife could kill him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jean-Bob, definitely. He may be pompous and delusional, but he has a good heart deep down.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Subverted for the second movie. Parts I and III came to DVD in 2004, but fans had to wait five years to get the installment that came in between.
  • Large Ham: Rothbart.
  • Lovable Coward: Bromley, and to a lesser extent, Jean-Bob; both come through when push comes to shove, however.
  • Love Epiphany: Odette and Derek meet up every summer ever since they were little kids, and show nothing but contempt for each other. Once they both grow up, however...
  • Love Theme: "Far Longer Than Forever", Derek and Odette's musical pledge to find their way back to each other.
  • Missing Mom: Odette's mother is never seen. The only mention we get of her is the phrase "and to him a daughter was born", so she may have died during the birth.
  • Mistaken Declaration of Love: Rothbart disguises his henchwoman as Odette so Derek will do this.
  • Mythology Gag: At least one of the sequels refers to the lake outside Derek's and Odette's castle (originally Rothbart's) as Swan Lake.
  • Never Say "Die": It's implied everyone believes Odette was killed, but they only ever refer to her as being "gone" or "not coming back". Averted with Rothbart, who flat out says she'll die if Derek makes the vow to someone else.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: the trailer of Swan Princess 3 shows Rogers falling from a spatial height towards the Earth, implying that something of epic proportion will happen. Sadly, it's just a part of a Disney Acid Sequence.
    • One trailer for the original movie states that Odette is kidnapped "right before (her and Derek's) wedding", when in the movie their engagement is cancelled.
  • No Flow in CGI: Averted and played straight in the CGI sequels - Bridget, Bromley, and background characters all have flat rubbery hairstyles that are short or kept tied up, but Odette has individually animated strands of hair, and Roger, Euberta, Derek, and Rothbart have hair that's flat but bounces and shifts.
  • No Name Given: Rothbart's hag sidekick in the first movie. In the sequels her name is revealed to be Bridget.
  • Non-Singing Voice: Odette in the first movie, Jean-Bob and Rothbart. Clavius in the sequel, though he does sing in his real voice ove rthe end credits.
  • Obviously Evil: You'd think that Derek would notice Bridget's disguise, considering he's known Odette his whole life to dress in white, whereas Bridget is wearing an Obviously Evil red/black outfit.
    • Probably done because in the ballet Odile (the character Bridget replaces) wears a black tutu.
      • And is played by the same ballerina who is cast as Odette.
  • Off Model: Happens a few times, mostly due to budget constraints.
    • In the first film, Derek's mouth gets progressively larger and larger. If you're paying attention, he starts to look... odd.
    • In the third one, Odette is constantly switching back and forth between wearing a white and green tight dress, a white and green puffy sleeved dress, and a blue palette swap of the latter, all within the same scenes.
  • One-Winged Angel: Rothbart's "final boss fight" form is hyped throughout the first film, so for some viewers, it's final reveal was a bit of a Narm moment. He kind of resembles a very large fruitbat.
  • Overused Running Gag: Puffin's overuse of the phrase, "No Fear!" during the first two movies constantly annoys Jean-Bob, until he finally threatens to tear Puffin's beak off if he says it again.
  • The Other Darrin: Played straight in the sequels for everyone except Odette and Puffin. However, Odette falls under this trope in the Christmas Special, due to Michelle Nicastro's death in 2010.
  • Parental Abandonment: Odette's mother and Derek's father initially; the former's father dies after Rothbart attacks the carriage to kidnap her.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: "Long before they met / Derek and Odette / Were destined to be wedded…"
    • Arguably reasonable, since the two met each other supposedly every year, and had time to get to know each other (unlike many animated couples).
  • The Power of Love: The Curse Escape Clause depends on this.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Toodle-oo!" It doesn't work.
  • Prince Charming Wannabe: Jean-Bob with Odette.
  • Princesses Rule: In the first movie, Uberta mentions that she intends for Derek to become king as soon as he takes a wife, and Derek calls Odette his "future queen." In the sequels, however, Derek and Odette are still referred to as a prince and princess even after they're married and Derek has taken over running the kingdom completely.
  • Quicksand Sucks: In the second movie, while Derek is swinging over a deep pit in a swamp, The Dragon cuts the vine and Derek falls in. The Dragon then just sits and watches as Derek pleads for his life, all the while being swallowed alive by the bog. Fortunately for him, Odette (now in swan form for the time being) shows up and pulls him out just before he can go completely under.
  • Remember the New Guy: In the original film, Rothbart was working alone. The sequels retconned this by introducing Clavius and Zelda as old partners of his.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Rothbart's alligators. On the other hand, one of the good guys is a turtle, one of the "cute" types of reptiles often excempted from the trope.
  • Running Gag: Uberta's "lip" thing whenever she begins to cry.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Near the beginning of the first movie, Derek calls for wedding arrangements upon seeing how beautiful Odette has become. Odette promptly breaks off their engagement thinking that Derek only wants to marry her because of her beauty. In his own words "Well, what else is there?" He gets better after this.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Lord Rogers and Queen Uberta, who are also a Beta Couple.
  • Say My Name
  • Shout-Out: During Rothbart's Villain Song, he is shown doing one-handed pushups. Rothbart is voiced by Jack Palance, who a few years earlier won the Academy Award for City Slickers, and as a humorous Take That at those who would think he had only won as a consolation for losing his previous two nominations, demonstrated his fitness at the age of 73 by dropping to the floor to do a series of one-handed pushups.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Clavius' in the second movie sounds much younger.
  • Skyward Scream: "THE VOW I MADE WAS FOR HUUUUUEEEEEEEERRRRRRRGGGGHHH!!!"
  • Smart People Play Chess: Somewhat subverted in that the only two we seeing playing are Derek and Bromley, the former, while not stupid, is not the sharpest sword in the armory, and the latter loses while cheating.
  • Species Surname: Lieutenant Puffin. The almost-certainly-not-canon-but-still-extant bonus features on the most recent DVD claim that his parents were so proud of being puffins. they simply named him "Puffin".
  • Stock Footage:
    • Every closeup of Derek and Odette kissing looks exactly the same, except for some changes in the background and/or costumes. This doubles as an Every Episode Ending.
    • Odette often changes from a swan into a human through stock footage.
  • Swans A Swimming: Take a guess.
  • Talking Animal: Puffin, Speedy and Jean Bob (and technically Odette), though the series is rather inconsistent with this. In the first movie, the three of them can talk to Odette even when she's human, other humans apparently can't understand them nor Odette when she is in swan form. In the second and third movies, however, the animals can all talk freely to anyone.
  • This Was Her True Form: Even though Odette doesn't land in the lake after Derek's vow to Bridget starts killing her, she still turns human to share "final" words with Derek.
  • Training Montage: "Practice, Practice, Practice" is a musical number built around this.
  • Transformation Sequence: Odette's back-and-forth transformations, where the water gracefully swirls around her, obscuring her actual change.
  • Upgrade Artifact: The magic orb that has power of granting perfect mastery of all three disciplines of mystic arts - Creation, Change and Destruction.
  • Villain Song: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" in the first film, "Ya Gotta Love It" in the second, and "Nothing but Bad Days Ahead" in the third.
  • William Telling: This is one of the training methods employed by Prince Derek, only the Plucky Comic Relief shoots the arrow and Derek is supposed to turn and catch it.
  • Women Are Wiser: Zigzagged. When Derek and Odette meet again as young adults, they're equally smitten with each other despite all their time complaining about how immature and annoying the other used to be. When Derek announces he plans to marry Odette and gives no reason besides her beauty, she calls the marriage off because she wasn't going to marry someone who named good lucks as the only attractive thing about her. However, Derek then reveals in a later scene that he loved her before he noticed she was beautiful, but didn't know how to express that, and goes to great lengths to prove how he feels. Then in the sequels, Derek is repeatedly portrayed as wrong to the point where the theme of the third could be summed up as "listen to your wife, because she's always right."
  • Workaholic: The second movie shows Derek so busy with his royal duties that he and Odette don't have much time for romantic activities, not even on their first anniversary.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: In Secret of the Castle, Uberta is said to be 50, but she looked exactly the same at the start of the first film where she would have been around 30.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: A blast from the Forbidden Arts in the second movie turns Jean-Bob into a human prince, but another blast turns him back into a frog. No one he tells this to later believes him.
  • Youthful Freckles: In an unusually literal example, Odette had freckles, for just one summer while she was a tomboy. Once she grew into a more elegant, feminine woman the freckles were gone again.
  • Yo Yo Plot Point: Every film has Odette turned into a swan somehow at some point.

Spirited AwayFantasy Animated FilmsThe Sword in the Stone
Street SharksAnimal Title IndexSWAT Kats
Stay TunedThe Renaissance Age of AnimationTarzan
Surviving The GameFilms of the 1990sSwimming with Sharks

alternative title(s): Swan Princess; The Swan Princess
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