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Animation / The Wild Swans

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The Wild Swans (Russian: Дикие лебеди, Dikiye lebedi) is a 1962 traditionally animated feature film from the Soviet Union, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name. The film was directed by Mikhail Tsekhanovsky and Vera Tsekhanovskaya, a husband-and-wife team, and was produced at the Soyuzmult film studio in Moscow.

Elisa (Lisa in some versions) is a beautiful young girl with eleven elder brothers. When their father decides to remarry, he accidentally chooses a witch as his wife, who curses Elisa to be unrecognizable to everyone she knows and turns the brothers into swans.

Elisa eventually breaks the curse on herself and is reunited with her brothers. Together, they decide to travel to another country and start fresh. On their journey, Elisa learns how to break the curse on her brothers and commits to doing so, even as she falls in love with the King of the new country and her vow to break the curse begins to threaten her own life.


There are several different dubbed versions in circulation, many having been Abridged for Children with heavy edits, including a 1964 version by Cartoon Classics and a 1990 version by Just For Kids.

The Wild Swans contains examples of:

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: The King's song, sung to Elisa.
  • Ascended Extra: In the 1964 dub, the evil Queen who cursed the siblings continues to use her magic to meddle throughout the story rather than disappearing after the first act.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The brothers turn into swans during the day and revert to their human shapes at night.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Averted; the brothers try to pull this off to rescue Elisa from being burned at the stake, but fail when the sun rises because of their curse.
  • Curse Escape Clause: The curse that forces the brothers to turn into swans every day can be broken if someone who loves them makes them magic sweaters from stinging nettles. While making the sweaters, that person must not speak a word.
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  • Determinator: Elisa. Nothing is going to stop her from breaking the curse on her brothers, be it pain, love, or threat of death.
  • Dub Name Change: Depending on the version, the evil Queen may be called Queen Hildegarde, Elisa may be Eliza or Lisa, and good luck keeping track of the names of all eleven brothersnote .
  • Elective Mute: Elisa, as a condition of breaking the curse on her brothers.
  • For the Evulz: There is no clear motive given for why the evil Queen decided to curse Elisa and her brothers.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Elisa and the King.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Elisa gives food to hungry mice, protects boars from hunters, and is friends with the birds and the dogs from the palace where she grew up.
  • Happily Ever After: Implied that Elisa, the King, and all of her brothers will live this way now that the curse is broken.
  • Love at First Sight: The King decides to take Elisa back to the castle with him and make her his bride after he first sees her for only a few seconds.
  • No Name Given: In the original and the 1990 dub, the King and the Archbishop are only ever referred to as such.
  • Princess Classic: Elisa in spades.
  • Sinister Minister: The Archbishop is trying to set up the King with his own niece, Marta, so that he can rule by proxy. When the King falls in love with Elisa instead, the Archbishop discredits her as a witch and tries to have her killed.
  • Talking Animal: Played with. The crow is seen speaking to Elisa and her brothers, and in some dubs to the King as well. However, the mice and the boars may also be able to speak, though it's unclear if they can speak only to other animals, if Elisa can speak to them because of her own powers, or if they can speak to anyone.
  • Team Mom: Since their mother is dead, Elisa is a mother figure for her brothers.

Example of: