All Animation Is Disney: Justified because Richard Rich directed the Disney films The Black Cauldron and The Fox and the Hound, and the movie draws heavily on the "Disney Renaissance" style.A There is also the fact that this originally was going to be made by Disney until Richard Rich left and pursued the project independently.B Added to that, the Disney Channel owned the television rights to the first three movies.
If not for their direct interaction with Derek, one could easily assume that the odd personalities of the animals were all in Odette's head; a coping mechanism for dealing with the loss of her father, lover, and home...
On that note, before they're shown talking to non-cursed humans like Derek just fine in the sequels note while Jean-Bob slaps Derek awake in the first film and says "Wake up! Wake up! 'Ello! Good bye," there's no indication that Derek understood what he was saying, one could infer in the first movie that Odette only learned to speak fluent animal after Rothbart's curse turned her into an animal as well.
Rogers and Uberta can come off either as a Beta Couple or as a straight woman and her gay, male friend. Rogers' interest in Zelda in the third movie shoots the gay theory out the window however.
It's possible that Derek's "what else is there?" was less superficial than how it sounded. When Rogers chews him out for it later, Derek counters that there are things he likes about Odette besides her beauty but he's unable to verbalise them. So when Odette asked for a public declaration of what he loves about her, Derek Can't Spit It Out and mentions her beauty because a physical attribute is the easiest to point out. It's only as Odette lies dying that he can finally verbalise how he loves her "kindness and courage".
Odette is never seen grieving over her dead father but she does a lot of breaking down, which can be assumed to be about the whole gravity of the immense situation she's in, from the death of her father to being cursed. Also, there's no real mention of how much time has passed. Rogers mentions that Derek has already looked everywhere for Odette, and Uberta says, "Thinking of her and the way that it was", so possibly a couple of months or even a year could have passed. Maybe Odette had already mourned and now was focused on escape.
Derek barely reacts to King William dying in his arms; he just wanders off to scream Odette's name in anguish over her disappearance and doesn't even give her father's corpse a second glance.
Derek is much too chipper after having finally found Odette only to leave her with Rothbart yet again after what has been presumably months trying to find her. To be fair, she did insist he leave in order to protect him from Rothbart's wrath, but this doesn't serve to make things easier for the two as Rothbart instead elects to kill Odette rather than let Derek go through with his vow to her. Meanwhile, Derek is busy attending to the ball where he expects Odette to appear the next night apparently without any issue.
Odette seems awfully comfortable living in the place that was her prison in the sequels.
No one seems to have any problem in the third movie with Odette being resurrected with necromantic black magic. However, it's possible that Derek's reward for destroying the Forbidden Arts is the return of his wife, or that Odette was only magically dead, and destroying the Dark Arts broke the spell. Neither of the latter seems like a reason for angsting.
Whizer mimicking Rothbart's voice to distract Zelda so he can give the heroes some more time. The only time we hear Rothbart himself speaking is in a flashback by Zelda, and there is no way Whizer could have heard it.
Odette using the power of the moonlight to revive a dead Jean-Bob while she waits to change herself back into a human. One could excuse it in Odette's case as she had been transformed with the same magic that Rothbart used on her in the first film and moonlight was the only way to reverse it, but under what clause was that spell capable of bringing back the dead?
The song "Magic of Love" from the second movie seems to address issues in Derek and Odette's relationship from the first - showing that their Happily Ever After is not black and white and that they still have lots of work to do in building a strong foundation.
In the first movie, when the prince and princess first meet, Chamberlain somehow blows a bird's nest out of his trumpet and it lands on Uberta's head. She laughs it off and the bird carries its nest off, with none of the others batting an eyelid.
Rogers' "She's Gone!" musical number's subject is already weird, being about an older side character's longing for the female antagonist that seduced him, but the bizarre visuals involve him leaning out the window grabbing on to the hair of her giant disembodied head, and once he refers to himself as her "muffin man" he's suddenly in a giant muffin and is in the sky, and proceeds to fall out of the clouds down to earth.
Contested Sequel: The plots for the second and third movies are more original and interesting than many of the Disney DTV sequels. The second devotes a lot of screen time to the entertaining Queen Uberta, while the third features a very charismatic villain and has a surprisingly dark climax. Plus, the animation is still pretty consistent across all three films. Despite all that, they're still direct-to-video movies that feature almost none of the original voice cast (save for Odette and Puffin). The CGI films have it even worse.
Rogers is beloved for his Deadpan Snarker tendencies and getting the best line in the movie.
"What else is there? You should write a book - how to offend women in five syllables or less."
Queen Uberta becomes one in the second movie for the Pity the Kidnapper situation she ends up in.
Fanon: Dereks father and Odettes mother are never seen or mentioned in any of the films, which has led to several theories regarding their absence. While the first film states that Uberta is widowed, the circumstances behind her husbands death are never elaborated on. Its most popularly speculated that Odettes mother died in childbirth or otherwise passed away very early in her daughter's life.
Fanon Discontinuity: Part of the fandom tends to ignore the CGI films and pretend they didn't exist.
First Installment Wins: The first film is one of the most well-known Disneyesque films of the 1990s and is moderately popular. But how many people realize it has not just one film, but seven and counting? They're not aired on television much, unlike the The Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels, which only invokes this more. It doesn't help that was a huge Sequel Gap between the original two sequels and the All-CGI Cartoon revival.
Franchise Original Sin: Despite the obvious Disneyfication the first movie commits to the Swan Lake ballet, it's far from the first version to alter the story into a Happy Ending. Allegedly in fact, the original ballet was intended to have one.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: During the opening song, Derek takes out his frustration over the forced betrothal by shooting arrows at a Gonk picture of Odette that he drew. This becomes less amusing after Derek mistakes Odette in her swan form for the Great Animal, and very nearly shoots her for real.
In the first movie, when Odette and Puffin are taking off the lure Prince Derek back to Swan Lake, Jean-Bob gives a long list of penalties to Puffin if he lets anything happen to Odette, ending in having his "back legs fried in butter!" This is how frog's legs are typically served, especially in France.
When Rothbart disguises the Hag as Odette to trick Derek into making the vow of everlasting love to her as opposed to Odette, he doesn't put her in a white dress, like Odette usually wears. Instead, it's a black dress. This is a shout-out to the ballet that inspired the film where Rothbart disguises his daughter, Odile, as Odette to trick the Prince into making the vow to her. Traditionally, the ballerina who plays Odette also dances as Odile. The only visible difference? Odile wears black as opposed to Odette's white garments.
The universe repeatedly contriving to turn Odette into a swan again gets more and more absurd as the sequels go on. It makes sense in the first two filmsnote the first film, of course, it being a central plot point, and the second's reason being that the villain traps the heroes in a tower and Derek is walking into an ambush, so Odette begs Odile to turn her into a swan so she can fly out the window and warn Derek, but by the third movie...
Rothbart's Villain Song "No More Mr. Nice Guy" may be catchy but with lyrics like "Up till now, I've pulled my punches, I intend to eat their lunches", it makes for a lot of unintentional laughs.
Rothbart donning a crown for the majority of the first movie may be a sign of his megalomania even before he's laid claim to Odette's rightful throne, but it is quite distracting when you remember he has no title and spends the film literally waiting around for Odette to accept his hand in marriage instead of making any further move to seize his desired prize.
Derek's hair. It's hard to take him seriously when he looks like a brunette He-Man with a hairspray fetish.
Narm Charm: The second film's end credits has the cast taking part in a rap cover of "No Fear". Compared to the Anachronism Stew the later sequels suffered from, this number is so out of place, one can't help but enjoy it. The cast (especially Rogers' actor) are clearly having just as much fun singing it as we are listening to it.
The Scrappy: Derek. His reason for suddenly being attracted to Odette is because he finally sees her beauty, which he is at least called out for in-universe by Rogers and Odette herself. He really takes the cake when he's holding the Idiot Ball so many times that he's practically playing hackysack with it, as using a little common sense against Rothbart would've ruined the plan of the latter entirely. In fact, the producers had to edit the film because a test screening showed Derek to be too unsympathetic and the viewers were not happy about it.
So Bad, It's Good: The franchise as a whole, which is an epic Cliché Storm of pseudo-Disney princess tropes, exceptionally bland main characters and scenery chewing villains carrying most of the movies. More so for the CGI sequels, which feature off-putting animation, many an Ass Pull and just plain give up on being on the same tone as the original.
The first film drops the moral that physical beauty is not a valid reason for romance. No matter how beautiful or how much you might love the other person, if their only value of you lies in how you look, it's not a good idea to continue that relationship. Derek only gets to marry Odette once he proves that he loves her for the person she is, and not her beauty.
"I love you. Your kindness and courage. I always have, and always will."
The second drops an anvil that relationships are not perfect, and happily ever after will likely be followed by difficulties. It is however important to work at balancing your other duties with making time for those you love.
Special Effects Failure: In some shots of the 4:3 VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, and SDTV broadcasts, the edges of the frame cells are clearly visible, with some copies showing nearly a full frame cell intruding on Rothbart's musical number. The widescreen version used for theaters and HD releases hides these by cropping the top and bottom of every scene.
Strangled by the Red String: Despite a brief suggestion that Derek developed a crush on Odette in their teen years, the two young adults dread the very thought of getting married and have to be physically forced into the same room together. At this point, they share a single look and suddenly decide they're meant to be. The fact that it happens during a musical number makes it hard to determine the length of time - is it a symbolic representation of them realising their feelings over a longer period?
Surprisingly Improved Sequel: A Royal Myztery improves upon previous CGI sequels, with some pretty well-thought out twists, and some self-aware pot-shots at its predecessors.
Tainted by the Preview: If the timing of The Swan Princess Christmas (14 years after the end of the trilogy and two years after the death of Odette's original speaking voice) didn't already make it bad enough, the trailer's cheap animation and writing quality cinch it.
Tastes Like Diabetes: Each of the first three movies end with Derek and/or Odette saying something sappy, then kissing in closeup (through Stock Footage, no less). From the third movie:
Odette: Promise me, Derek. There's no more magic in the castle?
Derek: I can't do that. So long as you're here, Odette, there will always be magic.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: The animation changing to CGI (starting with the 4th movie onward) had overwhelming negative reaction from the fans of older movies, or people who enjoyed the first movie.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: There is no attempt to make a meaningful character out of Odile's counterpart in the film. The role of impersonating Odette at the ball is given to Rothbart's hag servant Bridget- who has barely any screen time and no lines of dialogue.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Derek and Odette grow up together with a "girls have cooties/boys are gross" attitude, and when they both become adults, Derek falls in love with her for her beauty alone, something which Odette notices and refuses to marry Derek for. This could have made for a much more engaging moral about not marrying for looks alone and to fall in love because you love her as a person. But that plot point is simply thrown away, and from Odette's kidnapping onward, the two are portrayed as being truly in love and neither one even seems to remember that Odette was leaving Derek when Rothbart appeared. The issue is only briefly touched on during Odette's Disney Death, when Derek finally admits that he loves her for her kindness andcourage and always has, but it's not given nearly the emphasis that the film's beginning makes us expect.
In the first film, Rothbart almost out of nowhere reveals that Odette will die if Derek makes the vow to the wrong girl, which many have pointed out as a Plot Hole due to his plan having previously been to marry her and become king. However, the Cut Song "Rothbart's Song" would have shown that Odette dying wasn't part of the plan at the start, and that he chose to alter his plan after Derek found her.
Uncanny Valley: The franchise's shift to CGI resulted in this effect. The original 2D character designs don't translate well into 3D, which is not helped by the stilted animation due to the low budget. This worsened when the later sequels introduced new characters, whose detailed and semi-photorealistic designs painfully clash with the more exaggerated style of the older characters.
Vindicated by History: While the first film was never considered outright bad, it was written off by many as a pretty forgettable film that paled in comparison to Disney's then-ongoing hot streak, and was compared unfavorably even most of Don Bluth's contemporary work. Nowadays, with animated films having largely moved away from traditional fantasy stories and hand-drawn animation in general, many have revisited the first Swan Princess film (and even the second and third, to an extent) and found it actually holds up quite well in retrospect. It even received a good amount of press for its 25th anniversary in 2019, showing that there was a lot of nostalgia for it.
Odette, in her swan form, has to steal a map from inside Rothbart's castle to tell where she is when she could just fly and get an idea that way. Granted, she wants to make sure that she knows where she's going and how to get back - it's only by being at the lake that she can turn back into a human - and she's probably not too familiar with the land beyond Derek's castle. Still, stealing the bad guy's map is a surefire way to get his attention.
Derek has a couple of these:
During the ball, he falls for an Odette dupe who is dressed in black. (In the ballet version of this story, this is justified as the lovers have only just met, but here they've known each other for years and she usually wears white.) It's been observed that while Derek isn't a total moron, he's not exactly the most quick witted individual. He did note that the Odette impostor seemed a little different than how Odette usually is, but Bridget's acting and composure as Odette was near flawless. Besides, she was probably pandering to Derek's ego by the way she was hanging on his shoulder and smiling vapidly as he was making his vow. Derek was too in the moment to really notice the change because it seemed too good to be true. You'd think a prince-a future ruler-would have heard the saying "if it's too good to be true, then it probably is." In the third film, he falls for an Odette dupe again. It's even lampshaded by Zelda.
For that matter, when Derek tells Odette to go the ball his mother is hosting and there he'd make the vow of everlasting love...he doesn't make sure that she has a way to get to said ball and without the very dangerous sorcerer who not only cursed her but killed her father from finding out. Granted, this plot hole is still present in the original ballet either but still...
Rothbart's entire plan to take over Odette's kingdom makes absolutely no sense when you think about it. On one end he wants to marry Odette as this will make him the heir apparent to the throne with King William out of the way. However, he intends for her to fall in love with him, which serves as the only means to break the spell he's cast on her, instead of simply finding someone else, like say Bridget for instance and disguising them as Odette, which is exactly what he does when sabotaging Derek's vows to the real Odette later. Naturally, Odette doesn't go for it, and he doesn't think to brainwash her into doing his bidding, and instead waits around for her to "come to her senses" as he sees it and doesn't do anything to take up arms against Odette's kingdom or anything of the sort. When Derek shows up to mess things up for Rothbart, he doesn't do anything to kill or capture Derek to prevent this from happening and instead decides he will make it so his vow will kill Odette, effectively doing away any claim he might've had on Odette's throne. In short, it would have been much more practical for Rothbart to simply take the kingdom by force after having already killed William, the very plan he objected to when Odette mentions this to him.
In the third film while Wizzer has Zelda distracted, Derek apparently thinks it's a good idea to shout her name and then attack her as opposed to snatching the wand away and breaking it while she was distracted. Had he done the latter, he probably would've succeeded before the red seeker hit Odette.