Year 7, Day 234 - 8/22/15 - Movie #2,128
BEFORE: I've got the same linking problem again today, things very nearly came to a dead end again, but I still have an out - John Cleese carries over from "A Liar's Autobiography", but I have to move from adult-themed animation to more kiddie-oriented fare. I think it's fairly obvious that I was hoping for more films with Benedict Cumberbatch, like "The Imitation Game" or even "The Penguins of Madagascar", which would have been a perfect lead-in to this (mostly) bird-oriented animation chain. But those films aren't available to me yet, so I had to devise another path out from those "Hobbit" films.
THE PLOT: A power hungry sorcerer transforms a princess into a swan by day in this tale of everlasting love.
AFTER: This film represents an attempt made in 1994 to "Disney-fy" a classic story, the ballet "Swan Lake". It got buried at the box office by Disney's re-release of "The Lion King", so either Disney perceived this film as a financial threat, or just wanted to take out some revenge on any animators who jumped ship to work for another company. Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong. They killed almost every Don Bluth film by programming against them, and I was ready to believe that this was a Bluth film too, because some of the palace soldiers look suspiciously like Dirk from the "Dragon's Lair" videogame - and Bluth had a reputation for having too many cartoon animals in a human-based story, which also happens here.
The problem was, by the time that other companies got their act together duplicating Disney films, the House of Mouse had already moved on to the next level, having released "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin" and "Lion King", while this most resembles a combination of "Cinderella" and the Disney film I'll get to tomorrow.
It's a valiant effort to make the plot of "Swan Lake" accessible for kids, but I think there's only so much that you can do - doing a side-by-side of the two plots, it's clear they felt that they had to go with the alternate ending, because the original one just won't make the kids feel happy - and thus begins the process of forcing every story to end with "happily ever after", which comforts kids in the short term, but does nothing to prepare them for the real world.
They also had to monkey a lot with the introductory story - in the ballet, Odette is the queen swan who transforms into a human girl, and here she's a human girl, raised to marry Derek, who gets turned into a swan and has to find her way back to human. The spell is overly complicated as well, it seems like she's a swan most of the time, except she's a woman when the moon sets, or the sun goes behind a cloud, and gets alternate Thursdays off, or something. A lot of the details were missing, and the villain's motivations were really confusing. Plus, a NITPICK POINT: the moon doesn't always appear at night, or rise and fall at regular daily times, though for convenience's sake, the fairy-tale moon seems to always shine at night, as if it's always opposite the sun, and both orbit the earth.
Like, why does the villain need to marry the princess to get the kingdom? If he's such a powerful sorcerer, why can't he just take what he wants? Why go through such a convoluted spell turning her into a swan just to get her consent - there must be a better strategy to get what he wants. Same goes for the deception at the ball, transforming the hag to look like Odette, just to get the Prince to swear a vow to her. It's that old bugaboo about how the devil has to trick people to signing things away voluntarily, so in the end you question just how powerful the devil really is.
If anything, evil Count Rothbard resembles a Bond villain here, in that he'll lock someone up in a castle but then leave and conveniently not notice that there's a hole in the wall that could enable a rescue attempt. It was also very odd that Rothbard's singing voice didn't match his speaking voice at all - I can understand that not every actor is a singer, but if you're going to have two people playing the same character, their voices have to at least be close. Rothbard's song, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is probably the highlight of this film, it's the closest they come to matching the madcap, irreverent tone seen in films like "Aladdin".
There are many other things that sort of get glossed over, like story shortcuts - why does Odette miss Derek, but not her father or anyone else? What leads Derek to believe that Odette is alive, when everyone else believes she's dead? And why does he think that practicing hunting is going to help bring her back? I could go on and on...
Also starring the voices of Jack Palance (last seen in "Treasure Island"), Howard McGillin, Michelle Nicastro, Sandy Duncan, Steven Wright (last seen in "Speechless"), Steve Vinovich, Mark Harelik (last seen in "42"), Dakin Matthews, Joel McKinnon Miller.
RATING: 3 out of 10 summer visits