Michael Scott

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The Swan Princess: 25th Anniversary


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Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:



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Movie

Back in the late 80s and early 90s EVERY studio wanted to be Disney. Back then they were the end all/be all of the animated community (before Pixar popped onto the scene with Toy Story) and studios like Fox, Sony and others were trying their hardest to come up with their own fairy tale classics. Sony’s The Swan Princess was just such an attempt, but unfortunately came out the same year that The Lion King came out, which effectively killed any chance that Sony had for making it’s own blockbuster animated kids film that would sweep the box offices, although it didn’t stop them from making several DTV animated sequels over the years ala Disney. The film itself was a bit under rated, and even though it didn’t rise to the high Disney standards of excellent storytelling (or even animation), it was a cute animated kids tale that sadly got pushed completely to the side except for those of us who grew up in the 90s and watched the tar out of that old VHS.

The Swan Princess is a pretty obvious take on the old ballet Swan Lake, and while it is not as legendary as Tchaikovsky’s amazing work of art, it is a solid kids movie that takes Swan Lake and blends it with elements of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, but on a more low budget way. The story revolves around a kingdom in search of an heir. An heir that is born in the form of princess Odette (Liz Callaway). King William (Darkin Matthews) and a neighboring kingdom come up with the idea of wedding Odette to their son, prince Derek (Howard McGillin), going so far as to bring the children together every summer in hopes that the two fall in love (as if arranged marriages against their children’s will wasn’t common back then) and combine the two kingdoms together.

As expected, the two children’s animosity towards each other fades with the two falling head over heels in love with each other. However, Prince Derek isn’t exactly the brilliant sort at first (as most young males in their 20s tend to be) and gushes about her beauty, leaving Odette with the uneasy feeling that Derek may not exactly love HER, but her beauty. Telling him to come back the princess leaves to go back home, only to be captured by a mysterious beast (who turns out to be the banished sorcerer Rothbart who tried to tke over the kingdom when she was born) and transported far away. Everyone thinks that she’s dead except for Prince Derek, who has finally realized that he loves the princess more than life itself. The only thing that stands between him is lack of knowledge, an evil sorcerer, and a curse that may separate the two lovers forever.

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The Swan Princess is a solid retelling of Swan Lake, but it has a few major flaws. The biggest one is that it just glosses over the creepy parts with Rothbart from the play, and skips on to the happy parts. I know that this is a kids movie at heart, but Disney has handled evil incredibly well over the years, and glossing over those important parts makes the movie feel a bit incomplete. As if they were rushing towards the end at top speed and don’t mind leaping over major plot points to get there. The second being the animation. I know it was 1994, but the animation really feels like 50s and 60s animation styles and not up to the high standards that the 1990s had with it. It’s not BAD per se, but rather kind of out of place when stood up next to The Lion King of the same year.

The Swan Princess really is a sweet film and a huge part of my 1990s childhood when I would watch the VHS with my cousins for babysitting duty. Back then I was a bit too “old” for kids films, but later on in life I’ve gained new appreciation for these animated classics and look forward to watching them with my nieces and nephews since I have no children of my own. The movie is a lot of fun, though one of the more flawed Disney knockoffs, and this new 25th Anniversary edition is the FIRST time we’ve been able to see it in on home video since the old DVD a decade ago (which was pretty crummy by modern standards).




Rating:

Rated G for General Audiences




Video: :4stars:
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Sony’s AVC encode comes in the original 1.85:1 framing and actually looks really good on Blu-ray. In fact, it looks extremely filmic and natural, with a good layer of grain over the top of the picture. There is some speckling and debris on the print for sure, but it’s never very noticeable and you can only see the specks once in a while. The colors are bright and warm, with strong color saturation and great black levels. The one downside to the whole thing is that the film was animated rather poorly to begin with, so there’s not a whole lot of details to really get out of the picture. The lines are clean and clear of jaggies, though, and the despite being simplistic, has a really raw and organic look to the water color backdrops and hand drawn characters.








Audio: :4stars:
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For the 25th anniversary Sony has gone back and redone the audio to included a brand new and never seen 7.1 DTS-HD MA track to accompany the 5.1 track that we've had forever (also in DTS-HD MA). Comparing the two tracks side by side there is a definite (although not massive) difference between the two. The 5.1 mix has always been a bit front heavy, but this new 7.1 track opens up the rear of the room a lot more, adding in some great surround activity when Derek is running through the forest, or when he battles Rothbart at the end. Dialog reproduction is good and the LFE support channel does solid work with the track. There's some extra weight and oomph with the songs and the end battle is much more punchy and heavy. All in all, a very good track for a movie that has always just had a "decent" sound mix.










Extras: :2stars:
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• ALL-NEW "A Look Back, Tease Ahead" - featurette
The Swan Princess: The original making of featurette
• Sing-Along Sons










Final Score: :3.5stars:


The Swan Princess is 25 years old. I still can’t wrap my head around that, because I remember it from my teens! And I’m not that old, right? Ugg, dating oneself is never a good sign, but Sony’s release of The Swan Princess on Blu-ray is a welcome sign for this lover of classic animation. Their Blu-ray release is well done in terms of video and audio, with just a smattering of extras that were on the DVD to accompany it. While a bit flawed, the film is still loads of fun to watch and really brings you back to the days of classic hand drawn animation. A fun watch for sure.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright, Sandy Duncan, Liz Callaway, Steve Vinovich, Mark Harelik
Directed by: Richard Rich
Written by: Brian Nissen
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, English DTS -HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French
Studio: Sony
Rated: G
Runtime: 89 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 29th, 2019
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Recommendation: Fun Watch

 
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Asere

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Thanks for the review. My daughter would enjoy this one.
 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. However, I refuse to get this. I have this movie on repeat and I mean repeat for many years.. No more.. I can't take it anymore.
 

Michael Scott

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Lol. Sounds like you've had your share of disc spins on this
 

tripplej

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oh yea, and then some.

I have some movies like this one that are on the banned list due to million times watching them.. lol.
 
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