Sony // 2012 // 84 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 24th, 2012
A musical holiday treat the whole family will enjoy!
The career of animator Richard Rich is a rather underwhelming one, a sort of less glamorous variation on Don Bluth's career trajectory. Rich did prominent work for Disney during the '70s and '80s, helming modestly appealing efforts like The Fox and the Hound, The Rescuers and The Black Cauldron. However, Rich jumped ship in 1986 to create his own animation studio. His first non-Disney feature was the 1994 film The Swan Princess, which received middling reviews and bombed at the box office. As such, it's a rather melancholy fact that The Swan Princess is nonetheless Rich's biggest success story outside of Disney, as the film at least managed to receive some attention and was regarded as a legitimate alternative to the animated films being offered by the House of Mouse.
While numerous animated films have spawned direct-to-DVD sequels, few of the original films have been duds (there's a reason Treasure Planet 3: Jim Hawkins' Thanksgiving Adventure doesn't exist). Even so, the Rich-helmed The Swan Princess Christmas is the fourth (!) film the franchise has offered, delivering a relatively insignificant tale about characters few people remember. Still, a film shouldn't be judged by its popularity or its marketability. The important question is whether The Swan Princess Christmas works on its own terms.
Well...no, not really. Quality-wise, the film is quite comparable to straight-to-DVD Disney sequels like Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and The Fox and the Hound 2. It's a completely insignificant story about what characters from a much better film are doing in their downtime. Any magic The Swan Princess contained (not that it had a whole lot) is gone, as a host of wheezy gags and irritating musical numbers join forces to deliver a pretty insufferable 84 minutes of kiddie-themed entertainment.
As our story begins, Princess Odette (Elle Deets) and Prince Derek (Yuri Lowenthal, Ben 10: Alien Force) are heading to Derek's family's castle for Christmas. Alas, Odette will be required to sing an awesome Christmas song during a special celebration, and she has no idea what to sing! Meanwhile, Jean-Bob the Frog (Clayton James Mackay, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) is desperate to persuade someone to kiss him. Wacky hijinks, a kidnapping and a heroic rescue ensue.
Everything about The Swan Princess Christmas just feels so tired, as if everyone involved just had no genuine interest in anything other than cashing their next paycheck (and who can blame them?). The CG animation is flat and uninvolving, the voice work is generally bland and the songs (a combination of new material and vintage carols given "hip" new arrangements) manage to be rather insufferable affairs. I'm sure very young viewers will find it engaging enough, but they'll feel the same way about every piece of children's entertainment ever made.
The DVD transfer is decent, offering bright colors and strong detail (not that the cheap animation really benefits from that). The Dolby 5.1 Surround track gets the job done, with the music sounding particularly robust throughout. Supplements include a "Magical Storybook Read-Along" interactive feature, a couple of sing-along videos, an Anna Graceman music video and a brief featurette on the making of the music video.
There are plenty of cheap animated Christmas specials popping up each year, so it's not like options are limited in this department. Even if you're just looking for something to distract the youngsters while you finish putting the lights up, The Swan Princess Christmas should be nowhere near the top of your list.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Music Video