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The Swan Princess Christmas

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The Swan Princess Christmas
The-swan-princess-christmas-5c7c2fc4e72d1.jpg
Moral of the Story: Following up a traditionally animated film with a CGI sequel almost never ends well.
Genre: Animation
Directed By: Richard Rich
Produced By: Richard Rich
Seldon O. Young
Jared F. Brown
Written By: Richard Rich
Brian Nissen
Starring: Laura Bailey
Yuri Lowenthal
James Arrington
G.K. Bowes
Sean Wright
Photography: Color
Distributed By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Runtime: 83 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Prequel: The Swan Princess III: The Mystery of the Enchanted Treasure
Sequel: The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale


The Swan Princess: Christmas is a 2012 American computer-animated fantasy family film directed by Richard Rich, produced by Crest Animation Productions and Nest Family Entertainment. It is the fourth film in The Swan Princess series first in 14 years and follows the adventures of Odette and Derek celebrating their first Christmas together. While the three previous films in the series were animated using traditional 2D hand-drawn animation, The Swan Princess Christmas was the first film to be created entirely with 3D CGI animation.

Out of all of the cast members, James Arrington is the only one to return from the original film and its sequels, Doug Stone reprises his role as Speed from the sequels, James Arrington reprises his role as Sir Chamberlain from the first two films of The Swan Princess franchise and Sean Wright reprises his role of Rothbart from The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom. The movie is followed by a fifth 3D computer-animated direct-to-DVD entitled The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale released two years later.

Plot

Princess Odette and Prince Derek are on their way to Queen Uberta's castle to celebrate their first Christmas together. Unbeknownst to them, the evil sorcerer Rothbart has returned from the dead as a spirit and enlisted a black cat named Number 9 for help by promising him nine extra lives. Number 9 lures Derek to the cellar of Uberta's castle where he opens a chest with the initial R on it. When Derek leaves, Rothbart emerges from the chest as a ghost. From here, Rothbart starts his plan to destroy the kingdom's Christmas spirit, the only thing more powerful than the Forbidden Arts, as this will give him the power to be revived in bodily form. Rothbart is able to cast minor spells that cause people to fight; he does this to Queen Uberta and Lord Rogers, and later to the villagers until almost the entire village is in disharmony.

Derek and Odette learn of Rothbart's return as a ghostly spirit when wind chimes playing "Far Longer than Forever" make him visible and hold him immobile. They set up chimes all around the castle, but Rothbart eventually re-enlists the help of Bridget (his hag henchwoman from the first film who had turned good) and she helps remove the wind chimes for him.

As part of the Christmas festivities, Uberta and Rogers are staging musical performances, but because of Rothbart's spell, they have become aggressive and competitive with each other. Odette, who is staging her own song, invites the children to perform "Christmas is the Reason" which momentarily weakens Rothbart's power over Uberta and Rogers. Odette follows up on this by inviting Uberta and Rogers to give gifts and food to the poor. This time the goodwill breaks the spell on the whole kingdom and Rothbart is severely weakened.

Rothbart's last chance to ruin the kingdom's Christmas spirit is to sabotage the royal Christmas tree. He sends Number 9 to steal one of the Christmas lights, and Rothbart casts a dark spell on it that will destroy the tree. Derek learns of this plan thanks to Bridget, who has double-crossed Rothbart and traps him inside a giant chime.

Derek rushes back to the Christmas Eve party to stop the tree from being lit, but they are too late. The enchanted light bulb bursts the tree and its ornaments into flames. Rothbart becomes fully restored to his physical body, takes Uberta's crown which he turns into his own, and kidnaps Odette where he takes her back to Swan Lake.

At Swan Lake, Rothbart once again turns Odette into a white swan and traps her inside a cage made of roots, just as Speed, Puffin, and Jean-Bob arrived. Puffin tries to attack Rothbart, but the evil sorcerer knocks the bird down and turns him into a Christmas ornament. He then casts a spell on the moonlight, so that when it touches Odette's wings, she will turn into a golden swan-shaped ornament forever. Derek arrives to rescue Odette and Rothbart has assumed the form of the Great Animal again to fight Derek. At first, Derek is overpowered, but Odette starts singing "The Season of Love," which weakens Rothbart until he bursts into flames and dies. With Rothbart defeated for a second time, Odette changes back into a human, and Puffin returns to his normal self. Derek dies in her arms due to his injuries, but a distraught Odette sings again, the great spirit of Christmas returns him to life and restores the royal Christmas Tree. At the Christmas party, the kingdom puts up a new Christmas ornament on the tree, honoring Derek and Odette.

Why It Sucks

  1. The film is inferior to the first three Swan Princess films, and it lacks any charm or charisma of those three films, as it is completely unnecessary for various reasons and was made to cash in. The main reason that it didn't need a sequel is that the third film, the Mystery of the Enchanted Treasure, had a good ending where it didn't need a sequel because Rothbart and his allies who work for him were defeated and Odette asks Derek to promise there is no more magic in the castle. Derek replies he cannot because there will always be magic when Odette is there thus ending the franchise on a high note. In fact, it's likely that Sony, Nest Entertainment, and Crest Animation saw the DVD sales of the first two sequels from the 90s and brought back the franchise only to be milked just for money as well as making 6 additional sequels after that, in fact, the franchise was so milked that many people could see the Swan Princess as a cash grab franchise, not only that, but Crest would also milk the Alpha and Omega franchise with 4 addition sequels (including three more done by Splash Entertainment due to Crest’s bankruptcy) the following year which is one of the main reasons why Crest went downhill starting in around 2010.
    • In fact, this film came out 14 years after the third film, which feels so late to make another Swan Princess movie, especially since many fans have lost interest in the franchise after the third being its last film at the time before the release of this movie.
    • On the topic of this, this movie ignores everything that happened in the previous two sequels and acts as if it didn't happen at all thus making it more like a sequel to the original rather than a sequel to the third film.
  2. Starting from this movie, it has so many signs of anachronism which is highly unacceptable for a movie franchise that takes place in the low-fantasy-themed medieval times.
  3. The CGI animation, along with the way the franchise's characters were transferred from 2D to 3D was extremely cheap and ugly as well as outdated that’s comparable with Norm of the North or Happily N'Ever After 2, especially compared to the first three films' decent hand-drawn animation and for 2012 standards. It’s no surprise that Crest Animation, the animation studio behind the first five Alpha and Omega films are behind the animation of this movie and this was one of the final films made by that company as they went bankrupt the following year (despite the fact that their later films being produced by Crest Animation until 2015).
    • Poor movements and creepy facial expressions of the characters which were a major downgrade compared to the first three movies, especially with Odette’s face.
    • Loads of animation errors such as the model clipping issues.
  4. Many plot points and assents are lazily rehashed from not only the first three movies that was put in to pander former fans, but also Crest's other films as well, only with minor differences.
    • The scene where Rothbart turns Odette into a Swan and himself into the Great Animal to fight Derek is basically just too similar to that from the original film with the major difference being that the scene was animated in CGI and Odette being the one who defeated Rothbart with singing.
    • The royal star would later reuse the same model that was on the gas station clerk's Christmas tree from Alpha and Omega 2: A Howl-iday Adventure (another film involving Christmas from Crest Animation which releases a year after).
  5. Some of the characters from the first three films were noticeably flanderized in this film to the point where the film removes all the good qualities that the characters usually have.
    • Princess Odette went from a kind-hearted and brave swan princess who was later being revealed as a demon in the third film to a bland, sickeningly sweet, and idiotic Mary Sue who only cares about her Christmas to do list than the return of Sir Rothbart and ignores Number 9 being frozen in the snow, saying that "that was kind of creepy", which is just out of character of her since she'd normally help animals (especially her animal friends) in the first three films.
    • Prince Derek became a bit dumber and blander as opposite to a smart, brave, and aimless young man who must assume a great responsibility in the first three films.
    • Puffin is shown to be the idiot companion of the animal group, as opposed to the somewhat dimwitted but good-hearted, loyal, and (usually) brave friend.
    • Speed, while still having his original personality, has became a punching bag who gets mistreated for no apparent reason.
    • Jean Bob has become even more of a womanizing jerk than he was in the first three films who want to kiss females to turn him back into a human and for some reason, has his accent changed to a sort of mixture between French and German.
    • Queen Uberta and Lord Rogers went from good advising parents to Prince Derek, with the former being a short-temped, yet a charming and tolerable woman and the latter being a dim-witted, yet somewhat funny inventor who gives Odette and Derek some advice, to generic toxic parent-typed characters who share an equal amount of stupidity and carelessness, with the former being a weak, nagging, annoying old woman (more so than in the second film) and the latter being an unfunny and poorly written comic-relief character who is just there to make pop culture references and anachronistic errors, especially one scene where they fight over ham while they bring back the Christmas spirit to the kingdom.
    • Bridget is inexplicably derailed since the first three films, reverting to her first movie self, making her work for Rothbart and Number 9 to take down Christmas in the kingdom, only to reveal to Derek that she was working as a spy to him the whole time while working for the former two, thankfully, she reverted back to her post character development self in later sequels.
    • Sir Rothbart is easily the worst flanderized character in this movie, going from a villainous enchanter who tried to take over King William’s kingdom in the first film and has turned into a generic doomsday villain who wants to get rid of Christmas in the kingdom (which is a downright stupid and pathetic goal, especially since he's basically a Lih now since he has powers beyond the dead, and yet he only wants to ruin a holiday for the locals) and was also a coward since he was scared of windchimes just because it represents Christmas which is false by the way since wind chimes are just musical instruments that only played with the wind and don’t represent Christmas, unlike Christmas trees.
      • He's also becoming a hypocrite when it comes to his evil plan, he told Number 9 that he can't affect Odette and Derek just because they're full of Christmas spirit and yet he affects Uberta, who was said to be the most Christmas-crazy of them all, just fine.
  6. Extremely weak and idiotic final battle which is on par with Free Birds' final battle and easily the worst climax in not only the CGI Swan Princess sequels, but also the entire franchise in general as when the Great Animal defeats Derek, Odette, who was trapped in the wood cage in her swan form, sings a Christmas song in front of the Great Animal, defeating him and bringing back the Christmas spirit to the whole kingdom,
  7. Forgettable soundtrack with the music doesn't really fit the era but that is to be expected with this franchise, especially the overuse of auto-tune used in the film's covers of classic Christmas songs which is very anachronistic since auto-tune doesn't exist in medieval times.
  8. Some of the humor and pop culture references can seem forced and nonsensical, like where Lord Rogers and Uberta fight with lightsabers in a Star Wars-styled fight which feels extremely out of place for a Swan Princess movie.
  9. Very poor writing that takes away most of the charm that the first three movies had, resulting in several plot holes such as Number 9 somehow summoning Rothbart back from the dead despite him being a cat and how did Rothbart's spirit ever end up in a box?
  10. Almost none of the voice actors from the previous films reprise their roles in this sequel while it’s justified, considering that some of the voice actors from the first three were deceased at the time, the only exception being James Arrington, Doug Stone, and Sean Wright who reprise their roles as Sir Chamberlain, Speed (the sequels), and Rothbart (The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom) respectively.
  11. Cringeworthy attempts at getting laughs from the audience. For example, Jean Bob says "Great, now we got aliens" during the climax of the movie even though aliens don't exist in this timeline.
  12. Poor direction by Richard Rich whose takes are always static just like the Alpha and Omega films and the other CGI Swan Princess movies.
  13. Loads of padding that only serve to pad out the running time of the movie, such as the musical numbers.
  14. Very poor quality sound effects that sound like they’re taken from a stock sound effect website, just like the sequels that followed after this movie which shows how low the production valves of Crest’s CGI films really are.
  15. Overuse of many clichés such as the "The power of love brings someone back to life" and "One song fixes everything" clichés (such as the previously mentioned laughably weak final battle in WIS# 6). Not to mention that when these two tropes end up being combined in the climax, both their concepts and executions come off as downright ridiculous and make absolutely no sense even in the context of the film itself. What basically happens is, after Prince Derek is killed, Odette's singing causes the Great Christmas Spirit to bring Derek back to life. No, we are not making this up.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The voice acting is somewhat decent thanks to some voice actors such as Laura Bailey and James Arrington if there's no auto-tuning as shown in their covers of classic Christmas songs.
  2. Sir Chamberlain, Speed, and Bromley are the only characters from the first three films that aren’t flanderized in this sequel and and still their likable selves.
  3. Number 9, is somewhat a interesting character who works for Rothbart to give him his nine lives back, even though poorly executed since he is treated like a punching bag throughout the film.
  4. The background looks very nice which is surprising, considering that the animation was very cheap.

Reception

The Swan Princess Christmas received mostly negative reviews from critics, audiences, and fans of the first three Swan Princess films mostly due to its overuse of autotune in their Christmas songs and very cheap animation. It has a 3.1/10 on IMDb, a 2.1 on Letterboxd, and a 48% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Jambareeqi gave this movie 3 quarters of a strawberry out of 5, claiming that this is "just a lazy cash grab that takes a recognizable '90s franchise, slaps the word "Christmas" on it and froze us onto supermarket shelves" and a "disgraceful effort that actually makes the first three films look competent and well-made by comparison", while PhantomStider and AniMat put it as the 6th and 9th worst animated sequel, criticizing it for its video-game-like animation, poor writing, generic pop songs, and many characters (like Sir Rothbart) being flanderized in contrast to the first three films.

Videos

Musical Hell's Review

External Links

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