It seems these days that hand-drawn animated films are becoming a thing of the past, with CGI box office smashes such as Brave and Wreck-It Ralph capturing the attention of today's youth. The reason for this could be considered understandable to some, since computer-generated animation is quicker to produce than drawing each frame by hand. However, a degree of standard and quality should come with the decision to do so, especially dealing with a franchise known for its trademark hand-drawn style; and so begins the woeful reincarnation of The Swan Princess.
Back in 1994, low-budget, obscure animation studios trailed behind the coattails of Disney and Warner Brothers, quietly releasing feature films that have gained a close following as the decades have passed. The Swan Princess, a product of Nest Family Entertainment (low-budget, obscure animation studio #45), was a shining example of this. The Swan Princess follows Princess Odette as she tries to reunite with Prince Derek after being kidnapped by the evil sorcerer Rothbart, who casts a spell on the princess, causing her to turn into a swan during daylight hours. The first film spawned two sequels in four years' time, both of which, admittedly, lacking the crisp, magical qualities from that of their predecessor, but still stayed true to the spirit of the original movie. Since 1998, The Swan Princess was left to rest in peace after several years of service to its fan base.
UNTIL NOW. Swan Princess director Richard Rich has recently revived the franchise, creating an all-new straight-to-DVD movie: The Swan Princess Christmas. Let this stand as a testament to the ever-diminishing originality of today's cinema. Instead of creating something different, characters that never existed before, Rich has decided to continue a series that has been long-abandoned and stripped of all the aspects that made it so unique in the first place, all for the sole reason of appealing to a more commercial audience. This generation of youth has never watched any of the previous films, therefore, they will not be familiar with the characters or the backstory, for that matter.
It's bad enough that the franchise is being forcefully continued for profit (a holiday-based one at that), but as previously stated, the animation in this new installment completely dissevers any remnants that could possibly distinguish it from the other films. It would be more appropriate to consider The Swan Princess Christmas a separate entity in itself, as the movie's poor CGI resembles that of a Pixar film gone wrong as opposed to the flowing, emotive hand-drawn style of the previous three movies. The characters do not uphold the same appearance or emotions, only succeeding in looking cheap, stiff, lifeless, and intentionally awkward.
The Swan Princess went from being called an "animated fantasy musical" to a "computer-generated comedy," which makes sense, considering The Swan Princess Christmas is a basically a laughingstock derived from a beloved, overlooked film series. I write this as a childhood fan and life-long viewer of the trilogy--with "trilogy" being the operative word. The Swan Princess Christmas is simply an accident that should have never happened, had Richard Rich possessed the decency to keep his darling creation intact and not taint it with the attempt of fulfilling his namesake.