Review: Kingdom of Music (The Swan Princess 9)

The Swan Princess has released yet another sequel in their never-ending franchise. Fortunately, the last one was such an unfathomable disaster that the story had nowhere to go but up. I was pleased to find that Kingdom of Music was an improvement over the last few CGI direct-to-DVD sequels. This is in part thanks to its throwbacks to the original "Swan Lake" inspired story as well as cultural diversity, which is trending right now in the world of fairy tale princesses, and the coming of age for Alise, Odette and Derek's adopted daughter. Actually, I think they could have generated more interest among the Swan Princess crowd if they had made her grow into a teenager a bit earlier, since that is the classic age for fairy tale princesses. They decided to go the Sofia the First route instead by making her an ordinary little girl who falls into royalty without the obstacle of romance getting in the way. However, Lucas, the orphan boy Alise met in Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today, appeared to be a potential future love interest. That potential came to fruition in the latest movie.


The Swan Princess: Kingdom of Music is the ninth movie from this animated series of films that began with The Swan Princess in 1994. Early attempts to convert the designs from traditional animation to CGI with The Swan Princess Christmas in 2012 were shoddy, to say the least, but there is a clear improvement in this movie's animation. I really liked Alise's teenage design because it made her look like a real fairy tale princess without being a clone of Odette. Her scrawny frame hasn't changed, but her long brown hair is now braided to one side, and she has a flowing chiffon magenta gown with gold accents that compliments her recent growth spurt. I did find it a little weird that Odette and Derek still wear the same clothes from the first movie after so much time had supposedly passed, but I guess they wanted to keep at least some level of recognizability in the films. Another thing I found odd about was that Rogers was still being referred to as "Lord Rogers" even though he had agreed to become king by marrying Queen Uberta in A Royal MyZtery, which took place years earlier.

The plot of Kingdom of Music revolves around a Chinese brother and sister named Prince Li and Princess Mei Li. Mei Li is in love with a peasant boy named Chen, who is cursed to turn into a dragon for falling in love with the princess. Mei Li follows her brother Li to Odette's kingdom in the hopes that Odette and Derek might be able to help her find a way to break Chen's curse. However, unlike the spell that Rothbart cast on Odette, Chen seems to turn back into a human randomly and often whenever he feels like it. Having so little explanation for this curse made it seem less urgent than Odette's and prevented the possibility for a climax as exciting the original film, in which there was no moon to allow Odette to turn back into a princess on the one night she needed it the most. Since the terms of the curse were so different from Odette's, Mei Li and Chen were disappointed to learn that they could not break it in the same way. That's where Prince Li came in.

Prince Li was traveling to Odette's kingdom to perform in an annual American Idol-style music competition held every year to celebrate Odette and Derek's love. You might think American Idol seems out of place for The Swan Princess universe, and you would probably be right. Even more confusing was that Jean-Bob was one of the judges even though the first movie seemed to imply that no one but Odette could understand him. He spent the whole movie reluctantly trying to channel Simon Cowell for seemingly no reason other than the fact that Simon Cowell is a judge on American Idol. Since the contestants were from kingdoms all over the world, the songs were performed in other languages such as Russian, Spanish, and Chinese, and featured dances, costumes, and backgrounds that were inspired by those countries. Like Sofia the First, Kingdom of Music used made-up names for each kingdom instead of the countries they were obviously from, even though they sang songs in the actual native languages of those countries.

Even though Lucas played a major role in this movie as Alise's love interest, so much of the story focused on Prince Li and Princess Mei Li that they forgot to develop a personality for him. Instead, he became a clone of Prince Derek from the first movie and was determined to be with Alise simply because they grew up together. Therefore, when Alise falls for Prince Li and offers Lucas very little explanation for it, he becomes hurt and jealous. This should have been an opportunity for Lucas to move on and find someone who won't drop him for the first handsome exotic prince she sees, but it instead resulted in Li conveniently becoming the key to breaking Chen's curse because it required someone to give up the one they love. I would have preferred to see Lucas be the one to break the curse because it would have shown character growth and taught kids that love doesn't always work out the way you want it to. However, this was clearly Li and Mei Li's story, not Alise and Lucas's.

Kingdom of Music had a lot of potential and was more enjoyable than many of the other Swan Princess sequels. The biggest problem it had was that it tried to include too many different story elements into a single movie. If it was only about the singing contest or Mei Li and Chen's curse or Lucas coming to terms with his growing feelings for Alise over the years, it could be been much stronger and more emotionally impactful. The movie ended with "To Be Continued," so we know there are more on the way. I see no reason why they couldn't have split up so many great ideas into multiple movies. As it stands now, the story felt too rushed and overly convenient. In spite of that, I'm still interested in seeing future sequels now that Alise and Lucas have come of age and are more relatable to me as an older princess fan.

Comments

Legogirl8 said…
It’s very sad that The Swan Princess franchise has ended up like this. I do have some problems with the first one but it’s still a pretty movie with lovely songs and animation. The two hand-drawn sequels I also like despite them being missed opportunities to develop Odette and Derek a bit more.

The one thing I will always love about the hand-drawn trilogy is queen Uberta. She appeared in a time where good queens were pretty rare and the ones that did appear barley had a personality to speak of. But Uberta, she sparks with personality and I will love her forever for that!

At least Kingdom of Music has better animation then the pervious 3D ones. That gives me a little hope that Crest Animation will put out better looking projects in the future. They also need better writers.

Imagine if they just started their own princess-line by adapting more ballets. Or if they had introduced characters from other ballets into the Swan Princess franchise. That would have been pretty neat.
Lisa Dawn said…
They should hire me as a writer. ;)
Legogirl8 said…
Yep! They should hire you! ;D

Now this got me a bit curious! What would your Swan Princess sequel be like?
Lisa Dawn said…
I've never really thought about writing a sequel before, honestly. I suppose I could go the Maleficent route and have an evil sorcerer(ess) place Alise under a similar curse to Odette, but the surprise twist is that her parents are able to break it with a vow of true love instead of Lucas. Honestly, though, I thought the first movie ended perfectly and that everything else was pointless.

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