The Princess and the Pea Is the Best Movie You've Never Seen

When you think of non-Disney classic animated princess movies, what comes to mind? Anastasia, Thumbelina, and The Swan Princess, right? All three of those have one thing in common with the Disney classics, which is that they were all in theaters at some point. Not all movies get that lucky. For Mark Swan, who painstakingly directed The Princess and the Pea under Feature Films for Families and his own studio, Swan Productions, distribution was no small feat.

It's surprising to know that this movie was an independent production because the animation is top notch. It looks like a lot of it was probably rotoscoped because the movement is so fluid. The characters never go off-model, and there are some gorgeously detailed background paintings throughout the course of the film. Composer Alan Williams wrote some terrific new princess songs for it, including "Kingdom of Heart" and "Out in the Wide Open World." It's a shame these will never show up on a princess karaoke track list. The voice acting was also quite good. Since this was a Hungarian-American production, I assume there was Hungarian dub made, but I can't comment on that version.

Inspired by the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale of the same name, The Princess and the Pea takes place several generations after the pea found the original reigning princess. The kingdom saw many years of peace until the king's eldest son, Laird, was next in line for the throne. Fortunately, thanks to the intervening of a young boy, the crown instead went to Heath, the good son, who sentenced his wicked brother to control of the pig kingdom. In a fit of jealousy, Laird later switched Heath's newborn princess with his own, sending the true princess, Daria, to be raised by a heartless couple in the pig kingdom.

Daria grows up to be a gentle, kind, hopeful young woman just like your average fairy tale princess. Swan has mentioned in interviews that the studio insisted they wanted her to be like Snow White or Cinderella whenever someone suggested turning her into a spunkier character. She's no warrior princess, but she's still able to tame a bear, which is pretty impressive. Like the Disney Princesses, the animals were her only friends. Since she was living in the pig kingdom, her most featured sidekicks were three pigs, named Princess, Hungry, and Fearless.

While Daria may not be considered a contender for the best animated princess ever, her warm acting performed by Sarah Baker still makes her a memorable to anyone who's seen the movie. One trait I related to the most was her enthusiasm when she met Prince Rollo for the first time. "He called me 'my lady' six times!" she exclaimed, bursting with glee. To Daria, being royal is a fantasy that is always out of reach, except in her dreams. In my favorite scene, she shows Rollo the stained glass windows she had discovered of the old kingdom and sings about her desire to run a kingdom of kindness and peace. The scene has undertones of Anastasia's "Once Upon a December" when the stained glass figures come to life and begin dancing together as the moths form a faux wedding dress around Daria. It resonates for anyone who had a big imagination as a kid or enjoyed playing dress up.

Prince Rollo was a great character who was very active in the movie's plot. It was because of him that the gentle-hearted Heath became king at the beginning of the movie instead of Laird. Rollo had an animal sidekick named Sebastian, who was a bird, not a crab. Sebastian went absolutely bonkers trying to find out the secret of the pea so he could help Rollo find the right princess to marry. He was not a terribly memorable sidekick, but he was at least more intelligent than most cartoon animals. We could always use more smart birds.

In what I suppose was an attempt to prevent Rollo from coming off as too perfect. the writers made him somewhat superficial. Rollo fell in love with every pretty face he met, but as soon as he got to know each princess's personality, he rejected one after another for being a spoiled brat. The scene that showcased this was an extended musical sequence reminiscent of "Princesses on Parade" from The Swan Princess. Rollo ultimately chose Daria for her humility and idealism. It was then that Sebastian finally learned the secret of the pea, which was a bit of a stretch in this version of the story. While Andersen's tale was about how delicate and sensitive a princess's body is, this movie made the claim that it was the sensitivity of her heart and how much she cared for others that made her feel a pea under twenty mattresses. We'll let this one slide because it was such a good movie.

I first learned about The Princess and the Pea when it was on a free screener DVD that you were only supposed to watch one time and then review for the distribution company. It was available to purchase after that for a very short time, but official copies of the DVD are extremely rare. Today, it isn't very difficult to find a version that you can stream online with a quick google search. It is certainly a shame Swan's Productiont didn't get the publicity it deserved, but at least it was nominated for a Young Artist Award in 2003. If you're a fan of princess movies, The Princess and the Pea is a classic that is absolutely worth watching.


I am sad to say that I have this movie and have not watched it! It's one of those many movies, or books, I have that one day when I have time I want to watch.
redadoodles said…
I posted an interview of the director on my tumblr ! @redadoodles
He addresses some of the points you brought up :)

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Unicorn Academy (Netflix)

Review: My Sweet Monster

Princess Fashion

Review: The Spanish Princess/White Queen Trilogy

Fans "Wish" Disney Had Used These Abandoned Concepts

Review: The Princess Twins of Legendale

Disney's Descendants Makes Even Less Sense Thanks to The Rise of Red!

Review: Time Princess - Shadows of London Visual Novel

Deconstructing the Wicked Stepmother

Why Didn't Sofia Meet Pocahontas?