Review: A FairyTale Is Born (The Swan Princess 11)

Promoted on Sony's website as "Part One of the thrilling conclusion to the Swan Princess series," The Swan Princess: A FairyTale Is Born marks the 11th film in the franchise since The Swan Princess came out in 1994, meaning it is expected to end with a total of 12 movies. That's still not as many as The Land Before Time, but it's close! With all the experience that Richard Rich and his team have making Swan Princess films, they had plenty of time to hone their skills with animation and plot development, which is why the last few movies have not been as nightmarish as some of the earlier CGI ones. This movie serves as a nice homage to its roots as a partial prequel that ties up any loose ends long-time fans of the series may have had about Queen Uberta's origins and the absence of Odette's mother and Derek's father along with some nostalgic orchestrations of memorable songs from the original film.

Do you ever get the feeling that you've just seen the entire movie after watching a trailer? When it comes to the trailer for The Swan Princess: A FairyTale Is Born, that is practically the case. The trailer for this film contained scenes from every part of it, including the beginning, middle, and end. What's good about that is that I knew exactly what to expect from this film. What's bad is that I was rarely surprised. Just like in the trailer, the film starts with a peasant Uberta living a quiet life in the village with her husband, Maximilian, when she is informed that her distant relative passed away, making her the queen. The movie then cuts to a song that is featured in the trailer in which Uberta must learn how to be a queen. It is there that Odette's parents, King William and Queen Aubri, befriend her and help her gain the confidence she needs to reign. This was a nice touch that foreshadows the eventual alliance that Uberta and William form an alliance over their children, but it wasn't very clear why Aubri wanted her to succeed so much aside from obvious plot reasons. I would have loved to see them bond over a shared interest that caused them to become such good friends.

One element of the film that was not included in the trailer was the development of Derek's father, King Maximilian. Maximilian was a fantastic character with a beautifully written backstory that was equal parts tragic and heroic. As someone who grew up on the shadier side of the kingdom with no royalty in his bloodline, he was a humble king who stood up for the poorer people of the kingdom. He believed in second chances for those who had to stoop to criminal acts for survival and providing employment to those in need. It's no wonder Uberta fell for him despite her diametrically opposed uptight nature. It was these well-meaning intentions that ultimately led to his tragic downfall. The only thing about bugged me about Maximilian was how sloppily he dressed as the king. After an entire song and dance about how important it was to put on proper appearances after Uberta became queen, none of the servants who propped up her gown and hair seemed to bother with Maximilian's disheveled crown and shabby clothing. I get that his character design was meant to be indicative of his humble roots, but with an entire staff of servants at their disposal, how is it possible that not even one noticed him going out in public like that?

Another thing that surprised me about this movie was that it took a full hour before Odette and Derek appeared in their present time period. From the trailer, I was expecting time jumps between the past and present, but the movie was a lot more fluid, focusing on Uberta for the first two-thirds and Odette and Derek for the final third. Their story was the least interesting part of the film. After Uberta decides to retire as queen to become a full-time singer, something that was foreshadowed in the previous movie, A Royal Wedding, she decides to plan a big coronation for Odette and Derek. That's pretty much it. That's their whole story. While the trailer made it look like Odette summoned her mother's ghost through some sort of magic, it turned out to be a rushed fantasy portion of a song she sang about feeling anxious for her coronation. If it wasn't for a line that Odette gave at the end of the movie, I would have thought the sequence with her mother took place entirely in her head. I'm still not sure it didn't. The movie ends with a nice montage of clips from other films in the franchise followed by a foreboding "To Be Continued." Thankfully, like Kingdom of Music, which ended the same way, it did not leave us with a frustrating cliffhanger. That was just the filmmakers' way of letting us know there is still another movie on the way.

As the second to last movie in the Swan Princess franchise, A FairyTale Is Born contains a lot of easter eggs for fans who have been following the films from the beginning. It even had a reference to the original "Swan Lake" fairy tale when Uberta suggested Sigfried as a possible name for Prince Derek. While not perfect, the movie was a love letter to fans that provided all the things they've wanted over the years such as learning what happened to Odette's mother and Derek's father and how their destiny would be fulfilled as heirs to the kingdom. My favorite part was learning Maximilian's story. I found him to be a fascinating character and wished we could have spent more time with him (and that one of the servants had taken a minute to fix his outfit). Odette's mother was more generic, so I wish they had given her more of a personality as well. Odette and Derek's adopted daughter, Alise, and her betrothed, Lucas, were also in the film, but only briefly I assume that since this movie focused so much on the past, the finale will focus more on their future as the new heirs to the kingdom. What are your expectations for the final movie in the Swan Princess franchise? Let me know in the comments!


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