Majestic castles, forbidden forests, speaking animals, and mysticism and magic abound in this new fairy tale by Richard Rich and Brian Nissen. The tale centers on the lives of two royal families and their kingdoms. One kingdom is led by the aging King William who has been childless for all of his reign. The other kingdom is led by the widowed Queen Uberta. During the festivities marking the birth of King William's daughter Odette, Queen Uberta and King William hit upon the idea of attempting to unify their kingdoms through the bond of marriage--the marriage of their two children, Odette and Derek. Thus, each summer of their lives, the children were forced to endure each other's company in the hopes that eventually they would grow to love each other. As is often the case, however, their parents' hopes were not so easily realized and it looked as all would be lost as the now comely and mature Odette left Derek behind, desiring a man who would appreciate her for more than just her beauty.
As the King and Odette returned to their kingdom, they were waylayed by a fierce animal in the woods. One of the King's servants managed to escape and make his way back to Queen Uberta and Derek, who were appalled at the misfortune. Derek rushed to the scene only to find Odette gone and the king mortally wounded. As the King died, he whispered some cryptic advice to Derek who then vowed to find Odette and bring her back, no matter what the cost. With that, Derek attempts to find his beloved Odette while his worried mother looks for other suitable marriage prospects.
Odette, although believed by many to be dead, is still alive, but has been enchanted by an evil sorceror who wants her father's kingdom for his own. He has transformed Odette into a beautiful white swan and she will remain so until she promises to marry the sorceror. She would rather die than marry the sorceror so she whiles away her time with some friends in the moonlit lake who help her formulate and execute a daring plan.
The story itself seems to have a number of inconsistencies. For example, King William, at an advanced age, manages to have a daughter, but he does not have a wife or a Queen. Likewise, Queen Uberta doesn't seem to have a husband. It would have been a lot simpler to unite their kingdoms by marrying each other, but then we would not have a story. It is also unclear why the sorceror, previously banished from the kingdom, does not just take over the kingdom after the king has died. He has the power to change the appearance of objects and people, so why not himself?
Story flaws aside, the animation is superb, which is not much of a surprise considering that the director spent many years with Disney before venturing out on his own. The colours are very bright and the kingdoms and characters painted with sufficient detail to enchant the minds of both adults and children. Additionally, the picture actually manages to be quite amusing in places. Some of the jokes are sure to go over the heads of children, but that is likely intentional.
Some might say that portrayal of the characters is slightly on the stereotypical side, what with young Derek being a paragon of masculinity, proficient in almost anything he touches; however, a score is made for the females when Odette spurns Derek for only being interested in her beauty. As well, as is atypical often in royal circles, the two rulers did not force their children to marry, but relied on subtle pushing and would be resigned to the outcome if they were unsuccessful.
Keeping in mind that this film is intended for a young audience, I give this film four stars out of five. I doubt if many children will really notice the logical inconsistencies and the vivid pictures and reasonably-paced action will surely keep girls, dreaming of being princesses themselves, and boys, wanting to be adventurers, intrigued.