New Line Cinema’s The Swan Princess is a retelling of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, sharing the story of the classic ballet through an animated musical. Both works concern the life of Princess Odette, a beautiful princess placed under a spell that transforms her into a swan. However, differences are apparent in the plot and character of Odette.
In Swan Lake, the ballet opens with Prince Siegfried at his castle. He must pick a wife and declare his love for her, but instead chases a pack of swans into the woods armed with his crossbow. In The Swan Princess, although, Prince Derek and Princess Odette, are arranged to marry and know one another from a young age. In fact, the film opens with a probably 4-year-old Derek presenting the newborn Odette with a locket. The early meeting mimics other animated fairy tales, such as Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. A similar scene to Swan Lake’s opening occurs later in the film, but The Swan Princess’s opening with the feuding song, “This Is My Idea,” gives the film a more relaxed tone than the ballet. The song shows a montage of things the two don’t like about each other, likes Derek kicking Odette out of his all-boys clubhouse and Derek’s annoyance at Odette flirting with the castle’s guards.
The upbeat song turns serious when the two fall for one another and sing “this is my idea of love.” As the two dance together at the song’s end, it is reminiscent of Odette and Siegfried’s first dance in Act 2 of Swan Lake. Derek’s spinning of Odette as they become reacquainted is inspired by Siegfried’s twirling of Odette when they meet for the first time. Though The Swan Princess offers more backstory on the prince and princess as children and allows them to meet when they’re young, the romantic meeting of Odette and her prince in both the musical and the ballet are similar.
The Swan Princess’s Odette is more modern and independent than Odette from Swan Lake. In both works, the prince is drawn to the princess by incredible physical attraction. Since there is no dialogue in Swan Lake, and Siegfried and Odette do not spend much time getting to know each other, it can be assumed that physical attraction is a large contributor for their love, specifically Siegfried’s love for Odette. They share a dance and then Siegfried begins to proclaim his pledge of love to Odette. After a similar dance in The Swan Princess, Derek and Odette share their first kiss. Derek shouts that the two will be married, but Odette protests, showcasing her powerful nature. She asks him, “Is beauty all that matters to you?” He replies with, “What else is there?” Odette flees this purely superficial relationship, which unfortunately leads to her capture.
Although Odette is more fiery in The Swan Princess, she relies on her prince for her freedom like Odette from Swan Lake. In both works, she clings to her prince whenever he comes to visit her, and she cannot break away from Rothbart without him, no matter how hard she tries.
A more recent retelling of Swan Lake is the 2010 thriller Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman. The film highlights the conflict between the white swan, Princess Odette, and the black swan, Rothbart’s dark clone of the princess. Black Swan focuses more on the actual performers of the ballet, as whoever plays the pure and noble Odette must also be able to portray the evil Black Swan.