This other animated version of the Swan Lake ballet is a Japanese anime, going by the title Swan Lake or Hakucho no Mizumi. It was released in 1978 and I happened to have a copy of it on video tape, although I don't remember how or why I got it. Now this version features Mr Tchaikovski's beautiful Swan Lake music, which is integrated really well into the movie's soundtrack. And because the movie is darker and more sombre, the hauntingly beautiful music suits it much better than it ever could for The Swan Princess.
The hero, Prince Siegfried, is out riding one day with his friends when he sees a swan with a crown on its head swimming on a lake. He doesn't know why, but when the swan stares at him he feel likes he is being stared at by a beautiful lady. One of his friends tries to shoot the swan, but just before his arrow flies, the friend is turned to stone. Siegfried's other friend accuses the swan of practising witchcraft, neither of them pondering the presence of a very wicked-looking owl just behind them. Siegfried is unable to stop thinking about the swan, and decides to follow it as it swims away from its spot on the lake. Siegfried soon finds himself at a scary Tim Burton-ish tower-like castle.
Sigfried watches in surprise and amazement as the swan transforms into a beautiful girl. He approaches her - at first she is frightened for him and tries to get him to leave, but at his persistence she starts to tell him her story. Her name is Princess Odette, and three years prior she had been kidnapped by the evil wizard Rothbart (the owl) who wanted her hand in marriage. He keeps her a swan by day so that no one would fall in love with her, as the only way Rothbart's power can be defeated is when a man loves her with all his heart and soul. Siegfried explains that he had already felt something for her the moment he saw her eyes, and asks her to go to his birthday ball the next night, where he would choose her as his bride.
Although at first she refuses, Sigfried is intent and won't take no for an answer. But of course, like girls with crushes everywhere, she actually did want him to ask her, and when she returns to her cage-like room she daydreams of him. By the way, the entire story is being seen through the eyes of two squirrels who are watching them. I guess they needed some small furry animals to level the seriousness of the story and explain the bits that would be confusing to kiddies.
Enter Rothbart, who's not really scary - he's a cartoon villain but not as annoying and sometimes can even come off as adorable. Seriously, when he's thinking about Odette he acts like a schoolboy with a crush. His daughter Odille tells him about Siegfried, and Rothbart goes to Odette to tell her to forget about the prince and consider marrying him. Duh - she rejects. Turns out she's been in love with Siegfried for the past three years.
Of course Rothbart is not going to let Odette go to the ball, so he bars the door and lifts the drawbridge to her cage-home. He and his daughter then plot to get Odette to forget Siegfried by getting him to fall in love with someone else - Odille. Well wa hey, Odille wants a man, too, and decides that Siegfried is a good catch. (Just a thought - if their plan had worked Odette would have become Siegfried's mother-in-law. Ugh.) By the way, don't ask me how that tiny crown stays on Odette's head. Superglue?
Odille, in the guise of Odette, goes to the ball and wows Siegfried with her dancing. Sigriend, to his credit does feel that there's something wrong but can't quite put his finger on what it is. Meanwhile, Odette manages to escape from Rothbart's castle with the help of the plucky pair of squirrels and runs to Siegfried's castle. of note, although Odette she like a girl in a trail dress (which is what she is), she effortlessly travels the whole that Sigfried travelled on horseback.
But just as Odette is about to storm into the ballroom, Rothbart (who was there originally to watch Odille dance with Sigfried) grabs her, holds her mouth shut and brings her closer where she is able to watch but not make a sound. Thus she watches in horror as Siegfried pledges his love to Odille and announces her as his wife-to-be. Overcome with sorrow, Odette faints into Rothbart's arms.
It's time for Rothbart to gloat. His laughter gets Siegfried's attention and the prince quickly realises his mistake. Odille reveals her true form and the three of them transform into their winged shapes and fly back to the castle while laughing hysterically (well, Rothbart and Odille laugh hysterically, not Odette). Siegfried follows on horseback, where the final showdown between villain and hero takes place - with one amazing two-second climax that still gets me in goosebumps whenever I watch it.
And of course, they eventually lived happily ever after.
A number of people have written in to mention the book The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey, which is strongly based on the Swan Lake fairytale and revolves around Odille (i.e. the black swan) and gives the tale a fresh perspective. Personally I have yet to get my grubby little fingers on it, but seeing that a number of people have recommended it, I suppose it's only fair to mention it here. So, if you're a fan of Swan Lake, you might want to check out the book.
And here's a few more pics that have been sent in to me by a fan:
I've also been sent this link to an uploaded script of the anime... It's not 100% correct and appears to be a translation, but hey. Check it out.