Hey, remember Anastasia? That Don Bluth film that was widely mistaken for a Disney film when it really wasn’t? That’s probably because it was actually good. The music was great, the visuals were great, the story was fairly understandable, and you sympathized with Anastasia herself, who was a great character who did no harm but took no shit. There’s an utterly fantastic and beautiful scene of her trying to reconnect with her past, and imagines that she is reunited with her true family, but at the same time, isn’t entirely sure. It’s well animated and well sung. It’s one of the few Disney knockoffs with actual class.
So imagine a Disney knockoff with none of those qualities. Imagine a Disney Knockoff with bland songs, bland visuals, bland (or asinine) characters, and a scene that tries to imitate Anastasia‘s beauty but fails spectacularly. Add in some extra fucked-up themes and you have got yourselves The Princess and the Pea.
A curious little film that came out in 2002 (even though at that time no major animation studio was making Disney Knockoffs and Disney itself had put Princess films on hold), this is a movie that isn’t necessarily TERRIBLE (I’ve seen worse films), but is still quite puzzling and at times cringe-worthy.
For starters, there are plenty of animals in this film who are somehow able to live more than 18 years and only one of which is sentient. That would be Sebastian, the creepy-looking raven at the focal point of the above poster who is the keeper of the kingdom’s knowledge or something. Who is this raven? Why is he so important? Why the hell is he able to talk to humans like it’s no big deal but the titular princess gets accused of being a witch for hanging out with pigs? No one knows, and quite frankly, I’m not sure if I want to know the answer.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of human characters too, and you can clearly distinguish the the good ones from the bad ones by how they look. The good characters are all beautiful and Aryan-like in appearance while the bad characters are all ugly, have darker colourings, and even look vaguely antisemitic (hooked noses, a fascination for all things golden). Despite this, the movie somehow pulls off a plot where the rightful princess, the redheaded, green-eyed, and beautiful Daria was switched as a baby with the dark haired, violet-eyed, Hildegard. That might be because the King is too desperate to project his dead wife onto his ‘daughter’.
Daria is the typical Cinderella, raised by an abusive stepfamily, is a friend to all of nature’s animals, has to do all the work, and dreams of something more, and eventually marries a prince, but unlike the Disney Cinderella, who is graceful and elegant and makes subtle but awesome jabs at her abusers, Daria is just boring. She’s kind of a doormat, never once shows any emotion besides “oh, how awful”, and generally has nothing going for her other than that she’s ‘nice’. Yet she somehow attracts the attention of Prince Rollo (‘Rollo’? Really? also he looks like a Prince Eric knockoff), who falls immediately in love with her because she’s…pretty. Oh and she has a special kingdom of the heart, apparently. With the aforementioned ripoff of Anastasia:
You can tell from the thumbnail that this is going to hurt.
Yet Prince Rollo ditches Daria to marry a princess, and we learn a very important lesson: all princesses are shrill, vain, haughty, rude, have bad senses of humour, are not ‘noble’, and are definitely not wife material. Apparently Daria is the only good princess because she’s nice and making her live a terrible life for so long has made her sensitive to people’s needs and pain. Insert witty comment here.
The villain, Laird, decides to get Daria out of the way not by quietly killing her himself, but by raising a mob to kill her (it doesn’t). Then getting Rollo to marry his own daughter that he switched with the king’s. And a bunch of other convoluted plot contrivances.
Daria and Rollo get together (apparently they make a great team), she is reunited with her birth father who immediately comments on how she looks like her mother, the villains are presumably thrown in jail (they didn’t really do anything to warrant a worse sentence), and they all lived happily ever after. Even though I would have much rather have let the villains win (they were slightly more interesting and Helsa, Laird’s wife, speaks to me on a personal level, in that we both don’t want to hurt children and we both love food).
I understand that this movie isn’t the only one to have such problems, but what makes them stick out is how underwhelming the rest of the movie is. Disney movies have serious problems, but they distract and entertain and enrich you with good stories, good characters, and good music and visuals. The Princess and the Pea has none of that, so you’re left with looking at all the flaws. You can watch a better breakdown of all its flaws below:
So yeah. If you’ve seen the film and you don’t mind or even like it, more power to you. If you haven’t, just stick with Disney or even Anastasia. It has much more to offer and isn’t nearly as creepy or harmful in its messages.