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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Trumpet of the Swan (2000)

Mother: Love isn't terrible.
Father: It is if you can't say 'ko-hoh' to the female of your choice, and you have to spend the rest of your life in loneliness and misery.

- Mother (Mary Steenburgen), Father (Jason Alexander)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 01, 2001

Stars: Jason Alexander, Mary Steenburgen, Reese Witherspoon
Other Stars: Seth Green, Carol Burnett, Joe Mantegna
Director: Richard Rich and Terry L. Noss

MPAA Rating: G for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:14m:35s
Release Date: July 31, 2001
UPC: 043396058477
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB+ C+

DVD Review

Over the years I have had to sit through many, many animated family films. Some great. Some not so great. There have been some that were pure joy and some that were the cinematic equivalent of having painkiller-free oral surgery. The Trumpet of the Swan, while certainly not the worst animated film I have ever seen, is far from being on the same entertaining level as The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, or My Neighbor Totoro.

Based on E.B. White's classic book, this Rich-Crest Animation production of The Trumpet of the Swan does not sustain enough quality voice talent, animation or songs to make the experience a pleasurable one for anyone over the age of eleven. This is not to say that this film doesn't meet the needs of younger viewers. It most certainly does, or so it would appear. The story is definitly compelling enough, and the characters are clear cut and identifiable on the most simple level. But you will probably be squirming uncomfortably in your seat if you are used to a higher caliber of animation.

The story concerns the fate of Louie, a young trumpet swan sadly born without a voice. The story makes it abundantly clear that a trumpet swan without a voice, is really no trumpet swan at all. Louie's father, know simply as Father (Jason Alexander) is a little put off by the whole idea of having a son with no voice. Have no fear, though, because before long, he comes to his to senses and begins a frantic search for something to take the place of Louie's absent voice. One only has to take a quick peek at the DVD cover art to realize that Father finds an actual trumpet for his son to use as replacement, and Louie is then well on his way to proving his worth and winning the girl.

So what's my beef with The Trumpet of the Swan? As an adult viewer, I found the animation stiff and lifeless. This is not a highly desirable trait in an animated film, as a rule. The bizarre stable of voice talent (Jason Alexander, Carol Burnett, Joe Mantegna, Reese Witherspoon) never truly become a particular character, rather they sound like recognizable stars reading dialogue. In my opinion, Jeremy Irons was Scar in The Lion King. Jason Alexander is simply reciting lines. The original songs and dance sequences try too hard to be memorable, and come across as nothing less than annoying.

Before you lynch me, rest assured that I know I'm not the target demographic. It is based on a classic children's tale, and The Trumpet of the Swan is an animated film made for wide-eyed five-year-olds. The film's tagline is, "Sometimes being different helps you to find your voice!" Well, it would take the world's biggest curmudgeon to completely bash any story that features such a positive message, and who am I to take a shot at E.B. White? A child that watches The Trumpet of the Swan can learn a lesson that it's OK to be different, and who can fault a message like that? Not me. Just don't ask me to watch it again.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks beautiful, as does most feature-length DVD animation. While not on par with some of the contemporary Disney products, The Trumpet of the Swan does have a fairly rich pastel palette. Colors remain constant throughout.

A 1.33:1 full-frame version is also included, and as with other titles geared toward the kindergarten set, I support TriStar's inclusion of this version.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The English 5.1 mix is very full, and is much better than the actual content. Great use of the rear channel for music cues, and overall the Dolby Digital mix makes the score sound really very good.

A pair of standard 2.0 mixes, in English and French, round out the options.

The DVD case states the disc contains a Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround mix, but it's nowhere to be found.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Stuart Little, Buddy, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, Thomas and the Magic Railroad
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Can You Guess The Sound? game
Extras Review: If your kids like trailers, then they will love the two full-frame The Trumpet of the Swan trailers and the five trailers for other popular kid-vid titles. Ironically, the inclusion of the trailer for Buddy makes the film look like a lovable story of a gorilla living in a mansion, when it is actually a fairly sad and often frightening film not really appropriate for young children.

The Can You Guess The Sound? game is geared toward the kindergarten set, and requires the youngsters to use the DVD player remote to match the audio sound with the appropriate instrument. I'm sure five- to six-year-olds will love it, though it does seem like it wouldn't have an excessively high replay value. Which is good news, because as a parent, if I had to listen to the cloying, condescending voiceover on the game more than once I would probably have to raid the liquor cabinet pronto.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Very young children (five- to six-year-olds) will no doubt be captivated by the story, and the positive message conveyed can be a good morale booster. However, any Disney-savy viewers, both young and old, will be moderately annoyed at the sub-standard animation and the less than memorable songs.

It's a classic story executed in a less than deserving manner. Recommended for pre-school to kindergarten age.


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