Media Hunter – The Trumpet of the Swan Review

Media Hunter – The Trumpet of the Swan Review

Isaac: Time for another E.B. White film adaptation! This time the request comes from Matthew, and it’s certainly a doozy. Today, we’re looking at the film known as “The Trumpet of the Swan” [jazz trumpet music] Singing voice: Have you heard the music across the Boston bay? Spread the word – [fades] Isaac: Now this film happens to be another Nest Family Entertainment production, like possibly with “Yellow Dyno” from earlier this year. And while Matthew also suggested the first sequel to the “Swan Princess” movie, ultimately it’s the “Trumpet” movie he went with. Though I should probably take time to look at the first movie so we can properly look at the sequels in the future. But to think that out of all these produced films that the only “Swan” movie not related to “The Swan Princess”, would be the one to actually be based on a book! Originally published in 1970, “The Trumpet of the Swan” centered around a mute swan named Louis (deliberately referencing Louis Armstrong), who befriends a human boy named Sam Beaver, who helps him find ways for him to communicate before eventually receiving his trumpet. In a manner similar to “Stuart Little”, where increased animal intelligence allows creative storytelling, Louis would find love by taking jobs playing his instrument and ultimately finds happiness. I haven’t read the book, obviously, but it sounds charming enough. And it seems to have been received really well. So how does the movie fare? [wah wah fail sound effect] Oooh…well, maybe it’ll still be better than that last movie I did. So, let’s get right to it! Well, one thing that’s already better than “Leo the Lion”… the animation doesn’t look ugly. Not to say this is mind-blowing compared to other 2D animated movies, but it does look well presented… most of the time. Formerly known by RichCrest Animation Studios at this point in time, who often provided most of their talent to Nest Entertainment for whatever they needed. Based on what we’ve seen of them, like “Alpha and Omega” and “Norm of the North”, the quality varies depending on who they’re working with. And from what I remember from “The Swan Princess”, their 2D stuff is at least some of their best. Father: An egg! My egg! Mother: Hmmm….. OUR egg! And what a perfect egg it is. Father: With a perfect child inside. Ko-hoh! Ko-hoh! Isaac: Well…as best as it could for the time. But I will say that this one has a lot of inconsistencies… Look! One egg… now multiply by three! In just one sequence, they went from talking about the perfect child from their egg, and suddenly they start talking about three children! Phelous: Great continuity! Isaac: And I gotta say, this first song does not leave a good impression. Father: -this anticipating the birth of my perfect baby swan. Mother: Oh – OUR swans, dear. Father: Oh yeeeeeeah… (singing) Three perfect eggs, won’t my kids be super? Wish I could look inside to see their future! Will you be leaders, or part of the flock? Three little chips off of my old block! Isaac: This certainly puts it about on par with Charlotte’s Web 2. Why be senti- I mean, why be sentiment about it when you can shove every possible trope you can for an animated movie? The sad thing is, the voice acting is one of the only good things about the movie. It has recognisable actors like Jason Alexander, Mary Steenburgen, Reese Witherspoon, and more. They at least make stuff passable… Father: Oh… my! Who would want to mate after hearing that? Isaac: …Mostly passable anyway. So like Charlotte’s Web 2, they felt the need to give the animals the equivalent of head hair; because no kid would be able to tell them apart from just personalities or subtle design differences. Oh no…we can’t have that! Right away, one of the children knows how to dance, and the other a possible singer. So… what will the last one be like? Owl Jolson: Hellos, friend-sah! I love to sing-ah, I love the moon-ah and the tune-ah and the spring-ah! Isaac: Okay, okay. We get our main character, Louie. And he makes it clear that while he wants to speak, he can’t seem to. And neither parent can tell this? Mother: P-Perhaps he’s shy… Isaac: Shy? Him opening his mouth like he wants to speak, but with no sound, is being shy!? Of course, Father starts panicking and believing this is terrible, since no child of his shouldn’t be able to speak! Like…WOW…that is some crummy attitude toward a child with a disability! Mother: How will he ever speak to his friends? Father: Or attract a mate? After all, my love, what made you fall in love with me was my – Father and Mother: – deep, powerful, resonant voice. Isaac: Well…you could teach him some kind of swan sign language, or accommodate him in some way so he can get by alright? Anyway, in a slight similarity to the book, we have our introduction to Sam Beaver, voiced by Sam Gifaldi, who earns the trust of the swan family by protecting the nest from this fox. Only difference besides when it happens? [Random cygnet repeating “Marco!”; other cygnets repeating “Polo!”] Isaac: That’s right! They do nothing with the fox! At least right now… Instead, they wait until a little bit after they grow up, meaning that fox had to wait a few weeks or so. As the kids grow up, we see more children and, really? They all are just as ableist as Louie’s father. Male red-haired cygnet: -can’t talk?! And he calls himself a trumpeter swan? I don’t think so! [other cygnets laughing] Louie’s sister: (hushed tone) Louie can’t help it… Father said he’s… you know, defective. Red-haired cygnet: Well, defective one. Marco Polo is a talking game. And if you can’t talk, you can’t play! Isaac: Oh shove it, swan!Ichiji! Anyway, Louis ends up meeting Serena, voiced by Kath Soucie (before growing up into Reese Witherspoon.) And while she seems better than the other kids, as she actually takes Louie’s little dance as his introduction seriously, he feels like she’s like the others. Serena: You could say ‘goodbye’, Mister – [dances to imitate Louie’s introduction] Louie (monologuing hereafter): It’s not fair! Everyone has a voice but me… Isaac: Oh, and Louie does get inner monologue by Dee Baker. I’m not sure if this is present in the book, so I can’t completely gauge how it affects the story compared to there. Having no dialogue from him would allow us to still interpret his feelings from expression and action. Though if the book had it…then it might still have value in conveying what he’s feeling, even in narration form. Louie: Fox! I gotta warn them! Billie! Ella! Look out! Please let them hear me… [Father and Mother gasp; fox yelps from thrown sticks] Isaac: So yeah, Sam saves them from the fox and that gives him their trust. Father: When I think of what could have happened with poor Louie here, unable to cry out a warning… Although I’m sure you did your best, son. Isaac: And Father is still a dick. Sam takes a liking to Louie, though the most he thinks of is because he doesn’t beep. Obviously, he can’t understand animals – Sam: (monologue) I wonder why baby birds beep? Bespectacled camper: T’oh! Why do baby birds beep? Isaac: What are you, a mind reader? ‘Cause he didn’t write that, nor do you know what he did today! At least they make Sam likeable enough where he doesn’t come off like the others. He doesn’t mind that Louie can’t produce sound, since like with people, Louie could excel at other things better than he could. Everyone has their own talents that make them stand out over what they aren’t able to do. He makes a far better companion to Louie than his own family! Seriously, Father teaches the cygnets how to fly, since it’s Autumn and all. And Louie feels down because it sounded like he has to talk when lifting off. But wanting to get his father’s love, he does manage to take to the air (on the first try, whereas his sisters kept crashing earlier). But then… Random bird: Stay in your own lane, buster! You shoulda honked! [mutters to himself] That kid’s a mess… Father: You must keep your eye on the sky, my boy… And, and I must find my son a voice. Isaac: Oh! NOW you’re thinking of finding a way to help him get around with no voice? Well that’s fine and all, though you could have congratulated him for taking to the air! Give this boy some love, gawd dammit! While I think with how she talks to him it might be ableist, Serena: How’s it feel? Is it weird? Well, I bet it makes you a great listener! Isaac: With her being a kid, she probably doesn’t know better since she just wants to be friends with him. After saying goodbye to Sam, who looks like will have a reduced role compared to the book, they arrive at Red Rock Lake, Montana. And despite it looking like Louie and Serena are getting along well, to the point where he could actually fall in love (which is what Father wanted) Mother: -fore you know it, your son Louie will be in love. Father: Why…Why…Why this is terrible news! Mother: Love isn’t terrible! Father: It is if you can’t say “Ko-hoh!” to the female of your choice! And you’ll have to spend the rest of your life in loneliness and misery. Isaac: OH FOR ***** SAKE! You know, I thought maybe we were going up on quality after “Leo the Lion”. But this one is starting to piss me off more with how they treat being mute as the worst possible thing in the world! And sure, it might be different for animals that live in the wild versus those in captivity. And maybe this stuff still happened in the book, since it addresses Louie’s situation. But I’m hoping at least it wasn’t as ham-fisted or blunt there as it is here… Because when every other character is this bad, it’s really hard to ignore. So like the book, Father goes to Billings, Montana to search for a device that produces a similar sound to their species, and discovers…the trumpet! Time for him to steal the silver… no, wait…gold… now it’s silver again- Store keeper: Help! I’ve been robbed by the swan thief! I’ll get you, you miserable thief! Father: I only did it for my son Louie! [gunshots] Isaac: Well! Seems the posse work fast. Oh no, wait. It’s some random asshole shooting around for no reason… just so they can point out this is a no-hunting zone, and it gives Louie a new thing to learn: reading. Squirrel: Oooh whee. The coast is clear. Saved by the written word. Oh and I should probably mention this squirrel, Sweets. He, voiced by Gary Williams, was around at the start of the movie, but is here now too? Sweets: Ya like those words, baby? [laughs] Looky here. Humans have words all over the place. On their food, on their tails [laughs]. Man, even on their mountains. They can communicate without even speaking! Isaac: So yeah, no need for the trumpet! But of course, Father ruins his chance to give it to him the only way he knows how. Louie: -you know, defective anymore. Father: [yawns] I wish you could speak to me, Louie. What wonderful things you would say… Louie: You can’t understand me now. But one day, you will. Father: [stammers from waking up] Louie! Louie! Wait Louie! Come back, son! Look! I brought you a voice! Isaac: Look, I get you’re trying, but still…you are really bad at this. How convenient that Sam lives in this town. So he’s quick to realise that Louie not only wants to write, but read as well. Good thing Sam isn’t interested in selling him to science, or else this tale would take a sudden dark turn. What he does do is take Louie to his former first-grade teacher. And what follows is a message so poor and forced, it makes the motivational Richard Gant speech in “Ed” look Oscar-worthy in comparison. Sam: You were the one who taught me to respect the differences of others… Teacher: Well, yes, dear… Sam: You taught us the world is a rainbow of different colours. Teacher: Different colours… Sam: Different races.
Teacher: Different races! Sam: Different creeds.
Teacher: Different creeds! Sam: Different species.
Teacher: DIFFERENT SPECIES! Sam: Please, you can’t discriminate against him just because he’s… poultry. Teacher: Ohhhh, what a little darling… Well… Now, I guess we do need a new science project. WHADDAYA SAY, CHILDREN? [students cheer] George Washington Duke: Only in America… Isaac: So yes…she gets convinced to give him a chance. With the course of… the year? (looks like it) Louie would eventually understand how to read and write, and becomes the class star! All the while, his family is worried sick and just hopes he comes home. Before he does, though, the humans give him a portable chalk board to write with. Now that he has his own voice to work with, let’s see if the other swans will accept him better. Random female swan: What’s he doin’? Louie: Hi there! Hear me, Serena… I did this for you… Serena: What are you trying to say, Louie? [other swans laughing to themselves] Isaac: Curse you, animal limitations! Poor Louie…nothing seems to go his way. But his father finally gives him that damn trumpet…thirty minutes in. Father: You will be able to “Ko-hoh!” like every other swan. May the hills echo with your new voice. Isaac: So now he tries playing it, but starts feeling hopeless and gives up. Guess his last time learning a new skill broke him. But Sweets tells him- Sweets: Man, there’s a voice inside of you that is dying to come out! Now come on, give me some of that sweet, sweet music. [sounds of Louie misplaying trumpet] Sweets: Ooh, man! Anybody got earplugs? Isaac: … Luckily, this next song sequence, which is a bit of a step up from the starting song in the movie, Serena: (singing) I’ve got to sing! Other female swan: (singing) I’ve got to sing. Serena: I’m in love – I am. Other female swan: (giggling) She’s in love! All female swans: With music I hear! Everybody’s here to sing! Isaac: gives Louie – gives Louie the inspiration he needs to find his voice. [forceful, clear sound of trumpet] Serena: Yes… [sound of trumpet at higher octave] Louie: Yes! Serena: Wow, Louie! Are you the one making that sound? Isaac: And he seems to finally be getting the attention and love he deserves. And swan!Ichiji is back! I guess his name is Boyd, but screw it; I’m still calling him swan!Ichiji. Serena’s father: -hear those vocal cords vibrate! swan!Ichiji: [bellows] Ko-hoh-hoh-hoh-hoh-hoh-oh-hoh! Serena’s father: [guffaws] Incredible! [clears throat] Serena, Serena, come along, come along now. Boyd is joining us for dinner. Isaac: Man, this movie really loves putting down Louie. …um…what? Police: Swan thief! Storekeeper: Yep, that’s him! That’s the one! I’ll get you… Isaac: Oh right, this subplot. Look, as long as you don’t go to town, the owner will probably get over losing a single instrument. An instrument that was lost by a customer. (as they were throwing it at you, and you just happened to take it with you.) Louis overhears his father confess what he did to Mother. And like in the book, he decides to find a way to fix this situation. So, after returning to camp to meet with Sam, he learns they need to find a way to repay the store for the trumpet. With this, the next fifteen minutes involve Louie becoming a camp bugler, him saving the obnoxious camp kid who hated nature but later appreciates him for saving his life, and then later on becomes a trumpet player for a Swan Boat service in Boston. Also, so many clones in one sitting. And what it leads to is him growing in popularity. Soon everybody in Boston loves Louis… And somehow the band in Billings… how do they know about him, and why are they playing at the same time as the Boston people? Mike Nelson: Space is warped and time is bendable. Isaac: Nearly every part of this was in the book. What we didn’t see is Sam having to slit one of Louie’s webbed feet so he could play more notes. Another thing though, is that Serena is being courted to swan!Ichiji soon, which replaces a different part of the book where Serena crashed into a zoo that Louie happened to be resting in, and him needing to get help from Sam to get her out. In any case, she doesn’t want to marry her suitor. So Sweets decides to relay this event to Louie. Sweets: -gettin’ married! Get that on the “Internut”. Hey, just because we’re squirrels doesn’t mean we can’t have an infrastructure. Isaac: And he keeps breaking the fourth wall while doing it. But while that takes a while, Louis gets tricked into signing a contract with the con artist who helped him get famous in Boston. Now, the squirrels remember to tell Louis about Serena’s wedding. But the con artist tries to stop him. Con artist: You, now, are my property! You’re not going nowhere! I’m gonna clip your wings so you’ll never fly again! Isaac: Funny, the zoo he was in tried doing that to Serena. But he gets taken care of…rather comedically. Old squirrel: All my aides! I’m, uh, going in! [con artist yelps] That’s alright; I’m unharmed. Larger squirrel: -take this! [con artist yells] Con man: Get away from me! Old squirrel: Free that swan! Go Louie! Isaac: Well, time to rush on back home to where the wedding is taking place. Though a storm impedes him, for about a moment, before flying in to play his music, just as Serena was about to say “I do”. [triumphant trumpet tune] Serena: It’s beautiful… swan!Ichiji: Okay, okay, what does it say? Serena: It says that “Louie is mine” and…. “I am his… forever”. Cartoon audience: Awww…. Cranston: Shoot me. swan!Ichiji: So you can talk now, huh? Well let’s see what you have to say without your stupid horn! Louie: Oh no! My voice! [spectating swans gasping] swan!Ichiji: Haha! There goes your love call, song bird. Now get off my lake, and don’t come back! Isaac: Oh, it’s “your” lake? I thought this lake was free to all birds. But now we have a mid-air battle. And while at first Louie is getting beaten bad, he sees the “dangerous curves” sign from before and takes advantage of his rival’s inability to read. swan!Ichiji: OW! Help! Somebody help! Ow! Isaac: Well that takes care of that! Serena gets her father’s approval, she gets the trumpet back, and…we get a really decent song. Serena: (singing) -eyes, and dream of you and me. And tomorrow’s wind, I’d dream again, And in my dreams I’d see. Isaac: Yeah, it’s a little made-to-order, and some of this animation feels repetitive. But compared to the others…it at least sounds good? That’s really it…there’s not much else positive I can give to the movie at this point. Louie finally gets his father’s love, even gives him the money pouch that kept appearing and disappearing constantly, and together they go to pay back the store owner, who I’m sure will be calm and collective about this. Louie: FATHER! [gunshot] Louie: NO! Father: Oh! The end is near! Man, in his folly, has given me a mortal wound. Oh goodbye, beautiful world. Farewell, sweet springtimes I have known. Adieu, loyal wife, and loving children [coughing] Isaac: Last minute death scene! Who would have thought!? Yes, this was in the book, and like there, he doesn’t actually die. He just got hit in the shoulder; and because their species is endangered, that means he can get special treatment. Paramedic: It’s just a superficial wound here. Father: Hmmm? It is? What’s that? Say what? Sam: He must have just fainted. Isaac: … Sure… Well, at least the owner donates the money to keep protecting the swans – so he doesn’t get to go to jail. So they return home and after enough time passes, Louie and Serena have children of their own. And instead of it ending years later, when Sam is twenty – yet can still hear the trumpet of the swan play again, it’s just: “Well done Louis! You finally have what you wanted all along: A family.” Louie: Welcome, my children… Isaac: So that was the Trumpet of the Swan. It’s bad. And even after a lot of the ableist crap early on, it did slightly improve enough where I still think it’s a step up from Leo the Lion. BUT MAN THIS MOVIE HAS ISSUES!!!! Again, the ableism here is pretty awful. I don’t know how it might have been in the book, if at all, because it felt like every animal in this movie was treating muteness as something you could never live with and just keep bringing down an otherwise sweet character. They try to enforce the idea of giving those the ability to do things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise, like with the chalkboard or the trumpet, and naturally treat them for who they are. But it’s played down to the point that it feels very simplified, which would easily contradict what complexity the source material had. It’s pretty much another animated movie that wants to tell a good story, about acceptance and living with your disability however you can, but didn’t want to alienate its child audience. And while the animation can be decent, often you can see inconsistencies and other noticeable errors that make it more of a direct-to-video movie. Which might have been a better option since this movie had a very limited release in theatres, and had to go up against Shrek of all movies. It had no hope whatsoever, and it only grossed like $102,000. Just…OW. This might be the worst adaptation to an E.B. White story I’ve seen yet, and I mean directly. Charlotte’s Web 2 was just a sequel to an existing movie adaptation. This, though? It’s directly adapting a book, and the overall results show. But again, we can only go up from here. Next time, we got some anime to look at, one whose OVA I reviewed once before. I’ll see you then. Serena: (singing) -close my eyes, and dream of you and me. And tomorrow’s wind, I’d dream again…


42 thoughts on “Media Hunter – The Trumpet of the Swan Review”

  • I did read the book in middle school. I really liked it. That's, really all I have to say. I did watch the movie allot as a kid before reading the book, but I barely remember anything from it

  • Lucky Punk Productions - OneManBoxOffice says:

    Yeah, I've seen this movie before out of curiosity (via download on PSN), and I remembered it being advertised on a VHS tape I had as a kid (forgot what movie was on it, though). I found the picture to be pretty forgettable, but not the worst thing I've seen put on celluloid.

  • Another part of the book that was cut was Louie agreeing to let humans take his children to have their wings clipped in exchange for keeping his wife safe. Only rebeling after seeing her miserable

  • I remember watching this movie as a kid and remember liking it does anyone remember crayola ugly duckling it was a animated swan movie

  • The pink cheeks makes me think of a visual design decision make in a movie I watched a ton as a kid, "Scamper the Penguin", but I think they did it better in "Scamper". It not only showed the gender of the penguins, it also keyed in the viewer of the penguins physical development, since they faded as they got older (something that was an important plot element towards the end). The fade was even pretty gradual. Don't get me wrong, "Scamper the Penguin" was definitely a KIDS' movie and not a hidden gem, but it seemed to be made with quite a bit of thought and respect for its audience (such as not glossing over completely the harshness of the wilds).

  • I don’t think I’ve seen Animation errors this bad in a film since The King and I animated movie.

    Even my younger, dumber self knew this thing was bad and he liked Revenge of the Fallen at the time.

  • Silver Feral Thunderbird says:

    I remember loving this movie as a kid but looking back, it's a shame it couldn't have been better. The original story is charming enough and could've made for a heartwarming film had it been placed in the right hands. The stylization is pleasant and the character designs are okay (despite the animators' need to give the swans anime hair) but the songs are lackluster and the writing is just plain sloppy. Like… WOW I did not recall the anti-ableism message in this movie being handled so poorly XD I fully expect jerk behavior from the characters making fun of Louie, but even the ones who are supposed to be sympathetic/supportive seem to have issues. Louie's father acts like his child's disability is more of an inconvenience to HIM than it is to Louie, not to mention he outright insinuates that people with disabilities can't go on to lead happy lives. I mean, literally the only thing that keeps him from being as shitty a parent as Chicken Little's dad is the fact that he actually makes some effort to help his son fit in (albeit half-assed effort, but still).

  • The first time I heard about this movie, was on one of the previews on my "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" VHS.


  • The book is a childhood favorite of mine. When I heard there was a movie, of course my little boy mind wanted to see it. However, I’m an adult now and still haven’t watched it. But after this review – wow… I’m so glad I never saw this movie, I definitely dodged a bullet.

    (Not meant to be a reference to the scene near the end of the book)

  • I do remember seeing this movie and looking back yeah this was pretty flawed. Far from the worst thing ever given the Christmas tree, rap city street kids, and garbage pale kids as the big 3 of fucked and laziest films to date.

    This is…. passable. Very watchable but passable. So it's fine if you like it or not cause it's passable. That's all I can really say to it.

  • A story about a bird born with a disability involving his voice learns a new skill to impress the girl of his dreams. So Happy Feet ripped off E.B. White?

  • Abrahem Samander says:

    I’ve heard of this book before, I really wanted to read it. I know EB White was surreal but this movie is strange in all the wrong ways.

  • You know, I wouldn't mind if anybody would upload the entire film on YouTube because I'm interested in seeing it for free. Besides "God is not partial", says Acts 10:33.

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