The Prince and the Pauper is a 1990 American animated musical comedy-drama adventure film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 16, 1990. The 29th Disney animated feature film, the film is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Mark Twain, but uses anthropomorphic animals rather than people (similar to their previous film Robin Hood). Set in 1547, it tells the story of two young rabbits who are identical in appearance: Erika, a pauper girl who live in extemely poorless and Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII. When they meet, they exchange identities and lifes which the villainous Captain of the Guard (a cat, whose appearance is similar to Peg Leg Pete's from the Mickey Mouse universe) plots to take advantage of this.
Featuring the voices of Jodi Benson, Wayne Allwine, Bill Farmer, Rob Paulsen and Arthur Burghardt, The Prince and the Pauper was the second film released during the well-known Disney Renaissance (1989–1999) era, which had begun the year prior with The Little Mermaid.
The film was released on November 16, 1990. The Prince and the Pauper gained largely positive reviews and was a commercial success, grossing over $325 million worldwide and becoming one of the highest-grossing releases of the era.
In 16th Century England, a prince and a female pauper are born simultaneously. Sometime later, the good King Henry VIII is very ill and becomes bedridden. His Captain of the Guard uses this to his advantage of robbing and being cruel to the people in the King's name. On a cold winter's day, the pauper, Erika and her father try to selling what they have for food. Meanwhile in the palace, the prince, Edward (who looks exactly like Erica) is doing his studies with his counselor and his valet. He is bored and looks longingly out of his window seeing all the people and wishing he was with them. A while before, the King's guards came in their stagecoach, while hauling off the food they stole from the townspeople. Then a string of sausages drooped out of the stagecoach and Erika's pet dog ran after them. Erika tried to stop him, but the palace gates had already closed. She asked the guard if she could come in to look for her dog, and the guard let her do so, thinking she was Prince Edward. Then the Captain caught her and tried to poke her with his sword, but Edward saw this and wanted Erika brought to him at once because "even the lowliest subjects of this Kingdom deserve respect" as he had quoted.
Inside the palace, Erika is amazed at its splendour, but she accidentally slips on the shiny floor and crashes into some suits of armour. Just then, Edward arrives and gets caught in the falling armour. Both remove their helmets and are amazed at the sight of each other. Edward tells Erika that his life is so boring with his constant lessons and banquets and envies Erika for her freedom. He then decides to switch places with her to see what life is like outside the palace. Erika is hesitant to do so, but Edward explains to her that everything would be fine. As Edward reaches the palace gates, he is handled roughly by the Captain, who doesn't believe that he's the prince and then catapulted out. Erika's father finds him afterwards, but Erika's dog turns his back on him, knowing he is not Erika. Erika's father, however, is convinced and doesn't understand why Edward is avoiding him or acting like "she" doesn't know him. In the palace, Erika is shown a long list of "his" royal duties.
Both the Prince and the Pauper are not having much success with their lives and cause disaster everywhere they go. As Edward is walking through the town, he sees the Weasel Guards stealing a chicken, so he commands them to stop, but they just laugh and continue robbing the people. From this he finds out how the people are being treated in the King's name. Suddenly, Edward sees a cart being pulled full of food and after showing the royal ring, demands the driver to hand over what's inside. The Weasels then come to arrest Edward, but he's saved by Erika's father and they ride away into the distance. Later in the guards' tower, one of the Weasel guards tells the Captain about what has happened and the Captain realises that it was Edward he threw out of the castle and therefore knows how the people are being treated, so he begins making plans to get rid of him, exposing Erika as an imposter and taking over the kingdom.
In the palace, the Counselor appears to Erika saying that "his" father wishes to see "him" in his last few hours. He then takes her to the king, who's gravely ill. Erika enters the room of the dying king, and the Counselor closes the door, then the dying king tells Erika that "he" must become king and rule the land justly and wisely, she sadly promises. Shortly afterwards the King dies. Erika leaves the room and decides to go and find Edward, but the Captian sneaks up behind her and threatens her to be crowned King at his orders, or he would kill both her and her dog, whom he had taken earlier as a hostage. In the town, the bells ring out that the King has died, Edward is deeply sad and knows that he must now be the new King and put right what the Captain has done. Erika's father sees his ring and offers his full-most support. As they are about to leave, the Captain and some guards burst in and capture Edward and lock him in the dungeon along with the Valet, who was locked up after overhearing the Captain's plans, while the coronation begins. Erika tries her hardest not to be crowned, but the Captain is behind the curtain strangling her mouse. Meanwhile, Edward and the Valet are rescued by Erika's father, who have escaped from the guards and is disguised as an executioner, and together they take out most of the guards and rush to the Coronation chamber.
Erika discovers the Captain's plans and finally plucks up her courage and orders the guards to arrest the Captain, but the villain defends himself by revealing the Pauper to be an impostor. The real Prince Edward arrives just in time and challenges the vicious Captain to a sword battle. Erika's father and the Valet take out more of the Weasel guards, and thanks to Erika's father's clumsiness, end up entangling some of them in a falling chandelier. An errant arrow rips through the rope choking Erika's dog, freeing him and allowing him to join the battle as well. the Captain is given a humiliating defeat by Erika's dog biting him, his trousers being sliced down, being tripped by both Erika and Edward, before finally becoming caught with the guards in the now rolling chandelier. The chandelier rolls down the red carpet and crashes through the glass window into the street below. Both the Prince and the Pauper laugh and hug each other, but the archbishop doesn't know who the real Prince is until Erika's dog recognizes his master by licking Erika affectionately. The archbishop then crowns Edward as the new King of England, and with Erika by his side, he rules the country as he swore he would with justice and compassion for all.
- Jodi Benson as Erika (a rabbit)
- Paige O'Hara does her singing voice
- Wayne Allwine as Prince Edward (a rabbit)
- George Michael does his singing voice
- Bill Farmer as Erika's father (a rabbit), the Counselor (a horse) and Weasel Guard #1
- Rob Paulsen as the Valet (a parrot)
- Arthur Burghardt as the Captain of the Guard (a cat)
- Tim Curry does his singing voice
- Charlie Adler as Weasel Guard #2, Pig Driver, Dog Peasant and Cat in Street
- Frank Welker as Erika's dog, the King and the Archbishop (a owl)
- Elvia Allman as a Honey Badger Mother
- Trevor Eyster as Honey Badger Kid #1
- Rocky Krakoff as Honey Badger Kid #2
- Roy Dotrice as the Narrator
This film marked one of the very few occasions that Wayne Allwine voiced another character besides Mickey Mouse.
- Free - sung by Erika and Edward - a song about Erika and Edward never stoping dreaming of freedom.
- Written in Your Heart (opening) - sung by Erika (voice only) - a song about Erika thinking about her dreams.
- Happy as a King - sung by Erika and her father - a song about Erika and her father starting to think what would be their lifes if they lived in the castle.
- I Am Like You - sung by Erika and Edward - a song sung by Erika and Edward when they discover they are identical, apart from the birthmark Edward has on his hand and their genders.
- That Day's Coming - sung by the Captain - a song about the Captain's plans to usurp the throne.
- Sadness - sung by Erika and Edward (voiceovers only) - a song sung when Edward and Erika start to know how difficult is their (changed) life.
- Written in Your Heart (finale) - performed by the Disney Studio Choir - a choir reprise of the song.
Writing for The Prince and the Pauper began in 1986. Following work on Oliver & Company, TBD asked supervising animator Mike Gabriel if he would consider directing. However, Gabriel declined the offer, stating "Well, after watching George Scribner, it doesn't look like it would be much fun", which TBD offered Scribner to direct Prince and the Pauper, which he accepted. During the development, Scribner made some changes to the film, such as a female pauper in order to having a both genders audience. Also, The Prince and the Pauper had becomed one of the studio's main projects, along with The Little Mermaid.
It was originally intended to have blood gore and be darker and edgier, but was rewritten to be a little more lighter. A whole lot of people spent months storyboarding and re-storyboarding the movie. They really didn't stay with the script form for too long. Sometimes, scenes with some of the stuff that didn't work would be on the cutting room floor.
Once the animation began production, people rushed drawing character layouts for the characters for three months. The layouts looked rushed, but the animation by comparison looks more ugly drawn than the layouts, but smoothly animated. When it was shown back to the producer, he complained about the quality of the animation looking rushed as if Disney had never done that before. It was Disney's final use of the traditional ink-and-paint and camera process, before the CAPS digital-ink-and-paint process rendered the traditional techniques and equipment obsolete.
The film was released to theatres on November 16, 1990 in both the US and Canada. It was later released in Europe on May 16, 1991 and in Japan on October 12, 1991.
Wendy's teamed with Disney to promote the film with 5 kids' Meal toys.
The film was a box office success, grossing over $325 million worldwide and becoming one of the highest-grossing releases of the era.
People were praised for the animation, music, and storyline, but some criticized the quality of the character layouts not staying close to the original model sheet.
The film was released on VHS on March 8, 1991 and later released on DVD, February 14, 2001.
A soundtrack for the film was released October 7, 1990, a month before the movie was released in November.
A video game based off the movie was originally going to be for the Super Nintendo in the 90's, but plans were ultimately scrapped.
That was until Midway Games decided to team up with Disney in 2000, and began working on the video game adaptation in 2001. A year later, the video game was completed and was finally released for the XBOX (NA, February 14, 2002. EUR, June 7, 2002.), PlayStation 2 (NA, March 5, 2002. EUR, August 22, 2002. JPN, November 18, 2002), Windows PC (NA, January 8, 2003. EUR, April 10, 2003), and Nintendo GameCube (NA, July 14, 2003. EUR, September 6, 2003. JPN, December 3, 2003)
- When the film premiered on a double-feature release with The Rescuers Down Under, the film contained an extra piece of animation right before the end credits, in which the Counselor informs the audience that they will now have a ten-minute intermission, all while Erika and Edward mock him and then remind the audience that The Rescuers Down Under starts after the intermission ends. Following this, a small graphic counting down the minutes to The Rescuers Down Under's presentation appeared in the bottom left corner of the screen as The Prince and the Pauper's end credits began rolling. This segment did not appear neither when the film was released theatrically separeted, or in any of the film's video releases.
- In the storybook, there are two added scenes. One takes place after Erika and Edward switch places, the Valet decides to taste Erika's dinner to make sure it isn't poisoned, only for him to leave nothing but bones. The next one takes place after Edward is thrown in the dungeon with the Valet, and Edward is grieving over the loss of the King as the Valet tries to comfort him.
- When Edward leaves the castle for the first time, he is heard whistling the song "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am".
- In the book version of the film, the Captain is arrested after been defeated by Erika and Edward and is not entangled with the guards in the rolling chandelier.
- In the original theatrical version the end credits are fast-moving with short closing music. However, at the end of the VHS releases of the film, the end credits are slowed down with an extended closing music score. The DVD releases of the film preserve the original length and audio of the end credits.