Directed by Segun Williams
Starring Cuppy Otedola, Martin O’Whyte, Tope Adeloye
Animated Film Review by Andrew Galvin
This is not an easy review to write. The creators of animation The Secret Princess have posted copious behind the scenes footage on YouTube, to show just how much work has gone into its production. Director Segun Williams is on a quest to tell an African love story with very little money.
It’s a shame then that there is nothing to recommend the film, and hard work behind the scenes does not change that. And it’s not just because of the low budget: yes the animation is abysmal, looking like a dreadful cut-scene from a cheap 90s video game. Yes, the voice acting and sound effects sound like they were recorded down the world’s longest well. Yet all of this is forgivable. What isn’t however, is that The Secret Princess is a dreary film that is utterly broken from the foundations up.
Telling the story of a king’s child swapped with that of a villager at birth, very little of the storytelling adds up or makes any sense. From the start, the film’s narration is muddled, jumping from character to character to, for some reason, a talking parrot. This means the film’s central voice is lost. The Secret Princess is clearly aiming at a very young audience, but the narrative lines are so smudged—characters appear and disappear across huge chunks of the film—that it’s hard to keep track of who everyone is in a very basic story. Far from budget, the blame here lies with poor screenwriting and wrong-headed directorial focus.
Then we get to the voice cast, who are, to put it kindly, rather inconsistent. A few, such as Sade’s mother, do a decent job and sound at least halfway professional. Other voice actors never seem to have read words before: half mumble their way through; others use emphasis strangely, meaning the wrong words are stressed in the wrong places. It doesn’t help that several audio guffs—fluffed lines, microphones being knocked, varying levels of echo when characters are standing next to each other—have made it through the edit. It all adds up to a feeling that the film is unfinished and needs another six months in post-production to sort out these problems and develop an editing style that doesn’t feel like a 94 minute movie trailer.
It’s worth bearing in mind that many stellar directors have made dreadful first steps into the industry (James Cameron’s Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, anyone?), but it’s hard to see a bright future from a film this slapdash, dull and badly directed. However, if Williams does make it, this is one Princess he may wish to keep a Secret for as long as possible.