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Young Kayley and her mother Lady Juliana see her father Sir Lionel riding off to Camelot for a meeting with King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, Kayley expressing to become a knight when he promises her a trip to the kingdom someday.
At Camelot, during the meeting with Arthur, a dark-hearted, greedy knight named Ruber becomes upset at his share of the land's divisions and tries to attack Arthur with a mace in order to usurp him. The knights attempt to repel Ruber's attack, but to no avail - Lionel who was first to leap to Arthur's defense is killed. Upon seeing Ruber charging towards him, King Arthur defeats Ruber, by beating him back with his sword Excalibur. Ruber vows his return and vengeance as he flees in exile. At Lionel's funeral back at the farm, Arthur informs Juliana that the gates of Camelot will always be open for her before giving a eulogy to his knights and the villagers of Lionel. Despite her father's death, Kayley grows into a young woman ten years later, dreaming of her chance to prove herself and become a knight like her father, much to her mother's chagrin who believes it to be too dangerous for her.
Meanwhile, one night, a meeting at Camelot was suddenly interrupted when a griffin breaks into the round table tower and steals Arthur's sword, injuring Arthur as a result. Whilst flying away with Excalibur in its talons, the Griffin is subsequently being attacked by Ayden, a silver-winged falcon owned by Merlin. The resulting conflict causes the griffin to lose the sword in the Forbidden Forest as he escapes. A horn sounds that notifies the lands that Excalibur has been stolen, falling on the ears of Kayley, vowing to find the sword, but Juliana refuses to let her go after the sword, thinking over the loss of her husband and her daughter's safety.
Much later, Ruber and his gathered barbaric henchmen invade Juliana's home and abducts both Juliana and Kayley, plotting to use them to sneak into Camelot and overthrow Arthur by using a magic potion (which he obtained from some witches) that combines his soldiers and a chicken dubbed Bladebeak as a demonstration with various weapons and instruments of destruction.
As Ruber's henchmen line up to be transformed into their new selves, Kayley manages to escape from one of the barbarians' grasp, and she soon overhears Ruber and the Griffin's conversation about the theft of Excalibur and the fact the sword is now in the forest. Kayley goes into the forest in search of the sword, but two of Ruber's henchmen and Bladebeak chase after her who travels in the forest on foot after losing her horse. Thankfully, Kayley is soon saved by Garrett who defeats the henchmen into his traps temporarily as Kayley frees herself from a ruined net that took Garrett six weeks to make. She soon learns that Garrett is a blind hermit, who he wishes to work alone in the forest with Ayden. After hearing from Ayden that Excalibur is somewhere in the forest, Garrett plans to search for the sword, refusing to let Kayley go with him. Despite his objections, Garrett reluctantly allows Kayley to help him recover Excalibur to his chagrin where her incessant chattering and occasion lack of spatial awareness of the forest's inhabitants grates on his nerves, but he follows her nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Ruber, the Griffin and two of his men were in an another part of the forest searching for Excalibur, making Ruber impatient and annoyed. Bladebeak - who had just secretly followed Kayley and Garrett earlier - finds Ruber and reports to him about Kayley joining Garrett and Ayden to find Excalibur. Upon hearing it, Ruber and his men plan to follow them, hoping they will lead him and his henchman to the sword. Back at Camelot, the entire kingdom is in jeopardy after Excalibur was stolen, and Arthur is having his wounds bandaged and treated by Merlin. After hearing that the knights didn't find Excalibur, Arthur vows to find it himself, but Merlin declines, informing him that he is not strong enough and rely his courage on his people.
Back in the forest, Kayley, Garrett and Ayden came across Dragon Country, where they encounter a conjoined twin dragon; the sophisticated and intelligent Devon, and the crude but loyal Cornwall who are bullied by the other dragons due to their smaller size and their inability to spit fire or fly. With their help, they manage to escape a dragon attack and a chase by Ruber who has eventually caught up to them. Whilst hiding, Devon and Cornwall bicker back and forth and reveal their dream of how they want to be separated in their own ways. After learning that Devon and Cornwall will be banished from Dragon Country, Kayley convinces Garrett to take them with the group, he then reluctantly agrees to allow Devon and Cornwall to join the group for the search for Excalibur.
Later that evening, Garrett plans for the group to stop somewhere in the forest to make camp. Kayley, feeling displeased about this, teaches Garrett to rise above his pain from the past when she mentions Sir Lionel. Garrett tells her that long ago, he was once a young stable boy who also dreamt of becoming a knight. But one night, a fire broke out in the stables, and Garrett who was rescuing the horses, gets accidentally blinded by one of them by getting struck in the head. But Sir Lionel still believed in Garrett and felt sorry for him, trained him to adapt his disability, giving Garrett faith and courage of what a knight should have. Garrett then goes into self-imposed exile from the kingdom after hearing about Sir Lionel's death, which struck down his dreams and hopes, and began to live in the forest for the rest of his life. He explains to Kayley that Ayden found him when he came to live in the forest and taught him which plants are deadly and which plants has healing leaves. Garrett demonstrates how he survives in the forest by knocking out an alive plant with Ayden's signals.
The next day, they come across the belt of Excalibur in the footprints of a giant ogre. Knowing that the sword is nowhere to be found, Kayley's insistence on blaming Garrett about stopping for camp the night before, and possibly missing the chance to at the sword, causes Garrett to miss Ayden's urgent warning and he is badly grazed on the side by an arrow shot from Ruber's henchmen. Before Ruber and his party have the chance to attack the group, they are delayed by moving trees, baited by Kayley, allowing the group to escape. Kayley escorts an injured Garrett to a cave that rainy night and while tending to his wound with the healing leaves, Kayley apologizes to Garrett for her scolding and unintentional distraction towards him which leads to his injury, but Garrett immediately forgives her, and soon, Kayley and Garrett begin to fall in love as the magic of the forest heals him. Meanwhile, Ruber and his men free themselves from the trap and continue to follow the group.
The next morning, after they find the scabbard of the sword, they trail Excalibur to a giant rock ogre, who is using it as a tooth pick. They manage to steal back the sword and use the ogre to again delay Ruber's attempts to overtake them by allowing the creature to sit on Ruber and the Griffin. After sliding down a long tall slope and losing Ruber and his men, the group manage to exit the forest with Excalibur. However, Garrett gives it to Kayley to turn in herself, no longer feeling a part of that world. He sadly returns to the forest with Ayden, feeling that Kayley wouldn't see him as a knight if he did went back to Camelot. Unfortunately, Kayley is captured moments later by Ruber and his thugs as she tries to go back for Garrett. Ruber takes the sword and uses his magic potion to meld Excalibur to his own arm before using Kayley as a bargaining chip, Ruber forces Juliana to gain them entry to Camelot. Upon seeing Kayley's capture from behind a rock, Devon and Cornwall run back into the forest and inform Garrett of what has happened, prompting him to immediately change his mind and goes to rescue her.
Once inside Camelot, Kayley is bounded and gagged by one of Ruber's minions inside the wagon. She then defeats the thug before Bladebeak, upon comforting his mate and presumably turned on Ruber, frees Kayley who goes to warn the knights about Ruber's trap. This causes Ruber to reveal himself and lead his henchmen to terrorize the kingdom and defeat the knights, leaving them injured and unable to fight back. Just as Kayley is cornered by two of Ruber's thugs and nearly falls to her doom, Garrett, Devon and Cornwall arrive to save Kayley by knocking the thugs into the moat. Kayley and Garrett find a secret underground passageway into the Round Table from the stables as Devon and Cornwall finally learn to work together for the first time by flying and breathing fire and quickly turn the tide of the battle in their favor where they fight off the Griffin after rescuing Ayden from being attacked.
After seeing Ruber attempting to kill an still-injured Arthur with Excalibur as well as hearing his gloat of the murder of Sir Lionel, by using the same words as her father, Kayley stops Ruber by swinging down on a plank of heavy wood, knocking Ruber through the window and away from the king into the courtyard. Kayley spots the stone that Arthur once drew Excalibur before becoming king. Remembering that only the true king can pull Excalibur, Kayley lures the enraged Ruber to the stone, and he is about to strike, until Garrett attempts to intervene. Without Ayden to help him though, Garrett loses his staff and is quickly overpowered by Ruber. By working together by using the technique that Garrett taught Kayley earlier, Kayley and Garrett manage to defeat Ruber by tricking him into stabbing the sword back into the stone. The conflict of magic from the magic stone blasts an magical shock-wave through the kingdom that heals Arthur and those that are injured in the fight as well as returning Ruber's minions, including Bladebeak back to normal. Devon and Cornwall are separated, but decide to rejoin in their reignited friendship. Meanwhile, the stone destroys Ruber, disintegrating him into nothingness, leaving only the purified sword whole in the stone, allowing Arthur to reclaim Excalibur back in the right hands by drawing it out of the stone.
Sometime later with Camelot restored to its former glory, King Arthur knights both Kayley and Garrett for their valour, and Arthur realizes that the strength of his kingdom is not in the strength of its king alone, but the strength of its people. Afterwards, Kayley and Garrett dance at their knighting ceremony and share their first kiss, which signifies at a strong and close blossoming romantic relationship before they ride off on a horse with "Just Knighted" as a sign on the back as the pair of them ride off together.
Jessalyn Gilsig as Kayley, an tomboyish young woman who dreams of becoming a knight. She inspires her dream from her late father who is a knight of the round table. She is the main protagonist of the film. Andrea Corr serves as her singing voice, and Sarah Freeman serves as Young Kayley's voice.
Cary Elwes as Garrett, an blind hermit who lives in solitude in the forbidden forest after losing his sight due to an accident in the stable fire, and the result of Sir Lionel's death. He is the deuteragonist of the film. Bryan White serves as Garrett's singing voice.
Gary Oldman as Ruber, an insane former knight of the round table, and the main antagonist of the film. He made his plan to seek his revenge of Arthur by stealing his sword: Excalibur, and blackmailing Juliana into helping him to access Camelot after threatening to kill her daughter. He can merge henchmen into mechanical minions.
Eric Idle and Don Rickles as Devon and Cornwall, Devon is an intellectual, and well-mannered dragon, and Cornwall is an crude, but loyal dragon. They are both conjoined as an two headed dragon, and they are the tritagonists of the film.
Jane Seymour as Lady Juliana, an widow of Sir Lionel and the mother of Kayley. She is worried about her daughter's safety and doubts her of being a knight after her husband's death, but gets over it at the end of the film when she defeats Ruber. Céline Dion serves as Juliana's singing voice.
In May 1995, The Quest for the Grail was Warner Bros. Feature Animation's first announced project, and the studio put the film into production before the story was finalized. Animators spent considerable downtime waiting for management to make up their minds. Bill Kroyer (FernGully: The Last Rainforest) was originally going to direct with his wife, Sue, producing, but creative differences forced the husband and wife team to leave the project in February 1997. Kenny Ortega served as the film's choreographer. CGI was used for a few scenes, such as to create the rock ogre. According to Kit Percy, head of CGI effects, the software they used was designed for use with live-action.
Chrystal Klabunde, leading animator of Garrett, said in an article in Animation Magazine, "It was top heavy. All the executives were happily running around and playing executive, getting corner offices—but very few of them had any concept about animation at all, about doing an animated film. It never occurred to anybody at the top that they had to start from the bottom and build that up. The problems were really coming at the inexperience of everyone involved. Those were people from Disney that had the idea that you just said, 'Do it,' and it gets done. It never occurred to them that it got done because Disney had an infrastructure in place, working like clockwork. We didn't have that." Effects supervisor, Michel Gagné also said, "People were giving up. The head of layout was kicked out, the head of background, the executive producer, the producer, the director, the associate producer---all the heads rolled. It's kind of a hard environment to work in." Dalisa Cooper Cohen, producer of the film, said "We made this movie in a year, basically. That was a lot of the problem. We worked around the clock."
Reportedly, "cost overruns and production nightmares" led the studio to "reconsider their commitment to feature animation."Filmmaker Brad Bird (who helmed The Iron Giant, Warner Bros. next animated film) thought that micromanaging, which he said had worked well for Disney but not for Warner Bros., had been part of the problem.
The film was heavily promoted by Wendy's, who offered themed Kid's meals that included toys and discounts on theater admission. Warner Bros. also teamed up with UNICEF to promote the home video release of the film by advertising trick-or-treat donation boxes before Halloween arrived.
Several posters of the film are featured in a movie theatre in the season two episode "Innocence" of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The film was slated for a 1997 holiday season release, but was pushed to May 1998 to give the animation team more time to finish the film and to avoid competition with Anastasia, Flubber, The Fearless Four, Alien Resurrection, Titanic, and the re-release of The Little Mermaid. Kids' WB did promo spots for the film in May 1998.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 35% based on 23 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10 and the critical consensus reads "Diminished by uneven animation and treacly songs, Quest for Camelot is an adventure that ought to be tossed back to the Lady in the Lake."
David Kronke of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "formulaic", and wrote that it was "a nearly perfect reflection of troubling trends in animated features", called Kayley "a standard-issue spunky female heroine", and said that "Garrett's blindness is the one adventurous element to the film, but even it seems calculated; his lack of sight is hardly debilitating, yet still provides kids a lesson in acceptance." Kevin J. Harty, editor of a collection of essays called Cinema Arthuriana, says that the film is "slightly indebted to, rather than, as Warner publicity claims, actually based on" Chapman's novel. Stephen Holden of the New York Times wrote "Coming on the heels of 20th Century Fox's lush but silly Anastasia (a much better film than this one), Quest for Camelot suggests that Disney still owns the artistic franchise on animated features."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs: "The Prayer" – Nominated
The film became an box office flop, received mixed reviews from critics, who found its narrative and production values to be derivative of contemporary Disney films. Nonetheless, it grossed more than the previous films made by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment, It grossed $6,041,602 on its opening weekend, $22,510,798 during its theatrical run in North America, and $38.1 million worldwide, but lost $40 million on the film.
The video game was released in 1998 for Game Boy Color.
Quest for Camelot is released on VHS and DVD on October 13, 1998. The VHS has a 4:3 pan-and-scan and slightly open matte version, and the DVD had the original slightly cropped 16:9 widescreen version. It was re-released on DVD, but bundled with Cats Don't Dance on May 2, 2006. Currently, a Blu-ray version of the film has yet to be announced.
This is the first ever full-length animated film to be released on DVD.
Differences between The King's Damosel and the film
Lynette is renamed Kayley where she has no older sister, and is trying to save her mother from Ruber by retrieving Excalibur and warning Arthur of the impending attack on Camelot.
The darker elements of Lynette/Kayley's childhood, including her rape, are absent. Instead, she has a seemingly perfect childhood up until her father Sir Lionel is killed by Ruber. In both versions, she is portrayed as a tomboy who has more interest in horseback riding and combat than more "ladylike" pursuits.
The characters of Gareth and Lucius are combined into that of Garrett, a blind hermit who dreamed of becoming a knight prior to his accidental blinding who accompanies Kayley on her adventure, albeit reluctantly. In both versions, Gareth/Garrett surprises Lynette/Kayley by turning out to be more than he seemed (Lynette assumed Gareth was a kitchen boy; Kayley initially doesn't realise that Garrett is blind, and is surprised to learn he knew her father at the time that he went blind), though in the movie she is far nicer to him than in the original legend.
In the film, the main antagonist, the Red Knight is replaced by Ruber, a former Knight of the Round Table who wishes to steal Excalibur and usurp the throne of Camelot.
The film added several trademark elements of children's animation, including several "talking animal sidekicks" (Devon and Cornwall, Bladebeak, Ruber's griffin and Ayden, though Ayden is the exception in that he doesn't speak English, but displays a human-like personality and only Garrett can communicate with him) and musical numbers.