The Song of the Nightingale is an American 2D animated musical fantasy–comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Nightingale, and tells the tale of an attention-loving princess, her more responsible sister, a cunning snake charmer, a talking nightingale, and a depressed king. It also functions as an origin story for Princess Ivy of Sofia the First fame.
The king of Prisma wants a song to commemorate the birth of his youngest daughter, Ivy, so he commissions Professor LeFoof to write it. However, as the song is about to be performed, the king accidentally sets off a mechanism that kills both the queen and LeFoof’s wife. As a result, the king falls into a deep depression, and is unable to get happy no matter what he tries. Over time, his gloom spreads over the entire kingdom, transforming it into a land of black and white.
Sixteen years later, even the many birthdays of the king’s two daughters can lift his spirits. The king swears that his depression will ultimately kill him, so he reveals which of his daughters will inherit the throne: Padma, the oldest, and most responsible. When Ivy objects, she is told that she is known to crave attention above all else, and would likely misuse her power. To prove that she is worthy of inheriting the throne, Ivy goes on a search for something to lift the king’s spirits, but nothing she tries helps. That same day, Padma comes across a talking nightingale named Trayas, who wants to sing for the king. This finally makes the king smile.
Taking it personally, Ivy recklessly goes to search in the Forbidden Forest, where she comes across the secret laboratory of Professor LeFoof, who has spent the past sixteen years building various musical inventions. When he hears of Ivy’s troubles, LeFoof gives her a mechanical bird guaranteed to outshine the nightingale. After Ivy leaves, LeFoof turns to a painting of his dead wife, and promises it that “We’ll be together again soon.”
When Ivy shows the king the mechanical bird, he is entranced by it. This causes Trayas to fly away, dejected. However, the more the king listens to the mechanical bird’s song, the weaker he gets. Ivy realizes she made a terrible mistake, and tries to take the mechanical bird away, but the king fights to keep it. So, Ivy has no choice but to find Trayas, in the hopes that he’ll be able to break the king away from the device. Joining Ivy is her pet newt, Brooke, though what purpose she serves is not clear. While on her journey, Ivy comes across a snake charmer named Jadhur, who has been to the place where the nightingale lives.
Back at the palace, Padma discovers her sister gone, and goes out to find her. She passes by a cloaked figure who attaches a mechanical bug to her back. LeFoof begins preparations for the arrival of Death, with whom he has made a deal to resurrect his wife in return for the delivery of a wayward soul.
Ivy and Jadhur are able to find Trayas, but the nightingale is not interested in seeing the king again if he is so easily replaced. Ivy tells Trayas what she did, and the nightingale agrees to go back one last time, but isn’t making any promises. Padma catches up with the group, and Trayas spots the tracking device on her back. A giant caterpillar monster then emerges from the ground, and attacks the group, causing Ivy to be separated from the group. As Padma and Jadhur search for her, they start to grow close.
Ivy returns to the palace before everyone else, and confronts LeFoof. However, LeFoof tells Ivy that she can get the power she needs to prove she is worthy of the throne, and all she has to do is help him deliver a wayward soul to Death. Ivy agrees, but makes her own deal with Death behind LeFoof’s back. It is not shown exactly what the deal is.
Back in the Forbidden Forest, Trayas is almost killed by the caterpillar monster, only to be saved by Ivy. Ivy apologizes to Padma for her behavior, and offers to help them back to the palace. Upon returning, the group makes their way to the king’s quarters, where they find the king close to death. As the heavy footsteps of Death grow louder, Ivy suggests that Trayas sing to guide the king’s spirit back to its body. It works, and the king is revived. LeFoof, who was watching from behind a curtain, is outraged, but before he can do anything, the spirit of his dead wife appears and drags him down into the netherworld.
All seems well, like in any other Disney movie. Then, Death appears to Ivy, and upholds his end of their bargain: giving Ivy the power to take over the kingdom. Ivy takes control of LeFoof’s caterpillar monster, and sends her butterflies to turn the land black-and-white like she preferred it. Brooke scurries away, and alerts Padma to what’s going on. Padma, Jadhur and Trayas try to reason with Ivy, but she doesn’t listen. She begins sending out butterflies that erase memories. The king then enters the scene carrying the mechanical bird, and begins to play its hypnotic melody. Ivy is entranced, enabling the palace guards to apprehend her. The king apologizes to Ivy for not being there for her, for allowing her to go this far. Ivy is banished to a desert island, where she’ll never bother anyone again.
The king is saddened by recent happenings, but has realized that it’s better to move on. Death then arrives, with the spirit of the departed queen. The king and queen have one last dance under the moonlight to the song of the nightingale, as Padma and Jadhur do the same out in the courtyard.
- Anna Camp as Ivy
- Grey DeLisle as Padma
- Adam Wylie as Jadhur
- Tom Kenny as Trayas
- Nancy Cartwright as Brooke
- John DiMaggio as The King of Prisma
- Jess Harnell as Professor LeFoof
- Fred Tatasciore as Death
The film uses an aesthetic made by combining Chinese, Indian and European styles, based on earlier concepts for the story.
- Ivy's mirror is a replica of the Magic Mirror from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- There is a glass slipper hidden in Padma's room
- There is a familiar-looking spinning wheel in one shot
- Professor LeFoof has what looks like Leia's lightsaber in his hideout
- There is a dinglehopper among Ivy's collection of combs
- The Great Book of Gummi can be seen in the palace library
- The palace dining room contains a familiar-looking teapot
- One of the townsfolk apparently has the Magic Carpet
- John Smith's compass can be seen in LeFoof's bag
- The king has the Sword of Shan Yu hanging on his wall
- One of Padma's necklaces is an Atlantean crystal
- There is a Wayfinder among Jadhur's stash
- There is a voodoo talisman among Jadhur's stash
- Padma keeps a golden flower in a vase on her windowsill
- The palace has a familiar-looking tapestry in one room
- Kristoff's sled can be seen half-buried in the woods
- Professor LeFoof has a pair of dimensional scissors