"I must find the sword and return it to Arthur, or Camelot and my mother are doomed." Yeah right...
Rip-off Female Lead Whiny and Bland Wannabe Knight
Jessalyn Gilsig (speaking) Andrea Corr (singing) Sarah Rayne (young Kayley)
Media of origin:
Quest for Camelot
Kayley is the main protagonist of the 1998 Warner Bros. animated film Quest for Camelot. She is destined to follow in the footsteps of her late father Sir Lionel and become a knight. Kayley gets her chance when an evil knight Ruber steals Excalibur and she vows to recover it, with the help of her new friends that she meets on her quest.
Why She Fails to Find Camelot
To begin with, she is a bland and generic female protagonist as she's mainly trying to save a kingdom and her mother from an evil knight, and doesn't feel interesting, which defines her as a poorly written strong female character.
In fact, the whole reason why she is this poorly-written is all due to the part of Warner Bros. trying too hard to shamelessly imitate Disney and the way it's strong female characters were written in their films in order to compete with it's rival but failing miserably at doing so, because of Warner Bros. and the crew who worked on her film failing to actually understand why the Disney Renaissance movies and it's strong female leads like Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989), Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991), Jasmine from Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas from Pocahontas (1995) and especially Mulan from Mulan (1998) as a whole worked so well.
Overall, writers Kirk DeMicco, William Schifrin, Jacqueline Feather, and David Seidler of her film couldn't even decide on whether they wanted her to be a badass tomboy or a damsel-in-distress, hence explaining her inconsistent characterization as seen throughout the film depending on the situation she is in as listed below.
She is a rip-off of Belle from Beauty and the Beast (as pointed out by the Nostalgia Critic and Lauren Faust who worked on this film as an animator), due to having a similar hairstyle and physical appearance, living with her widowed parent on a farm, and wanting more out of her life, so much to the point that it's surprising that Disney hasn't sued her and Warner Bros. yet for shameless copyright infringement.
Much like Don Bluth's version of Thumbelina, she is a poorly written female protagonist of an animated musical from the 1990s who was created in order to cash-in on the success of the Disney Princesses created before her and failing miserably at doing so, although Kayley is at least a bit better-written than Thumbelina.
She is sometimes whiny at times, such as the argument with Juliana who refuses to let her to find Excalibur and become a knight without any logic or reasoning from the latter.
She is also incredibly stupid as well, though not as much as Don Bluth's Thumbelina. At least it was theirs until 2002, when they sold her to 20th Century Fox in 2002, and the rest is history.
Although she dreams of becoming a knight and is supposed to become a competent fighter, Kayley isn't very well prepared as she has no weapon or shield for self-defense, and is unfortunately rendered helpless most of the time where most of the time, she became the complete opposite of a competent fighter since she has to evade from enemies or relying on her allies, such as Garrett, who's blind, thus failing to prove her competence.
To add salt to the wound, every single scene where she appears to be spared from danger despite her obliviousness to her surroundings because of her allies such as Garrett are all because of pure dumb luck and plot contrivance, mainly as the result of her film's bad writing.
Relating to above, she ends up being the damsel-in-distress nearly most of the time, which adds more to her incompetence where she gets captured by Ruber twice.
In regards of her determination, she is very impulsive as she acts before she thinks; depending on your opinion, furthermore, her constant rambling can be awkward and annoying, which at one point, Garrett tells her to shut up.
She blames Garrett for making her and the group stop for camp for the night which she believes that it has missed her chance to get Excalibur after only finding the belt of the sword. Because of her rambling, Garrett couldn't hear Ayden's urgent warning of Ruber and his men approaching and he tried to shush her until it was too late when he gets badly grazed by an arrow shot by Ruber's men. She does show some regret as she tends to Garrett's wounds.
Despite her poor portrayal, it can be argued that her design is pretty cute and attractive, despite looking way too similar to that of Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Anastasia from Don Bluth's film of the same name.
The concept of Kayley's characterization as a heroic female knight saving a kingdom and her mother from an evil knight has potential as a decent protagonist and a great strong female character, but sadly is executed poorly due to how poorly written she and her film is on the part of Warner Bros. trying too hard to copy Disney in order to compete with its rival at the time. In fact, have she and her film been better-written instead of being a shallow Disney knock-off on the part of Warner Bros., she would've been a great heroine in her own right in the same vein as Disney's Fa Mulan, a much better-written female heroine who co-incidentally debuted the same time as her.
While having to flee from enemies or needing to be protected, Kayley does perform some heroic moments.
When Ruber is invading Juliana's home and threatens Kayley's life by blackmailing Juliana into helping him with his evil plan, she grabs a mace from one of the henchmen and tries to attack him from behind.
When Garrett is injured by Ruber's men, Kayley saves him by dragging him away from Ruber before grabbing a vine, hooping it around a sentient tree's arm and tugs it to trap Ruber and his men.
As Ruber is about to kill an injured Arthur with Excalibur that is magically melded to his hand, Kayley swings down with a wooden beam and knocks Ruber away from the king and into the courtyard where the stone that once held Excalibur is located. Knowing that only the true king can pull the sword free, Kayley lures Ruber to the stone, and with Garrett's help, she tricks the evil knight into stabbing Excalibur back in its stone where it obliterates him, leaving behind the sword for Arthur to reclaim.
Her song "On My Father's Wings" is pretty good as it relates strongly to her remembering her father and the topic of wanting to live up to an example of a loved one and make them proud.
Both Jessalyn Gilsig and Sarah Rayne do decent jobs voicing her as an adult and a child respectively.
On that topic, much like Warner Bros.' previous princess, she has a beautiful singing voice, which was provided by The Corrs' lead singer, Andrea Corr.
She cares for Garrett and even stands by him after he tells her that he knew her father, who stood by him and taught him to adapt to his disability when he lost his sight after a horse accidentally kicked him in the head while he rescues the horses from a stable fire. Even though she had a similar depression that Garrett had when hearing of Sir Lionel's death, Kayley reassures him that Lionel wouldn't want him to give up on his dream and reassures him that he is just as good as any other knight.