|“||But I want to be a knight. Going on grand adventures, fighting evil, rescuing damsels in distress. What is a damsel, anyway?||„|
|~ Kayley longing to be a knight.|
Kayley is the main protagonist of Warner Brothers' 1998 animated feature film Quest for Camelot. She is a tomboyishly beautiful teenage girl who wants to become a knight like her father. She will do anything to bring Excalibur back to King Arthur and save her family. Kayley won't let any rule, tradition, thug, warlord, or monster stand in her way.
She was voiced by Jessalyn Gilsig with Andrea Corr doing her singing voice and Sarah Freeman (credited as Sarah Rayne) as her younger self who also voiced Hannah Phillips from Toy Story.
In the beginning of the story, Kayley is introduced as a young little girl, perhaps eight years old. She begs her father Sir Lionel to tell her the story of how Camelot was first made and Arthur was crowned king, despite having heard it many times before. Before leaving for a meeting at the Round Table, her father promises her that some day he will take her to see Camelot. Unfortunately that promise is never fulfilled, with Sir Lionel being killed in defense of King Arthur against the evil knight Ruber.
Despite the early loss of her father, Kayley grows into an adventurous and cheerful young woman. Approximately eighteen years old at the time of the movie's main plot, she dreams of breaking free from the daily grind of chores and seeking out her own chance at honor and glory. Her mother Lady Juliana has other ideas though, including trying to keep her daughter close and getting her into the occasional dress.
When Ruber and his men attack their home and take both women captive, Kayley is thrown straight into the adventure she had been craving. The sudden reality of it seems to startle her though, and she requires some prompting from her mother to take advantage of an opportunity to slip away and warn Camelot. Nonetheless, Kayley is quick to decide against taking the main road, instead riding straight into the wild and dangerous Forbidden Forest in search of Excalibur. Pursued by Ruber's minions, she attempts to outrun them and falls headfirst into a fishing net in a pool.
The net belongs to Garrett, a blind hermit who lives in the Forbidden Forest along with a silver-winged falcon named Ayden. Thinking she's found an ally, Kayley attempts to be friendly to Garrett but for the most part is rebuffed with sarcasm. Eventually though she does manage to convince him to accompany her in the search for Excalibur, although he does so begrudgingly. Her unflappable chatter and lack of attention nearly get her into trouble a few times, leaving Garrett to beat back the Forest and it's obstacles. The two of them make it into Dragon Country though, where they encounter a two-headed dragon by the name(s) of Devon and Cornwall. Cornwall, as per his nature, tries to flirt with Kayley, amusing her and subtly irritating Garrett. The new foursome dodge dragons and Ruber, but manage to make it clear of Dragon Country.
Despite Kayley's protests that they ought to push on, they stop for a night, and Garrett gives her some lessons in staff-fighting. Devon and Cornwall, seeing how touchy-feely the two were getting take a moment to tease Garrett behind Kayley's back. The next morning though they find the sheath of Excalibur, along with a set of enormous ogre footprints. Kayley, thinking they've missed their chance at the sword, berates Garrett for making the stop the night before. Her haranguing prevents Garrett from hearing Ayden's warning that Ruber and his men have caught up. Ruber shoots an arrow and wounds Garrett, leaving Kayley to provoke the nearby trees into grabbing at Ruber and his men. She half-carries Garrett to safety, along with Devon and Cornwall.
As it rains outside the shelter, Kayley tends to Garrett's wound with some of the plants he showed her earlier. She blames herself for Garrett having been hurt, but he forgives her almost immediately, if he ever even was mad. The healing plants take effect quickly, and the two of them walk in the damp forest, reveling in a new-found attraction for one another.
The next day, Ayden leads them to the lair of the ogre who has Excalibur, known as Uncle Yorik. By holding one another's ankles and leaning over a ledge, the others are able to lower the much-lighter Kayley down far enough to get to the sword. Even when Uncle Yorik briefly awakens, Kayley is able to soothe him long enough to accomplish the task at hand. Conveniently, the ogre then awakens just in time to smash Ruber and his men, who were creeping up on the heroes.
When it comes time to leave the Forbidden Forest behind, Garrett balks and hands Excalibur to Kayley, insisting that she return the sword to King Arthur without him. Although saddened, she bravely continues on with Devon and Cornwall. Ruber has been lying in wait, however, kidnapping Kayley and stealing the sword. To her terror, Ruber uses his magic potion to fuse it to his own arm. She is then thrown into one of the travelling wagons and reunited with her mother. The reunion is short-lived though, with Lady Juliana being forced to get Ruber past the gates of Camelot to save her daughter.
With the help of the converted axe-chicken Bladebeak, Kayley manages to break free of her captor inside the wagon and warn the knights. A fight ensures, and she attempts to get into the sealed castle to help King Arthur who is trapped inside with Ruber. Although she is nearly knocked straight off a high castle wall by two of Ruber's minions, Garrett, Devon and Cornwall arrive just in time to help. While the two dragons fight Ruber's griffin in midair, she and Garrett get inside the castle. They are just in time to prevent Ruber from killing the injured King Arthur; Kayley swings down on a large block of wood and knocks Ruber through out a window.
Kayley evades Ruber around the courtyard of the Sword in the Stone, but is without a weapon and unable to fight him. Although Garrett tries to help, his wooden staff is quickly broken, and without Ayden as his eyes, he is essentially helpless. Kayley remembers what he told her earlier about holding her ground until the last possible moment, and with Garrett, she tricks Ruber into stabbing Excalibur into the stone. The magic of the sword and stone disintegrates Ruber, turning his men back into humans (as well as Bladebeak into a chicken) and healing King Arthur. Drawing Excalibur once again from the sword, Arthur re-asserts himself as king.
Shortly thereafter, Kayley along with Garrett are knighted as members of the Round Table. Ironically, she is wearing the finished dress that her mother could barely convince her to try on at the beginning of the story. Carrying her father Sir Lionel's shield, given to her by Lady Juliana, Kayley finally fulfills her dream of knighthood and glory. Handing off her shield to the king, she and Garrett then dance at their ceremony and share their first kiss. With Kayley at the reigns, the two of them ride off into the hills together on a horse with a sign that says 'Just Knighted'.
- Kayley is one of the most forgotten heroines, presumably for her movie's lack of success at the box office. Despite this, many people discovered her and loved her for her nobility and free spirit.
- Unlike most heroines, her motivation was neither love or trying to save someone, but to get away from her chores, since she is restricted because of her gender and caste system. This later turns into trying to save someone (in this case, her mother and her kingdom).
- Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Aniston were briefly considered for the role of Kayley, although Aniston would later voice Annie Hughes in The Iron Giant.