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Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment DVD Review

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DVD Details

Running Time: 55 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (Suitable for All Ages)

Release Date: November 1, 2005

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Mix of Original Aspect Ratio and Reformatted)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Pink Keepcase


By Renata Joy

By now, one cannot so much look at an item bearing the Disney Princess logo without the word "unnecessary" coming to mind. With their 8th DVD presentation, Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment, the royal ladies are doing something entirely new -- celebrating the holidays.

Imagine a bright wintry day. Cheerful music plays. A computer-generated domed structure magically appears. No, you haven't been doped. This building is a theatre, and inside, a theatrical presentation is taking place. As you ascend the grand staircase, you enter an auditorium filled with black people (that is silhouettes representing shrouded audience members).

You may be wondering what you are doing in this fancy place when the curtain draws and you hear the Disney princesses (limited to Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine) sing their own rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" featuring eight crowns-a-shining, five emerald rings, and two glass slippers. This song is set to film clips of the respective princesses, with minor "enhancements" such as an emerald ring repeatedly appearing in the sky where Jasmine and Aladdin fly on their magic carpet.

Six princesses and their six male companions are the only ones worth defining in this theatre. Red light, green light, 1 2 3!

The feature itself consists of a number of previously-created animated shorts, few of which actually represent a Disney princess in any way, shape, or form. Basically, it is a compilation of shorts which are holiday-related or else merely pertain to toys, winter or sugary treats. Each segment is introduced by a Disney princess. A slight step up from the Princess Stories DVDs -- where intros consist of recycled heroines footage unsuccessfully and jarringly matched up to newly-recorded dialogue -- the princesses here are newly-animated, although in a very stiff and computer-y way. If the princesses seem a little lifeless, one only has to look at the princes sitting next to them to revise their opinion. Looking more like tranquilized animals than handsome heroes, their actions are limited to an occasional eye blink, illustrating the point that to a good princess, a prince is nothing more than an accessory.

"The Steadfast Tin Soldier" is the first story sequence and from here, the disappointment begins. You get a severely cropped fullscreen version of the Fantasia 2000 segment which has been set not to the Shostakovich composition it was originally timed to, but an uncredited score of a less exciting sort. One can't help but feel cheated in the way Disney has apparently undermined their own work, in addition to the fact that they thought that such a treatment would go unnoticed (granted, it probably will be by the majority of those at whom this DVD is aimed).

Next we are "treated" to recycled film clips of Princess Aurora getting jiggy wit' it to Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." With its cropped round frame and psychedelic kaleidoscope effects, this makes one yearn for even the most chopped-up version of Fantasia's rendition of the piece, at least it is short and easier to enjoy than the overlong summary of Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas that follows. All that might have been necessary (or appropriate, for that matter) would have been a sing-along of the song "As Long As There's Christmas", which is featured here in its entirety, though lacking animated lyrics the sing-along format entails. As it is, this part runs roughly 15 minutes and one can't help but feel the time spent condensing this direct-to-video "midquel" would have been better spent doing something else.

The Cookie Queen admires her reflection. This guy gives two thumbs (and nipples) up!

As Snow White is the eldest of the group, it seems fitting (at least in the mind of the Disney employees behind this endeavor) that she introduce the Silly Symphony short "The Cookie Carnival", which plays like it sounds. Christmas is nowhere to be found in this 1935 cartoon and while there is a royal, she is of the confectionary variety. All that seems edited out here are the opening and closing credits. Although they have disappeared in certain other airings, the rum cookies remain intact. (I know, tipsy baked goods offend me too.)

We are then told it is intermission and Ariel decides to tell us about her first Christmas, or "Chrissymas", as she calls it. (How endearing.) This part is presented as a read-along, perfect for those just learning how to read. It is also the lone portion of the feature which appears to have been created entirely for this DVD.

The treatment of the next cartoon is the low point of the disc. A reconfiguration of the 1933 Silly Symphony "The Night Before Christmas", this segment uses new narration while reordering and removing substantial chunks of the original animation. Missing from this presentation is extensive fireplace action, toy marching including a Mickey Mouse cameo or two, Santa's stocking-filling fun, and a bit more. Somewhere in the middle of this train wreck, Madame Bonfamille of The Aristocats shows up playing the role of "Ma in her kerchief." Also making new appearances: computer-generated "visions of sugar plums" and a prominent insert shot of a smiling moon. Though this new version boasts the full text of Clement C. Moore's treasured poem, including the cartoon in its delightful original format would have been more than welcome, especially since the only other way to view this short on DVD is by playing multiple levels of a set-top game on The Santa Clause: Special Edition.

This short's missing something. I can't put my finger on what. Oh yeah, ornaments. The Disney princesses "gather" "together" for the musical finale "The Beauty of the Season."

Second to last is Melody Time's "Once Upon A Wintertime." Like "The Cookie Carnival", this Mary Blair-inspired piece remains the most untouched classic segment on the disc and even retains the same musical background, something that shouldn't be as surprising as it is on this particular compilation.

The final presentation is "The Beauty of the Season", an all-new princess holiday song which uses animation recycled from the leading ladies' films (note that few of the scenes actually include Christmas settings) intertwined with those stiff new digitally animated renditions of the characters.

"O Christmas Tree" is an activity which comes after "Cookie Carnival", but is only available in the "Magic Wand Play" mode or from the chapter selection menu. With this feature, you are allowed to create a Christmas tree based on your favorite Disney princess. However, if you prefer either Princess Jasmine or Pocahontas, you may be disappointed, as the trees are limited only to the first three of the canon as well as Ariel and Belle. While you get to decorate the tree, you have no say in the matter for there are right or wrong choices to make. Once you have finished, the princess whose tree you have decorated will entertain you with her rendition of "O Christmas Tree." Don't you feel special?

All in all, the program amounts to roughly 55 minutes of entertainment, depending on how much tree decorating you engage in. Time could be worst spent elsewhere, but there is certainly no shortage of Christmas-themed DVDs that would be better suited to becoming a holiday tradition for the little ones in your household. Though the format differs from past Disney Princess DVDs, it holds true to the line's apparent tenet that the least amount of effort necessary will do just fine as long as it's packaged in a pink keepcase adorned by those lovely Disney girls.

What's different in this picture? Oooh...nothing shouts "Christmas" like a good round border! It's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together for these two.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Video quality is generally good, with the new material being unnaturally crisp and bright (and particularly pink). It seems that the older cartoons have been restored for one DVD or another on which they had appeared before this output. While there are some instances of softness and artifacting, it is hardly so distressing as editing and the addition of strange clips ("The Night Before Christmas") or a cropped fullscreen transfer ("The Steadfast Tin Soldier").

A Christmas of Enchantment is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Obviously, the older material hasn't been remixed, but the new digitally-rendered segments boast slight reinforcement from the rear speakers, most evident in theatrical applause. On the musical numbers, channel separation is apparent, as princess vocals come only from the front speakers, while the back ones supply only background music. "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" may not use its original soundtrack, but the phony replacement has apparently been mixed for 5.1 as well. The other segments display decent sound quality, with the oldest mix ("The Cookie Carnival") understandably standing out as the most muffled and least crisp.

Snow White marvels at the very red tree you decorated with her...or maybe just the bird on her fingers. Hu noz? Look at how the Virtual Snowglobe virtually snows! The animated "Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment" main menu rotates through half a dozen princesses.

BONUS FEATURES

A Virtual Snowglobe Maker is the only set-top supplement. You are given the choice of three princesses (Cinderella, Ariel, and Jasmine) as well as numerous settings, companions, and accessories for their snowy scene. During the process of making your snowglobe, you must play quite a few rounds of a memory game which is definitely not difficult, but after listening to the slow narration take you through every single step, you might be bald by the time you get to see your finished work of art. (Because you would have been pulling out your hair, you see.) Once your masterpiece has been completed, you are allowed to shake it (virtually), or merely look at it. If you wish to "keep" your snowglobe, a code is provided which allows you to retrieve your creation upon placing the disc into a DVD-ROM drive. The DVD-ROM feature also allows you to make the snowglobe without taking part in the tedious game, and to employ the final result as a screensaver. The screensaver is nice, but does not allow you any interaction with the snowglobe.(That would be shaking.)

Previews at the start of the disc promote Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (a new spot, following roughly six months of the same one), next February's Princess DVDs, and the yet-to-be-rescheduled next wave of Pooh-themed Disney Learning Adventures. Additional ads are available from the Sneak Peeks menu and tout Kronk's New Groove, Little Einsteins, Lady and the Tramp, and "JoJo's Circus" on Playhouse Disney.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The 4x3 menu begins with an invitation which opens up to reveal the features on the disc. At the top, a different princess head is display each time a shooting star goes by. There are six princesses in all, namely the ones who appear on the cover art and coincidently the only ones who partake in the celebrations that this DVD has to offer.

The DVD comes, of course, in its pink keepcase. Inside, there is the obligatory insert, a Disney Princess Magazine subscription offer, and a "program" of sorts which includes lyrics to the two songs sung in the presentation, a checklist of the already-existing princess DVDs, in addition to an offer for a free Disney Enchanted Call for your own princess (a $2.49 value for a less-than-1-minute, hardly personalized phone message!).

Oh no, Cinderella's man is checking out Belle in the next screencap! Belle's more interested in her um....tree.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Most of the stories shared in Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment are worth viewing, that is if presented in their original unedited forms. As it is, they are not, nor are they extremely relevant inclusions based on the title, as both Disney princesses and Christmas figure minimally. While this entry does not feel particularly weaker than past DVDs in the Disney Princess line, it also does not feel any greater. If '90s cartoon episodes, various interactive bonus features, or excerpted musical numbers with animated lyrics are more appealing to you, then you should look to the other volumes under the headers Stories, Party, or Sing-Along. This disc offers a breezy hybrid of those without satisfying or challenging the viewer in any way. To get a real holiday fix, you'll likely want to look elsewhere.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Disney's 2005 Christmas-Themed DVDs
Disney Channel Holiday A Very Playhouse Disney Holiday
Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals Classic Holiday Stories

Disney Princess DVDs
Disney Princess Stories: Volume Three - Beauty Shines From Within
Disney Princess Stories: Volume Two - Tales of Friendship
Disney Princess Stories: Volume One - A Gift From the Heart
Disney Princess Party: Volume Two Disney Princess Party: Volume One
Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Volume One - Once Upon a Dream
Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Volume Two - Enchanted Tea Party

Featured "Princess" Movies on DVD
Cinderella (Platinum Edition & Collector's Gift Set)
The Little Mermaid (Limited Issue)
Beauty and the Beast (Platinum Edition) Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Platinum Edition)
Sleeping Beauty (Special Edition)
Aladdin (Platinum Edition)

See the Featured Shorts in their Original Forms
"The Steadfast Tin Soldiers": Fantasia 2000 The Fantasia Anthology
Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Enchanted Christmas (Special Edition)
"The Cookie Carnival": Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies
"The Night Before Christmas": Easter Egg on The Santa Clause: Special Edition

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Reviewed October 31, 2005.