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Disney Princess Sing Along Songs DVDs: Vol. 1 - Once Upon a Dream Vol. 2 - Enchanted Tea Party Vol. 3 - Perfectly Princess

Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Volume 2 - Enchanted Tea Party DVD Review

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DVD Details

Running Time: 34 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Release Date: September 6, 2005

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

Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Pink Keepcase


The Disney Princess DVD line has survived to a third wave, with a pair of new discs being released exactly a year (to the week) after the series was launched last September. Among the sixth and seventh entries to the collection is Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Volume 2 - Enchanted Tea Party, a follow-up to the most enjoyable installment to date.

Originally announced for release last February, this second Princess Sing-Along Songs DVD was delayed more than half a year for what appears to be no other reason than to have a volume to accompany the TV cartoon-recycling Disney Princess Stories: Volume Three in stores.
While its pink keepcase, zesty cover art, and release date tie it to its Disney Princess DVD kin, Sing-Along Songs: Volume 2 actually stays closer in format to the "Sing-Along Songs" part of its title. It follows the studio's time-tested formula of excerpting musical numbers from animated films and equipping them with animated lyrics.

With Volume One's collection of songs having exhausted the most famous melodies performed by the princesses in Disney's animated canon, Volume Two stretches mildly to fill out a program. Most of its twelve numbers are familiar and winning enough, even if some are not intonated by the princesses themselves and some again reconfigure the definition of "Disney Princess" to include Alice (of Alice in Wonderland), Maid Marian (Robin Hood), and Ariel's daughter Melody (The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea) - a fact the studio appears to downplay by excluding the two non-princesses on the back cover's listing.

The ever-growing class of Disney princesses virtually gather together for an enchanted tea party. Cinderella thinks Prince Charming is tasty.

As with Disney's past Sing Along Songs DVDs, this one runs with a theme with which to link all of the selected tunes. As the title implies, that theme is an "Enchanted Tea Party." Segments between songs illustrate the preparation for this tea party, as a sunny garden locale awaits the princesses' arrivals. Serving as an introduction to each song, the unseen, elegant-sounding narrator (Sheryl Bernstein, returning from Volume One) reveals a personalized table setting for the various characters. This motif is fairly consistent and quite clever. An individually-tailored snack is set out for each "princess", which adds some brief but fun "guesswork" as to what song will come next (assuming you're not viewing with the enclosed insert in hand). There is an apple tart for Snow White, cornbread for Pocahontas, and so on. The target audience may not necessarily understand or appreciate the aptness of the food choices, but older viewers will. Accompanying parents can take the opportunity to explain to their offspring, and an included bonus feature may also serve to elucidate.

In the fashion of the DVD era Sing Alongs, the disc opens with the Sing Along theme tune performed by Sebastian, the Caribbean crustacean from The Little Mermaid. It then moves to the princess most currently on Disney's mind, Cinderella, and her slow nighttime waltz "So This is Love."

Four Eisner era heroines follow. Ariel "don't say a word" in The Little Mermaid's charming "Kiss the Girl" which harks back to '50s doo-wop with a twist provided by Sebastian's accented crooning. Next, Princess Jasmine makes an appearance. With her one Aladdin duet already used, this volume opts for direct-to-video sequel The Return of Jafar's surprisingly catchy "Forget About Love", which is performed primarily by Gilbert Gottfried (as loudmouth Iago) in an acceptable use of his typically grating tone. "Something There" from Beauty and the Beast follows, successfully illustrating its two title characters' transformations towards acceptance and fondness of one another. Then, Pocahontas' triumphant anthem "Just Around the Riverbend" (often unjustly shadowed by Volume One's "Colors of the Wind") raises the energy level.

In "Forget About Love", Iago (voiced by the whiny Gilbert Gottfried) uses a bit of reverse psychology to get Jasmine to forgive Aladdin. Belle begins to see "Something There" that wasn't there before. Pocahontas energetically sings "Just Around the Riverbend" to her portly raccoon friend Meeko.

The oldest song in this batch, Snow White's "Some Day My Prince Will Come", turns up next, challenging anyone actually singing along with its very high notes. Then there is Sleeping Beauty's brief and somewhat forgettable "I Wonder." The more active protagonist of a more enlightened production era, Mulan is the center of the next number, but "Honor To Us All" ironically demonstrates the old-fashioned ideals from which she departs. This tune benefits from the sing-along treatment, for it enables you to match the fast, tough-to-follow lyrics to the hummable Asian-sounding music.

The final third of Volume Two's selections is undoubtedly its weakest based on timelessness and qualifications. "Love", the unmistakably '70s tune performed by Maid Marian in Robin Hood, and "In A World of My Own", Alice's loopy fantasizing number of Alice in Wonderland, are both fine songs in their own right (one especially wishes "In A World" was longer), but neither character can conceivably be labeled a princess and that might upset sticklers. Even unobservant viewers should notice a drastic change in appearance from Song 10 to 11, when the unnatural, sterile visuals of The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea take over. The direct-to-video sequel's "For a Moment", performed by Ariel's sea-craving daughter Melody, is much like the film itself, bearable and even pleasing in a dose, but with little holding power afterwards.
Finally, there is "Where Dreams Begin", the Princess DVD line's second wave "new princess song." After the apparently considerable effort that went into the first wave's song/music video (which boasted original princess singing voices and some clever editing effects), Disney seems to have decided on less exertion. The results are fairly similar, as clips from the animated classics which introduced the eight most readily-employed Disney Princesses are weaved together with the generic pop dance song and its fast tempo.

Altogether, counting the opening theme song, the end credits, and dozen interstitials, the feature presentation runs only 34 minutes long. This is eleven minutes shorter than Volume One and surprisingly slight for a disc carrying a $19.99 SRP, but the bonus features include a Karaoke option which effectively doubles the title's running time for those who are interested. Furthermore, in spite of the certainly brief program length, this volume simply feels like it offers a better value than its concurrently-released counterpart, Princess Stories: Volume Three which recycles '90s television programs rather than classic film footage that inspired it. Only fans of both the Sing-Along format and excerpted films will likely be interested to pick this up; this group should not let the deceptively slight running time put them off.

Maid Marian sings "Love", a song that has dated far more than its concepts. Alice sings "In A World Of My Own" while reclining in a bed of daisies. Aurora serenades a variety of woodland creatures in "I Wonder."

VIDEO and AUDIO

The entire program is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, which is just fine for the new linking content and songs from Cinderella, The Return of Jafar, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Robin Hood and Alice in Wonderland (all animated for a similar ratio). For the six numbers from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and The Little Mermaid II, however, such a fullscreen presentation requires some sacrifice, namely that they undergo the dreaded pan-and-scan procedure. One would think if Disney can maintain their animated films' original aspect ratios on DVD (as they consistently do) that they can get away with the same for this new Sing-Along DVD, but that has never been the case in this series. The cropped treatment does soil some of the fun, even if five of the six films are "only" missing about 20% of their picture in the width department. They are robbed of a bit of their visual power and the short excerpt of Sleeping Beauty is dreadfully lacking almost 45% of its beautiful imagery.

Other than the large disappointment of that continuing Sing-Alongs practice, picture quality is solid. This is not an old VHS title converted to DVD. Clips from each film look more or less as good as they do on the current DVD releases. The not-yet-released Cinderella is lacking a bit, as is the unsatisfactorily-restored Robin Hood. The numbers from Alice in Wonderland and Snow White are not as fresh and detailed as the modern film bits or their respective two-disc DVD releases either. Sleeping Beauty's short song is the least presentable of the bunch, with a mostly out-of-focus look combining with the severe cropping. The remaining and more recent productions all display commendable levels of sharpness and vibrancy.

As far as audio goes, the disc delivers a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, but it never feels like anything more special than Dolby Surround since sweeping effects and five-channel separation are basically absent. It isn't lacking in any noticeable ways, nonetheless, with the soundtrack providing crisp and rich recordings faithful to their sources. The DVD also provides French audio (in Dolby Surround) and corresponding animated lyrics. It's a nice inclusion which enables you to sharpen your ability to sing in a foreign tongue and those with some knowledge of French to amuse themselves at the slightly-different title and lyric translations.

The ethnically diverse plain girls show off Disney Princess nightshirts in the rehearsal stage of the Dance Along feature. All dressed up, the girls strut their stuff for a flimsy pop song Dance Along. "Hey Aurora, remember that time you almost died when you pricked your finger on the spinning wheel? Well, I saw these spinning wheel napkins and just had to get them for you, girl!"

BONUS FEATURES

Four supplements can be found in the Bonus Features menu, with three falling under the "Music Time" header. Two are not really bonus features on their own,
instead offering a couple of different ways to enjoy the main program. First is "Karaoke", which neatly enables you to enjoy any of the twelve songs without the recorded vocals. Instrumental versions of many (if not most) of these songs are not available elsewhere, which makes the feature especially welcome even if you don't intend to sing along with music. Like last time, there is unfortunately no "Play All" option offered, but playback of the track you select starts after only a brief title card. Also like last time, the rare bits of sound effects and spoken dialogue remain present.

"Random Play" acts like you'd expect, cycling through the songs in a random fashion until all twelve have been played. It effectively enables more than 479 million arrangements of the featured program, which makes for unpredictable replay experiences and opportunities to gamble. Like the Karaoke feature, this alternate playback method loses the introductory narration and only offers a title card before each song. "Repeat Play", yet another alternate playback method, is offered directly from the Main Menu, though it is classified as a bonus feature in the packaging. When selected, it simply cycles through the default song lineup again and again, extending play more than the Energizer bunny ever could.

The final "Music Time" supplement is a "Dance Along" for "Where Dreams Begin." Whereas on Volume One, there were three songs and blazer-wearing boys, this time there is just one tune and a group of five ethnically-diverse girls (all clad in Disney princess attire, of course). To aid viewers in the Dance Along process, this section presents a series of five instructional sequences before going into the actual jamboree itself. Or you could just wing it and dance your own way, as I imagine most young audience members would.

Finally, there is the "Game Time" activity "Princess Tea Time." Here, you must prepare a place setting for a business week's worth of Disney princesses. The viewer answers three multiple-choice questions about what kind of napkin, cup, and dessert would be best for Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, Pocahontas, and Belle. This interactive shindig runs with the tea party theme sufficiently, though knowledge of the five princesses' films and settings are needed to answer the then-easy questions. While the basic premise is inspired, it's the stereotypical activity like this which assumes that Belle wants a French pastry just because she's French!

A princess for tea every working day of the week? Sign me up! A still from the nice-looking animated Main Menu.

MENUS AND PACKAGING

The 16x9 animated menus are very close to Volume One's and are equally well done. In the Main Menu, banners featuring different clip art of the "princesses" (including Alice) roam around a castle veranda while we inexplicably move too. Fortunately, the needless menu-explanation narration employed for Volume One has been abandoned, while different instrumentals of the included songs are still attached to each menu.

As should be expected, the DVD is "enhanced" with Disney's FastPlay. By this point, it should go without saying what FastPlay is, but if you've somehow not encountered such a phenomenon before, it's a playback method which requires no remote control input whatsoever, unless you want to skip previews or songs, or pause the program, or check out bonus features at your own pace.

Those previews you may or may not want to skip are for Cinderella "Special" Edition, Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie, and the next Disney Princess DVD, A Christmas of Enchantment due on November 1st. The Sneak Peeks menu holds additional promos for the enticing Disney's Princess Fantasy DVD Game, the next batch of Pooh-themed Disney Learning Adventure, Pooh's Grand Adventure, Lilo & Stitch 2, and "JoJo's Circus" on Playhouse Disney.

Inside the case, you'll find a slew of promotional material. There is a subscription form for Disney Princess Magazine and a two-sided insert which lists songs and bonus features while doubling as a "Collect Them All" ad. There is also a whopping booklet which gives some information on Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, and Belle, while simultaneously promoting everything related to Disney's $3 billion-per-year Princess merchandise empire. As with past Princess DVD waves, the booklet includes a form to get something for free (plus shipping and handling) when you buy two DVDs in the line - this time, that "something" is a door hanger pillow bearing the words "Shhh! The Princess Is Sleeping".

Superimposing images of various princesses dancing yields this somewhat catchy prelude to "Where Dreams Begin." Julie Andrews would agree with Snow White.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Disney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume Two does not offer as many songs or bonus features as its predecessor, but it delivers a similarly fun collection of memorable tunes from (mostly) classic Disney animation. With a program runtime of just 34 minutes, the disc does not offer an excellent value for its $19.99 suggested retail price, even though the included Karaoke and Repeat play options lend themselves to multiple viewings. This compilation could have been easily improved by adding more songs or preserving the widescreen films' original dimensions. Such complaints can be lobbied against almost any of the studio's Sing-Along DVDs, but those who still enjoy the format should find this volume to be one of the better entries into the class. Likewise, this slender disc is still more appealing than most of the other entries in the Disney Princess DVD line.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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

Featured Princess/Heroine Movies on DVD
Cinderella (2-Disc Platinum Edition)
The Little Mermaid (Limited Issue) The Return of Jafar (Aladdin II & III Collection)
Beauty and the Beast (2-Disc Platinum Edition) Pocahontas (2-Disc 10th Anniversary Edition)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2-Disc Platinum Edition) Sleeping Beauty (2-Disc Special Edition)
Mulan (2-Disc Special Edition) Robin Hood (Gold Collection) Alice in Wonderland (2-Disc Masterpiece Edition)

Recently-Released DVDs:
My Scene Goes Hollywood: The Movie
Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch
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Related Links:
UltimateDisney.com Top 25 Heroines Countdown (Spring 2005)
UltimateDisney.com Top 100 Disney Songs Countdown (Spring 2004)
Walt Disney Records - Summer 2005 CD Roundup

UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Upcoming DVD Schedule | Disney Princess and Sing Along DVDs

Disney Princess Sing Along Songs DVDs: Vol. 1 - Once Upon a Dream Vol. 2 - Enchanted Tea Party Vol. 3 - Perfectly Princess

Reviewed September 3, 2005.