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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 3 - Perfectly Princess DVD Review

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DVD Details

Running Time: 40 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Release Date: February 14, 2006

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


The Disney Princess DVDs generally do not benefit much from reviews. Sure, like any published critique, they get the word out about a new piece of media available for consumption. But usually, the greatest appeal an entry in Disney's Princess DVD line will hold is when you don't know its contents. When that is the case, all you know is that you'll be getting something featuring the beloved royal female human protagonists of Disney's animated classics. The possibilities are endless, the potential high, but then you read the review and realize you're just getting two episodes from 1990s television cartoons and a disposable read-along (Disney Princess Stories) or recycled (and altered) animation featuring cookies and toys (Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment, the line's latest offering, released last November).

One exception to the widespread lamenting these DVDs have inspired in this site's critics (more specifically, your uncredited regular reviewer) are the Disney Princess Sing Along Songs. The first volume held some of the most memorable songs in Disney's canon, and though the selections on Volume Two showed the well was drying up (thus requiring "princess" be stretched to include Alice of Alice in Wonderland and Robin Hood vixen Maid Marian), both provided thoroughly entertaining experiences with
little more than musical film excerpts, colorful captions to aid singing along, and some basic but cool bonuses that added replay value to the disc. The latest installment of this series (which seems to be the only new Sing Along Songs titles coming out of Disney these days), Disney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume 3 - Perfectly Princess, follows the same formula, but it reveals that the supply of great songs featuring Disney princesses is definitely running low.

Volume 3's twelve-track roster only includes four songs from what are widely known as Disney's "animated classics" and these are played in succession in the second half. To get there, you must first endure five songs which never played before a theatrical crowd in America: one from a television cartoon spin-off and four from direct-to-video sequels. After the strong patch of numbers from Feature Animation, two more sequel songs follow and the program concludes with a tune from Miramax's 2004 live action fairy tale Ella Enchanted. Based on the previous two volumes, you'd expect a more potent lineup than this, but as we did for past volumes (which did sprinkle in the occasional DTV effort), let's keep an open mind as we go through the program song by song.

Even the starfish and octopus think that's kind of obvious, Ariel. How's about back into the first movie and we forget this ever happened?

Once upon a time not too long ago, Disney fans could summarily dismiss the studio's entire class of direct-to-video sequels as inferior product hardly worth going out of one's way to view. In 2006, it's not quite as easy to do that. As the artistic quality of DisneyToon Studios' productions has generally risen, there are different gradients, ranging from inane to inoffensive to fairly commendable. Before we get to the bombardment of songs from these films, the program opens, after Sebastian's somewhat outdated "Sing Along Songs" anthem (there's nary a bouncing ball to be found here), with "In Harmony" from "The Little Mermaid" television series. I'm not sure exactly how I knew this song already in some detail (I imagine it used to play on the Disney Channel before the zoogs and teen poppers took over), but it's a catchy tune and one of the better tracks included.

Then, we enter SequelLand, beginning with "It's What Inside That Counts" from the heavily-maligned Cinderella II: Dreams Come True. Boasting rubbish lyrics that have the subtlety of a jackhammer, sterile visuals that make you cringe even for the low-key animation the Nine Old Men did for the first film, and a nondiegetic performer who is clearly not Cinderella (though she's apparently speaking for her) and not at all in line with the original's world or music, this is probably the weakest portion of the disc. Next is "Out of Thin Air", Aladdin and Jasmine's duet from Aladdin and the King of Thieves which has some strengths but does not amount to much more than a twist on "A Whole New World" that is quite inferior even next to "Forget About Love" from its immediate direct-to-video predecessor. "A Little Thought" is, like the rest of Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World, best and easily forgotten. Finally, "Where Do I Go From Here?", Pocahontas's conflicted "I want" song is set to a montage of scenes from the silly-looking Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, wrapping up the first act of DTV music.

Moving onto feature animation, "Whistle While You Work" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has more lyric-less woodland creature hijinks than your typical Sing Along selection, but it is the first excerpt emanating from a film worth sharing in full with any viewer. Next is the Alice in Wonderland flowers' old-fashioned "All in the Golden Afternoon", performed to the film's clearly not regal young protagonist who nonetheless seems certified as a Disney princess based on her second appearance in the line. Cinderella is nowhere to be found in "The Work Song", the bouncy ditty performed by her magnanimous mice friends. We bid farewell to cinema-worthy pieces with "Belle", Beauty and the Beast's opening song which introduces the bookish protagonist and skillfully underscores the contrast between she and her provincial neighbors.

Professor Mulan schools young Chinese girls. "Lesson Number One": celestial bodies. I'm glad the lyrics were provided for this part, or else we'd all be completely lost!

Additional numbers stem from two of Disney's better-selling DTV productions. Mulan II's "Lesson Number One" offers Mulan's fairly fun and seemingly Asian-flavored instructions to her young pupils. While "Here on the Land and Sea" (from The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea) gives that cool crustacean Sebastian an opportunity to croon alongside Ariel and her cut-from-the-same-mold daughter Melody without the slightest bit of aftertaste.

The final number -- "It's Not Just Make Believe" from the end credits (I think) of Ella Enchanted -- may seem an odd selection (especially since the PG-rated Miramax movie is credited), but it's clearly standing in for the Disney Princess collaborations created just for the line of DVDs (and CDs). Set to a montage of Disney princess (and "princess") visuals, it actually works better than the previous concoctions. It's not an excellent song, but its lyrics shows more polish than the generic lines heard in "If You Can Dream" and "Where Dreams Begin." Its near-punk edge is also a bit different, and remarkably, its words seem more relevant to the Disney princesses than the original compositions, as Cinderella and
Alice are repeatedly referenced and later, so are Ariel and Belle. I assumed the lyrics were changed to make them more relevant for the Disney Princess DVD, but apparently, that is not the case. Of course, the editing for this has capitalized on the nods to Disney's leading ladies. Though each subsequent princesses-together number has seemed to lose one element of ambition (from the loss of the original princess voices to abandoning original songwriting altogether), in this case, it works okay.

A common complaint regarding the Sing Along Songs format can again be lobbied here. That is that the program's implementation of lyrics is not quite ideal. Often, there is not enough time allowed for the viewer to follow along in song, as a lyric will appear on screen the same time that the short phrase it starts begins to be uttered. If this proves even slightly a challenge for a fully-grown human (as it did), I'm guessing it will also trouble the young girls the DVD is aimed at, who may not have fully grasped reading, let alone at such a quick rate to keep up with the irregularly-paced tunes. Clunky and screen-consuming though it may have been, the two-line lyric format that was employed for the Sing Along videos of the '80s was more conducive to singing along. As seemingly the only studio putting out these types of discs and having done so for close to twenty years, you think Disney would have mastered this art by now.

The entire frame height of "Aladdin and the King of Thieves" has been preserved. Woohoo! Hey, how did you get here, Alice? You're not a princess!

One final thing to mention about this program, which runs 40 minutes with the end credits (smack in between the runtimes of Volumes 1 and 2), is its theming. Volume 2 lived up to its title of "Enchanted Tea Party" cleverly, but what exactly does "Perfectly Princess" entail? A series of letters, each written and read by the princess after their featured song. While their messages rarely obtain the inspirational air they seek and sometimes their pre-song introduction is just silly (Jasmine's envelope smells like exotic spices because she's from the Middle East, you see), they do a fair job of providing transitions, staying true to the characters' natures and conveying some undisputable virtues.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The biggest complaint one can lodge against this and other new Sing Along Songs volumes' video presentations is the fact that the movie excerpts are all formatted to fit the dimensions of a standard 4x3 television. Children are exposed to widescreen through television and Disney DVDs which rarely offer a fullscreen option for the animated classics, so it makes little sense to chop up the flicks to fill screens here, outside of consistency's sake (which is never achieved due to different production eras and animation styles). "The Little Mermaid" (TV show), Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Belle's Magical World, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella were all basically animated for the Academy Ratio, so they do not have to sustain cropping (something King of Thieves endured for its misframed widescreen DVD release). Cinderella II, the original Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas II, Mulan II, and The Little Mermaid II were all created for aspect ratios ranging from 1.66:1 to 1.78:1, so any loss of picture they suffer for their song selections and the closing montage is minor. Otherwise, picture quality is terrific, with older fare like Snow White and Cinderella making use of the drastic digital remasterings they enjoyed as part of their Platinum Edition DVD debuts and the sequels already being sterile (and/or shoddy) enough to be not noticeably inhibited by the passing of time or the jump to Perfectly Princess.

Sound, as usual, is delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and gladly, there seems to be a bit more to the track than the basic hard-to-notice "remixes" given to older Sing Along volumes making their DVD debut. Instrumentation flows onto the rear speakers, widening the soundfield, as do the occasional sound effect which is preserved amidst the movies' musical moments. The vocals stay in the front, but have a vitality to them, especially in the Eisner Era creations. The elements of Snow White, Cinderella, and Alice are undoubtedly more limited, but their music is opened up nicely and presented exquisitely here. A Dolby Surround French soundtrack with accompanying foreign language on-screen lyrics is also provided, though switching on-the-fly is impossible due to the elaborateness of the changes.

"Princess Pen Pals": pick a topic... ...see your letter (Don't mock me, these questions are important!)... ...get a fast and thoughtful reply!

BONUS FEATURES

As the selected songs continue to get weaker, so do the bonus features. There are no vocabulary activities or dance alongs to be found here, unfortunately. But two replay-enhancing Disney Princess Sing Along Songs staples are preserved: "Karaoke" and "Random Play Songs." The former gives you a chance to sing on your own to the visuals depicted in the Sing Along, with musical accompaniment but no vocals. It is offered on eleven songs, excluding "It's Not Just Make Believe", though the option to view the entire program in Karaoke format is not, instead leaving you to play each song individually. Seems like it would have been easy to program the disc to play in such a
fashion, especially since audio can be toggled on the karaoke segments to include the character/performer vocals. "Random Play" lives up to its name, providing an unpredictable cycling through the songs and effectively giving you over 479 million possible arrangements with which to enjoy the track list. Watching in this way, however, loses the transitional talk, which may be good if you feel it talks down to you. Many DVD players may also pause briefly when moving from song to song.

The final two extras fall under the header "Game Time" and are closely related. The DVD video component, "Princess Pen Pals", allows you to write a letter to either Ariel, Belle, or Cinderella. Naturally, like any set-top activity, you compose the letter by selecting from three choices. For instance, you decide how to start the message by complementing your regal recipient on either her hair, singing voice, or kindness. Each step yields another sentence and when you're done, you get to read it. Even more exciting, when your princess gets and enjoys your letter, you get to read their relevance-tailored reply, without having to wait for the sluggish postal service. "Pen Pals Printables DVD-ROM" merely gives you the opportunity to print out the letter your selected Disney princess wrote in response or blank princess stationery featuring the three beloved gals. The back boasts "over 80 different letters" and simple math (three choices, four options = three to the fourth power = 81) confirms that's right. While many of these letters will only be minutely different, it's a clever enough feature and many youngsters should get a kick out of it, in spite of the limiting three-selection and three-princess process.

The provincial sheep will take your word for it, Belle. Aurora appears in the Main Menu, but outside of brief cameos in the Sing Along theme and "It's Not Just Make Believe", she is absent from this disc.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The colorful 16x9-enhanced menu screens match the first two volumes, with new portraits of the leading ladies constantly floating around in the back of the Main and Bonus Features pages. Instrumental versions of the featured songs accompany each screen, with "In Harmony" adorning the Main selection screen.

Sneak Peeks start off the disc and if you choose (or rather, have chosen) Disney's auto-selected FastPlay mode, you're spoon-fed more after the feature. These previews advertise the new subseries Disney Princess Fairy Tales (which sound like Disney Princess Stories, only they're original and fully-animated tales), Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, Little Einsteins: Team Up for Adventure, Lady and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid Platinum Edition, the September 2005 Disney Princess DVD wave, and "JoJo's Circus" on Playhouse Disney. The promos are also available entirely and individually in the Sneak Peeks menu.

Inside the case, you'll find lots of promotion for Disney Princess Fairy Tales. It's advertised on the back of the song list/bonus features insert and extensively in a booklet which previews its Belle and Aurora stories on six illustrated pages. The booklet also delivers coupons on Disney Princess merchandise (including $3 off any non-Christmas Princess DVD) and a promotional code for a free Disney Enchanted Call (the only way it's worth it). Of course, there's also the obligatory subscription form for Disney Princess Magazine.

It's like Pilot's song, only different. You said it, sister mice!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There is no doubt that, on the whole, the roster of Disney songs and visuals selected for Disney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume 3 - Perfectly Princess is weaker than those of the two volumes which came before. Half come from direct-to-video sequels which, even when good, haven't worked their way into viewers' hearts or etched a place into cinema history the way their predecessors have. The four songs from theatrical animation are presented mostly satisfactorily and offer a fair amount of musical merriment, if clearly not as much as the more enchanting numbers that have already been summoned for the series. The other two tracks -- a catchy number from Ariel's television show and an okay Ella Enchanted song seemingly tailored for this disc -- qualify as highlights, so that should tell you expectations need to be lowered if you were tickled by its predecessors. If you haven't discovered those two volumes but are interested, go pick up Volume 1 - Once Upon a Dream. If you're not a fan of the Disney Princesses and the studio's Sing Along Songs format, then you've read this much of the review purely for its entertainment value, as the disc won't convert you. Otherwise, the program, value-adding bonus play options, and clever child-oriented letter-writing activity don't merit the list price, but with a readily-available coupon and opening week sale, you can justify purchasing this, provided that your DVD collection already holds the films that first made the princesses (and I guess that now includes Alice) famous.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Volume One - Once Upon a Dream
Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Volume Two - Enchanted Tea Party
Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment
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

Featured Princess/Heroine Movies on DVD
Aladdin and the King of Thieves (Aladdin II & III Collection) Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2-Disc Platinum Edition) Alice in Wonderland (2-Disc Masterpiece Edition)
Cinderella (2-Disc Platinum Edition) Beauty and the Beast (2-Disc Platinum Edition) Mulan II

Sing Along Songs and Other Recently-Released DVDs:
Bambi II Timeless Tales: Volume Three Funny Factory with Donald
Sing Along Songs: You Can Fly! Sing Along Songs: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Sing Along Songs: The Bare Necessities Sing Along Songs: Sing a Song with Pooh Bear and Piglet Too
Sing Along Songs: Beach Party at Walt Disney World Sing Along Songs: Pongo and Perdita

Related Pages:
UltimateDisney.com Top 100 Disney Songs Countdown (Spring 2004)
UltimateDisney.com Top 25 Heroines Countdown (Spring 2005)
Walt Disney Records - Holidays 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 February 7, 2006.