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Disney Princess Stories DVDs: Vol. 1 - A Gift From the Heart | Vol. 2 - Tales of Friendship | Vol. 3 - Beauty Shines From Within
Disney Princess Stories: Volume One - A Gift From the Heart DVD Review
|Disney Princess Stories: Vol. 1 - A Gift From the Heart
Running Time: 60 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (Suitable for All Ages)
Disney Princess Stories: Volume One - A Gift From the Heart is a new hour-long program debuting on DVD and video this September. But, in spite of the nice-looking artwork and wide promotional push,
First is Ariel's Story, "Wish Upon a Starfish", a 1993 episode of the Saturday morning "The Little Mermaid" television series. Ariel would rather dream of going on land than study for Sebastian's crab philosophy test. When Ariel tries swimming up to shore to find human things, a menacing wave brings Flounder, Sebastian, and she to the coast. Ariel finds a whirlamajigger, which only makes her want to be human and dance all the more. While in song, Ariel is discovered by Gabriella, a deaf mermaid who uses sign language, and her interpreter octopus Ollie. Gabriella tells Ariel that all she needs to do is wish upon a magical giant starfish at sunset and her dream will come true. The five of them all swim off to the magical starfish and hope their dreams will come true. The episode runs just over 21 minutes, as there's neither the original opening nor closing credits.
Next comes Belle's Story, "The Big Surprise", the first of two disappointing "new stories." Belle and Beast surprise each other with gifts. This short is more like a read-along. There are character voices but there's hardly any animation besides the words on the bottom of the screen that are highlighted for you to read along with. Otherwise, it is basically a slideshow with pictures to roughly match the generic story. There's practically no animation, and what is there is reused from past direct-to-video Beauty and the Beast outings. This runs just 5:40, and over a minute of that is poorly-dubbed introduction and closing remarks from Belle.
The second new short is Cinderella's Story, "The Favorite Gift", which is unfortunately the same kind of thing. Very little animation (none of it new), instead just a collection of stills and text which is highlighted. Cinderella forgot that it was the King's birthday, and she can't think of what to give him. So, she turns to her friends, the mice, for some ideas. The present she finally decides upon is pretty groan-worthy. Altogether, it runs 6:45.
Last is Jasmine's Story: "Bad Mood Rising", a September 1994 episode of the syndicated "Aladdin" cartoon series. Aladdin, Jasmine, Abu, and Genie head off on the Magic Carpet to open trade with Quirkistan. The gang is surprised to find Quirkistan a dreary wasteland; it turns out that the land is enchanted, and the weather and states of things are determined solely by the mood of King Mamoud, Quirkistan's bratty boy ruler. He's currently brooding over missing his birthday party, and as a result, the whole land is doomed. So, with the prospect of a rich treasure reward, the gang tries to cheer up the King. Aladdin comes close with his risky sword-juggling act, but only Jasmine's storytelling can engage Mamoud. But Jasmine will have to stay there and entertain the King forever!
Along with "The Little Mermaid" episode, this is a highlight of the DVD, but it's still not all that great. The story is clearly Saturday morning caliber, and it's easy to become disengaged if you're not paying close attention, which undiscerning young viewers won't be. Plus there's a lame imitation of Robin Williams' Genie, which stands out as one of the few voice actors replacing a cast member from the films. The episode runs 21 minutes, again without the original opening or closing credits sequences. The insert inside calls this episode "Bad Moon Rising" - someone must have had Creedence on the brain.
All of the stories open and close with a brief horribly-dubbed clip of the featured princess talking about the story; another instance of recycled animation.
VIDEO and AUDIO
All of the material is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, which is the original aspect ratio of the two TV show episodes and these two new "shorts." The TV episodes look better than I expected. They don't have the level of detail or visual appeal of the films they are spun from, but the video is clean, looking better than broadcast quality, and far better than TV show material that appears on some other direct-to-video DVDs. For instance, there aren't any of the usual blurs in motion from poor TV animation DVD transfers.
The soundtrack is Dolby Surround for the two TV episodes, and it's satisfactory. The two new shorts are essentially just narration, with a little bit of generic princess music and a very little bit of sound effects. So don't expect 5.1 channels or anything special, and make sure your youngsters don't either! The overall sound presentation is fine, though "The Little Mermaid" episode is mixed a bit louder than the rest.
Magic Wand Play 'enhances' the two new read-along-esque shorts featuring Belle and Cinderella. Most significantly, this play mode adds arrows to advance or go back a screen in the stories. Also, at certain points, you're asked to select a character's head and hear their thoughts or make them speak without text on screen. I'm not sure what's so magical about this, as it seems like these interactive options just should have been offered by default.
In "Princess Craft Time", we learn how to make a charm bracelet out of elastic, beads, and charms with basic supplies like tape, glue and scissors. The video clips show a group of six ethnically diverse children having a fun backyard craft time together, as they interact with the unseen narrator. This narrator makes supplies magically appear and even magically dresses the girls in different Disney princess costumes. The unpolished children give this little instructional video a homemade quality. You have the choice to either play the 4 minute, 15 second piece through, or go Step by Step, with graphic screens in between steps acting as pauses for you to follow along.
Next is the music video (3:45) for "If You Can Dream," a much-touted new song which appears on all these Disney Princess DVDs. It is a pop song, which edits together clips from Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Cinderella, Mulan, and Aladdin, and tries to synch up the generic lyrics on romance and dreams with the princesses who appear on screen.
Last is "How to be a Princess", a quiz which poses situations involving Disney princesses and three possible courses of action. One of these is the correct choice for princesses. Lessons in ettiquette with Disney characters. A dream come true for absentee parents!
The disc opens with a promo for the Disney Princess Collection DVDs, and previews for Pooh's Heffalump Movie, and Mulan Special Edition DVD. The Sneak Peeks menu provides a "Play All" option and includes ads for upcoming Magical World of Winnie the Pooh DVD volumes, Home on the Range, Eloise at Christmastime, the Disney Princess merchandise line, and Disneyland Resort.
MENUS AND PACKAGING
The 4x3 menus are an elegantly animated 3-dimensional tour around a girl's bedroom, as soothing Disney Princess music plays. Inside the case is a 4-page DVD Guide with synopses for the 4 stories and an overview of the bonus features. You'll also find a subscription form for Disney Princess Magazine and a colorful 20-page booklet of princess tips, merchandise advertisements, and coupons.
For those who buy all three Disney Princess Collection DVDs, there is a mail-in certificate to get a Disney Princess Castle Playhouse (a $30 value) free, with a $7.99 check to cover shipping.
There are plenty of Disney fans who like the Disney Princesses and aren't young girls, but this Princess Stories DVD isn't much interested in attracting them, as the presentation stays strictly geared towards a juvenile female audience.
The "two new stories" are bound to disappoint anyone who doesn't have the lowest possible expectations. Saturday morning cartoon television series have their wider appeal, but a randomly selected episode from two different shows is not likely to please fans the way complete season sets would. Of course, that's not the intention here.
There are those who will enjoy this hour-long collection on the surface, and not know (or care) where these cartoons came from. They're the ones this Disney Princess Stories DVD is made for.
In September of 2006, Buena Vista Home Entertainment re-released Disney Princess Stories: Volume 1 - A Gift From the Heart in a Jewelry Gift Set. While the disc and price remained what they were, the new packaging included a free bracelet featuring three of the Disney princesses. Click here to buy this new edition.
UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Upcoming DVD Schedule | Disney Princess DVDs on the Direct-to-Video Page Reviewed September 2, 2004.
Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Once Upon a Dream
Disney Princess Party: Volume One
Princess Movies on DVD
Sleeping Beauty (2-Disc Special Edition)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2-Disc Platinum Edition)
The Little Mermaid (Limited Issue)
Beauty and the Beast (2-Disc Platinum Edition)
Cinderella II: Dreams Come True
UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Upcoming DVD Schedule | Disney Princess DVDs on the Direct-to-Video Page
Reviewed September 2, 2004.