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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 Two - Tales of Friendship DVD Review

Buy Disney Princess Stories: Volume Two - Tales of Friendship DVD from Amazon.com Disney Princess Stories: Vol. 2 - Tales of Friendship
DVD Details

Running Time: 63 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (Suitable for All Ages)

Release Date: February 15, 2005

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

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


With its generic title, Disney Princess Stories: Volume Two - Tales of Friendship could be anything. All it would have to do is feature the studio's popular heroines and it would be delivering what is expected. This kind of rationale seems to drive the least-effort-possible approach which produces a DVD like this. Like Volume One, Princess Stories: Volume Two is satisfied to recycle old animated content for new consumption in a colorful package.

The line of Princess DVDs must have been successful enough to have merited a second wave. After all, here we are, five months after the series' debut and there are two new discs. It's probably not faulty for the studio to assume that they can put the "Disney Princess" name on anything and it will sell. Literally anything, as what you have here are two half-hour episodes of animated television series from last decade, a new hodgepodge short taken from Walt Disney's first feature film, and a sprinkling of three brief bonus features.

Don't assume that the subtitle Tales of Friendship has any meaning. With an all-encompassing name like that, pretty much any half-hour of animation could fit that bill. Friendship is not something that's explained or even emphasized in these episodes. For that matter, Jasmine, the Disney princess in the first story, doesn't figure largely in her episode of Aladdin. With no real theme or focus, you just get stuff.

With some help from baby blue sprite swirls, Aladdin and Jasmine fly! Ariel likes her latest discovery, from Chef Louie.

Altogether, just over an hour of stuff has eked out. All of the main feature is either poorly or minimally animated, and for the most part, it's forgettable. Why shouldn't it be? The shows were written and produced to be enjoyed in one half-hour block on a weekday afternoon or Saturday morning over ten years ago. And the one new piece seems to have been conceived and planned out in the course of a few hours.

Between "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin", the two cartoon series included here, there were over 100 episodes produced. Continuing with this minimal-content approach, Disney could easily churn out another 50 volumes of Princess Stories if they're just going to be two-episode compilations like this.

The feature opens with a first-person monologue from an unseen little girl who can't decide where to put her princess wreath. That's about as artistic as it gets, as she choose to put it in her Princess Chest. Out pops Jasmine to introduce her story.

Her story is "Love at First Sprite" (21:13), a first season episode of the Aladdin TV series. When part of the palace is left in shambles, Iago and Abu get scolded by the Sultan and Aladdin. But it turns the parrot and monkey aren't responsible this time. The sprites are! The little fairies look cute, but they are a bit of a nuisance. Still, they enable Aladdin to fly on his own, without any help from the Magic Carpet. Carpet understandably feels left out and so he hangs with Iago and Abu, as they trash the palace. To connect to the Disney Princess theme at large, the affluent Sultan's daughter does appear in this episode. She even does a bit of solo flying like Aladdin. But this episode centers around sprites and Carpet, not Jasmine.

Iago, Carpet, and Abu mope in a typical TV cartoon storyline. Snow White and Dopey together in "The Dinner Dance."

Next is the lone new story on the disc. In the nearly 70 years of opportunity, there has not been a sequel made to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney's first feature film. This is as close as we've come, but to consider it a follow-up would imply some kind of creativity, logic, or chronology, none of which are on display here. Instead, "The Dinner Dance" takes bits of footage from Snow White, puts a frame around it, and uses a very little bit of new animation featuring Dopey to exude some kind of scenario about the title character and the silent dwarf creating dinner together.

This "story" plays like a book, virtually moving pages by itself. By default, it's interactive to a degree, so you get to pick if you want Dopey to help Snow White cook or play outside. Depending on what you choose, the short could be over very, very quickly. There are a couple of additional interactive interludes. In one, you get to select from four of the dwarfs to hear their thoughts on why Dopey doesn't talk. This stands out the most as being new and unnecessary, but for some reason, all of the dialogue from the film clips has been re-recorded by modern voice artists. If you want to remove the interactive element, you can choose to turn "Magic Wand Play" off by selecting the wand at the main menu.

It appears as if great efforts have been taken here to recycle animation, efforts which would have been far better spent creating something new and worthwhile. This result is neither, and it certainly isn't something that one would rely on entertaining, engaging, or educating youngsters. The longest that this segment could run, with the interactive sidetracking, is about 15 minutes.

Decisions, decisions. Help the Dope choose what to do. Ariel and her hearing-impaired friend Gabriella hold that whirlmajigger.

The third and last segment is "Ariel's Treasures" (21 minutes), an October 1994 episode of "The Little Mermaid" TV series. In some ways, it is a proper follow-up to the show's episode that was included on Princess Stories: Volume 1. At least, Ariel and her friend Gabriella reminisce over their past adventure with the dancing toy. With King Triton away at a conference, Ariel is left home alone. She's happy collecting and admiring the human things she's discovered in the sea, although Sebastian warns her about them. Meanwhile, Ursula plans to wreak havoc for Atlantica with Triton out of the picture and her target are Ariel's treasures from the human world. It all wraps up with an obvious lesson.

The two episodes offer the only real entertainment of the disc, and even that is mild. Adapted from two of Disney's most popular films, the series provided recognizable characters and no shortage of stories and directions in which to take those characters. Those benefits take the material some distance, but the glaring TV-quality animation is telling of greater problems that weekly or syndicated cartoons must almost always face. Producing shows at such a quick rate, there's little opportunity to be daring, memorable, or as well thought-out as a film. The episodes included on this disc show some of these shortcomings more than others from the two series. Unless you give them the full attention that they don't really work for, they're very easy to disengage. Neither is representative of the best the series or Disney TV animation has to offer.

Like last time, each story opens with a brief unpromising introduction and closes with a brief review from the featured princess. Again, these generally are poorly-synched up so that the words don't match the animation. Snow White's dialogue does, however, seem to line up.

Snow White introduces her story. Has anyone seen her nose?! An example of the motion blurring.

VIDEO and AUDIO

All of the material is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, the original aspect ratio of the two '90s TV show episodes and the new Snow White short. I was pretty content with the video quality of the episodes on Stories: Volume 1. Here, though, the episodes of "The Little Mermaid" and especially "Aladdin" were marred by lots of motion blur. The low frame rate of the TV animation resulted in characters' actions appearing jerky, not fluid. The video was otherwise satisfactory, although the animation really comes up lacking when you compare it to the respective feature films or theatrical cartoons in general. The new material, such as the girls' bedroom introduction and the "Dinner Dance" sequence (which doesn't amount to much more than a slideshow) both exhibited fine picture quality.

The entire soundtrack appears to be Dolby Digital 5.1 this time, but the episodes haven't really been remixed for multi-channel effects are anything. They play like basic stereo surround. The dialogue on the "Aladdin" episode didn't synch up very well with the action, but that's probably a fault of the budget animation. The introduction and new short do not make agressive demands of the speaker setup. While I don't think Princess Stories is a title that audiophiles would expect to bring down the house, this sound presentation is simple and mostly without problems.

English subtitles are presented as "Storybook Viewing Mode" in addition to the regular Set Up menu option. They really act like captions, since they identify sounds and such, rather than genuinely just promoting reading along. As a result of how the disc was mastered, you can't toggle the subtitles throughout the feature.

Captain John Smith and 'Princess' Pocahontas in the "Where Dreams Begin" music video. A castle question in the Princess Academy quiz. Make a princess wreath in "Craft Time"!

BONUS FEATURES

First up is a new princess music video (3:34) for a song called "Where Dreams Begin." Apparently, Disney has abandoned: A) getting the original princess voices to sing, B) trying to edit clips to make it look like the princesses are singing, and C) using any kind of video editing effects besides simple dissolves and cuts. As such, this is merely a generic dance song (in 5.1 sound) set to a fast-paced montage of fullscreen clips from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Mulan. Lyrics occasionally match up with the clips, but otherwise it's just a matter of electronically-enhanced pop music clashing with some classic Disney animation. Though less effort has gone into this one than Wave One's ubiquitous anthem, it doesn't feel a great bit different. Maybe you'll be disappointed if you had a high opinion of "If You Can Dream." But if that's so, I suspect you're not too easily disappointed and probably won't mind.

Under the heading of "Game Time" is Princess Academy. Here, you're quizzed on some princess fashion, history, art & architecture. But don't worry, it's not as educational/dull as it sounds. Mostly, a knowledge of films with Disney princesses will suffice, and there's a couple of activities like book-balancing and curtsying which the narrator talks you through. If you replay it, some questions change, as does the princess who shows up when your "picture is taken" at the end.

Lastly, there is "Craft Time", in which you learn how to create friendship wreaths with supplies like construction paper, glue, and ribbon. A group of ordinary young girls (dressed in Disney princess costumes, of course) illustrate this activity. You can choose to watch the video all in one go (4:37), or "step-by-step" which leaves time for you to get your materials ready.

Before the menu loads, sneak peeks play for Pooh's Heffalump Movie, JoJo's Circus, and Wave 2 of the Disney Princess DVDs (one of which is currently in your player, so the wait isn't too long!). The Sneak Peeks menu also contains trailers for Mulan II, Bear in the Big Blue House, the Pooh Disney Learning Adventures, Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh, and Disney Princess merchandise.

In the step-by-step version of "Friendship Wreath Activity", you get to see helpful graphics like this. Disney Princess Stories: Volume Two's Main Menu

MENUS AND PACKAGING

Like Volume 1, the menus use 3-D animation to create the bedroom of a well-off young girl who really likes pink. A frame on the wall houses the Main Menu, one on the nightstand holds Bonus Features, etc. Airy princess music accompanies all the menus.

There's a few things to look at inside the case. The four-page DVD Guide contains synopses of the stories and bonus features. "Your Guide to Enchantment" is a mixture of coupons, ads, and devotes pages to profiles of princesses Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, and Ariel. There's also a subscription form for Disney Princess Magazine.

Whereas last September, the incentive to buy all three Disney Princess DVDs was a Castle Playhouse, this time it is a free Princess Purse. All you need to do is buy any two of the Disney Princess DVDs (or something called "videos") between now and July 15th, fill out the included certificate, and send in a $3.30 check for shipping. And you get a Disney Princess Purse! It doesn't really seem to display the Disney princesses as far as I can see.

Aladdin can't get his preffered shut-eye with those darn sprites pulling his hair! Real surprise. Guess who Ursula's watching in her magical sphere. Again.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Disney's animated TV series of the early '90s are not without their charms, but two random episodes are not enough to sustain an entire DVD release on their own. That's really all there is to Disney Princess Stories: Volume Two, plus a flimsy Snow White short that's hardly worth mentioning.

Due to the way it's presented, this disc will surely only appeal to the target audience of young girls, those who will be lured by the "Disney Princess" name. While some will say it's just harmless fare for the kids, the DVD is nonetheless a very weak offering, and you'd be better off choosing any one of Disney's many wonderful animated films.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Disney Princess Stories: Volume One - A Gift From the Heart
Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Vol. 1 - Once Upon a Dream
Disney Princess Party: Volume One

Princess Movies on DVD
Aladdin (2-Disc Platinum Edition)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2-Disc Platinum Edition)
The Little Mermaid (Limited Issue)

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Reviewed February 7, 2005.