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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 Three - Beauty Shines From Within DVD Review

Buy Disney Princess Stories: Volume Three - Beauty Shines From Within DVD from Amazon.com Disney Princess Stories: Vol. 3 - Beauty Shines From Within
DVD Details

Running Time: 61 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (Suitable for All Ages)

Release Date: September 6, 2005

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio)
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


Review by Renata Joy

Once upon a time and long ago (maybe six or seven years ago and somewhere in the Midwest), a girl wished that there would be more items featuring the Disney princesses readily available. Soon, this wish became reality. There was an abundance of t-shirts, books, and dolls featuring the likenesses of Disney's increasingly popular animated leading ladies. The Pooh-lined shelves at the Disney Store made room for the pink merchandise and all was right with the world. But, as is usually the case, there can be too much of a good thing. With more items being mass-produced, the quality grew worse and worse. The Princesses, each with their own distinct charms, were transformed into giggly airheads who might seem more at home in a shopping mall than inside a fairy tale. The story starts here: a time when profit takes precedence over originality and pink keepcases rule over contents.

To date, there have been three different types of Disney Princess DVDs. "Princess Sing-Along Songs" have recycled great musical moments from animated classics (and the occasional direct-to-video follow-up). "Princess Party" have provided a plethora of more elaborate than usual interactive set-top games, with a couple of episodes of television cartoons as bonuses. "Princess Stories" volumes have only recycled episodes of "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin" animated series that graced television's airwaves in the 1990s. To create a guise of effort, the "Stories" DVDs also provide basic new shorts featuring classic characters, but these are never really "new", for their minimal amount of toil involves, you guessed it, recycled animation. As part of an empire which is expected to earn $3 billion by the end of the fiscal year, these often shoddily-produced discs have never been in jeopardy of being discontinued. They're also not apt to show genuine levels of improvement, for like everything else bearing the beloved Disney heroines' apparent seal of approval, parents and guardians of young girls continue to buy in large quantities.

The three segments of Disney Princess Stories: Volume Three - Beauty Shines From Within are preceded by a computer-generated rendering of a young girl's bedroom. The girl to whom the bedroom belongs must be either very tidy or else lacking in possessions, as her immaculate pink and white furniture is very sparsely decorated with the exception of a bottle of nail polish or other cosmetic items spread few and far between. In short, the room possesses the eerie sense that it has actually never been inhabited. This is merely the beginning of the vapidity.

It is a strange girl who accepts visits from strange-looking princesses through her vanity mirror. Oh no! Jasmine got doped.

The first short is introduced by Ariel, obviously meaning that it will also be about Ariel. This is the first of three rather disturbing introductions by the princesses, each setting up their respective story. It is clear that stock footage is being used along with a new voiceover, and the viewer gets the idea that the princess's face is contorting itself to match the words that are being spoken.

The story that follows is actually an episode of the mid-'90s "The Little Mermaid" television show. Ariel is in a silly mood and she and Flounder are all "Giggles" (21:30) while Sebastian is trying to teach them their daily lesson. (That crab does it all!) During a rousing game of hide and seek, Ariel encounters a rhyming yet crabby blowfish who finds Ariel's laughter perhaps even less amusing than viewers are already finding this episode. As a punishment, he puts a spell on Ariel, the result being that every time she lets out one giggle, an earthquake (or seaquake, more fittingly) occurs nearby. Ariel gets sad, things happen, and as it turns out, the blowfish isn't as bad as you'd think. It really is a case of beauty shining from within. At least you'd think that if you even remembered by this point that the DVD was supposed to have a theme.

When Cinderella appears next, one might expect a storybook-like episode with limited to no animation, as found on earlier Princess Stories DVDs. However, Cinderella has something entirely different up her puffy, whitish-blue sleeve. Instead of a new story, why not retell the original Cinderella, complete with lengthy film clips? In addition to that, how about putting a fancy pink border over the edges of the picture to make it look new? And if people are intrigued by this sneak peek and want to see more, hey the whole movie is coming out on DVD in a month! Who could ask for better publicity? Obviously, these were the thoughts going through the minds of this disc's producers while creating this middle segment. There is hardly any storytelling going on here, mainly a very long preview (10:52) which spoils any of the movie's potential surprises including the ending.

Sebastian and Flounder convince Ariel to laugh, unaware of the grave effects. Cinderella, dressed in pink. "Cinderella", bordered in pink. In disguise, Mirage tempts Jasmine with some over-the-counter cosmetics.

Last but not least (or is it?) is an episode of the "Aladdin" television series. In this one, entitled "Eye of the Beholder" (21:10), catty villainess Mirage schemes to break up Aladdin and Jasmine. How does she does this, you wonder? Well, disguised as a peddler woman, she convinces Jasmine that Aladdin will lover her only as long as she maintains her good looks, something that is made easier by using the skin lotion she is selling. Like all women, Jasmine is easily lured into thinking that beautiful skin conquers all, therefore applying the lotion to herself. As it happens, she wakes up the next morning half-snake. While Aladdin claims to lover her even though she becomes more and more snakelike as the minutes of the episode pass by, he still seems suspiciously intent on finding a cure for her ailment. This is the one story that actually employs the theme of the disc and even that is stretching it a little.

The truth is that these three segments are not even the slightest bit related. In fact, a better subtitle for the set would have been "Two Poorly-Animated Episodes and A Shameless Promotion." As it is, most viewers would prefer DVD sets of both "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid" shows, as I'm sure I remember there being much better episodes from each show than the ones selected here. True, the target audience is young girls and young people are not generally too picky concerning entertainment. Nonetheless, your little princesses who will be watching this DVD deserve a bit more effort than what has been put into this.

Now in concert: Ariel and the blowfish! Oh no! Aladdin and Jasmine turn into snakes! Got milk? I did. With cookies.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Everything here is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, the original aspect ratio of both TV shows, and also of Cinderella, if only that darn pink border didn't have to get in the way. Because the episodes are low-budget, it can be expected that there are some blurry images and the occasional jerky motion. Otherwise, the DVD transfer is better than might be expected for shows that are roughly ten years old, and appear to be slapped onto this DVD without a great deal of thought or care. The Cinderella segment might not be the fully remastered version which will be appearing on the highly-anticipated DVD, but it works well in the context it is presented in. And once again, that border really distracts from anything else that might be wrong with the picture.

As usual, the soundtrack is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the episodes have not been remastered for this format. Obviously this doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with the sound as it is just as crisp as it needs to be, only there is nothing special to take advantage of the disc's more dynamic, multi-channel potential. The introductions with the princesses might cause you to think that the sound is out of synch at those moments, but it is only a result of poor, wasted effort to match up the voice with the animation provided rather than creating a new sequence entirely. As with the Princess Sing-Along Songs Volume being released the same day, a French track is also provided. This is always a nice bonus, especially for those individuals who are not fluent enough to understand everyday spoken French, but who get a kick out of how easily they can comprehend dialogue aimed at small children.

Shirt-ripping merman action, a snail, or Scuttle? What is a girl to choose? Yay! I am Mulan's friend! Yay!

BONUS FEATURES

Fluffy though the bonus features have been in previous discs of the princess variety, an extra craft activity or music video would have been a welcome addition to the sparse offerings. Instead, we are given only the "Princess Story Builder" game. With a choose-your-own adventure theme, there are three stories to pick from, each which feature a different princess: Ariel, Jasmine, and Mulan, who is not really a princess or royalty of any sort, but rises to the occasion frequently whenever an extra female character is needed. The stories are supposedly longer or shorter depending upon the choices you make, but every time I played felt plenty long. Throughout the adventures told, you are asked answer questions or find matching items in order to save the day. Even if you try to get a question wrong, it is impossible to do so, because you are given as many chances as you need to get it right. While this is a nice idea for those children who might be a little slower at catching on to new things, it is not a welcome design for people who want the story to end badly.

There is also a DVD-ROM feature which uses the same plots as the Story Builder game, only this time you add your name as well as the name of a friend to make personalized stories with the option of printing them out. At first it is rather thrilling to see your name in print until you realize that you don't play a very important role in the story, nor do you have many lines. It's really more like a bit part in a very short film.

The sneak peeks shown before the menu loads are for Cinderella, Pooh's Halloween Heffalump Movie, Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment, and the mesmerizing Disney's Princess Fantasy DVD Game. From the menu, there is also access to previews for some more Disney Learning Adventures featuring Winnie the Pooh (another character who has been overly exploited by Disney), Pooh's Grand Adventure, Lilo and Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, and Playhouse Disney's popular "Jo Jo's Circus."

The weather outside is frightful on this snowy animated main menu. Outside in the yard, select the princess of your choosing for some mild fun with recycled animation.

MENUS AND PACKAGING

The menus use computer-generated animation style to show what is apparently the outside of this young girl's house. For no particular reason, it is winter and gusts of wind and snow occur over time. The design is quite clever, as different parts of the yard contain the features. On a tree you will find the story selections and on the swing next to it is the bonus features menu.

Like the other DVDs in the princess wave, this installment also comes in a pink keepcase, which leads me to say that, sure, pink is a nice color and everything, but how about a little variety? Some lavender or mint green might be nice. Even a baby blue of sorts. But pink seems to be the official color of the Disney Princess line, and a keepcase in any other color would probably entail too much thought or creativity for the production team.

Once you have marveled over the rosy color of the keepcase, you may be obliged to open it up and see what's inside. If it happens that you are a fan of coupon books, you will be thrilled. In addition to advertisements for the plethora of Cinderella merchandise coinciding with the film's big DVD release in October, there is also a nice description of each of the Disney Princess sets that have come out thus far. It seems that if you buy at least two of these (and it can be assumed you've already bought one so you're halfway there), you can send in for a free pink door hanger pillow. Personally, I don't think it's worth much more than the $2.40 you have to fork out for shipping, but it just might be a necessary addition to your home decor. The all-important double-sided insert acts as a DVD guide, letting you know which stories to expect and in what order, just in case you're the type of person who doesn't like surprises.

Genie ain't never had a snake like Jasmine! The obligatory shot of TV Ariel, circa mid-90s.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Disney Princess line proves that good things should and must come in small doses. As the Princess Stories collection has now reached its third volume, one can assume that the series sells well. This is definitely not the worst sort of entertainment to reach the hands of young girls, but a company capable of so many imaginative wonders would seem to have the potential to come up with something far more innovative than this. Two disposable television episodes and an overlong preview don't amount to a great value for the $19.99 list price. Most would be better off waiting for next month's Cinderella debut for a true princess story with lasting power or even the hope of box sets for the two TV series featured.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Disney Princess DVDs
Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs: Volume Two - Enchanted Tea Party (NEW!)
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

Featured "Princess" Movies on DVD
The Little Mermaid (Limited Issue)
Preview of Cinderella: Platinum Edition (Coming to DVD October 2005)
Aladdin (2-Disc Platinum Edition)
Mulan (2-Disc Special Edition)

Related Page: UltimateDisney.com Top 25 Heroines Countdown (Spring 2005)

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Reviewed September 5, 2005.