Having hit marketing paydirt years ago by repackaging several animated Disney heroines together under the joint label Disney Princesses, Disney continues to cater to their heretofore neglected market – young girls – with a series of DVDs promoting this incredibly lucrative line of products.Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreamsshouldn't ever be considered anything other than a "product;" it's designed solely to appeal to a certain demographic, utilizing characters that are proven to move units at the retail stores. And while Disney animation purists will sniff at such crass reproduction – particularly here in Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams, where Princess Aurora from Walt's masterpiece, Sleeping Beauty, is given her first direct-to-DVD sequel – it's important to remember that within all that "art" that old uncle Walt was pouring out, he also basically invented the entire cross-marketing technique that rules animation and feature films today, and which spawns product like Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams.
And just because Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams is a "product" and certainly not a work of "art," doesn't mean it's not worthwhile or enjoyable in its own right. Taking the central motif of "following your dreams,"Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams features two Disney Princesses – Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and Jasmine from Aladdin – and in two short, 24-minute featurettes, teaches young viewers the power ofperseverance. Hard, honest work is emphasized in each story, with suspicion and distrust (particularly in Aurora's story) meted out to anything that smacks of taking the easy way out of your responsibilities.
In the first story, Princess Aurora is left in charge of the castle when her father King Stefan, her fiancé Prince Philip, and his father King Hubert, all leave for a two-day conference of kings. Worried that she may find running the kingdom a daunting challenge, fairy Merryweather leaves her wand with Aurora, just in case she needs a little magic. Soon, Aurora finds the demands of running an entire kingdom overwhelming, and despite her own admonishments to herself not to use Merryweather's magic, she does, and finds she can't control the magic unleashed by the contrary, dense wand.
In Jasmine's story, Jasmine rebels against the menial royal duties she's required to execute by her father, the Sultan (such as opening rug shops and hosting camel shows). Asking the Sultan for a meaningful and important job, she's offered the chance to become a teacher – a challenge she finds overwhelming when the children proved to be unruly. A further crisis comes up when her father's beloved horse, Sahara, goes missing (thanks to fig-happy monkey, Apu), and it's up to Jasmine to not only find the horse, but ride him back home (something that has never happened before; Sahara would only allow Jasmine's mother to ride him).
It's hard to knock Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreamsbecause it's bright and colorful and over quickly, and the little girls who watch it will no doubt love it. And even though I positively loathe "important" messages attached to children's entertainment (not because of the message itself, but usually because such messages are so artlessly slathered onto the product), I admire what's being said in Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams. This isn't Bratz territory. This is still the old Disney work ethic that Walt helped instilled in so many of us during his incredible career. In Aurora's story, magic (and by implication, just wishing away your life) is definitely something notto be relied on; only hard work and perseverance will let you accomplish your goals. That's a great message for young girls to hear at this stage in their development. Aurora recognizes that her cutting corners (she used magic to help a poor farmer, causing chaos in the castle, including gigantic chickens and green pigs) was a mistake, and she fesses up to her laxity. That's refreshing, to say the least, in these days of "hands-off" responsibilities.
Jasmine's story, while less meaningful and more action-oriented as far as the theme of perseverance goes (it comes in the form of her not giving up the search for Sahara), is valuable in showing Jasmine's determination not to be just a "peacock princes." She doesn't just want to be an attractive ornament used by her father to make people feel good. She wants to be of use to her people – another important message young girls should believe in and practice.
Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams certainly isn't perfect. I found the songs instantly forgettable (although I can guarantee that my five-year-old daughter will have them memorized within the week), and the animation, such as it is, is fairly flat and uninteresting (particularly when you compare the look of Aurora's story with its original, spectacular 70mm inspiration from 1959). But seriously, your young children won't mind the limited animation, and most of Disney's classic animated features and shorts are available on disc, so you can always show the little tykes how Disney used to do it. Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams isn't "art," but it's serviceable entertainment for young girls, and you can't beat its messages of hard work, personal responsibility, and worthwhile, meaningful service in aid of others.
The anamorphically enhanced, 1.78:1 widescreen video image for Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams is labeled "family friendly" by Disney. I'm not sure what they mean by that, but the picture is digital perfection. No transfer issues whatsoever.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround Sound mix is surprisingly strong for a largely dialogue-driven feature. French and Spanish audio tracks are also available, as well as English subtitles and close-captioning.
Two mild interactive games are included here: Aurora's Dress-Up, where you choose clothes for Aurora to wear (they won't let you choose the stupid choices, so what's the point?), and Find Sahara, where you go on a journey to find the elusive horse. There's also a sneak peak at the upcoming Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Kingdoms of Kindness, featuring a music video of Beauty and the Beast's Belle singing You'll Never Lose This Love. It's a lovely song — much better than the offerings here on Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams.
Product and not art, to be sure, but so what? Little girls will adore Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams for its bright animation and tuneful (to young ears) songs. Good old-fashioned Disney/American values of hard work, perseverance, and personal responsibility are emphasized, and in a world full of Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans, the young girls who watch Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams will be well-served by listening closely. I recommend Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography