"Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams" Sure to Please Target Audience
To say that Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams is better than it needed to be may sound like damning with faint praise, but it’s really meant as a commentary on the runaway success of the “Disney Princess” franchise. Anybody who has visited a major department store recently has seen a small explosion of Disney Princess stuff throughout the girl’s clothing and toy aisles (and, for that matter, in the adult section occasionally, too). With that kind of demand, Disney could have slapped the label on some lame, phoned-in video release, so it is to their credit that Follow Your Dreams is a fine video that will definitely appeal to its target audience of young girls, even if it doesn’t stretch very much beyond that.
The hour-long video is split into two stories. The first, “Keys to the Kingdom,” follows Sleeping Beauty‘s Princess Aurora as she takes charge of the entire kingdom so the rest of the royal family can attend an out-of-town royal conference. Aurora finds out that being a monarch isn’t quite as easy as it looks, but manages to succeed through perseverance and her own cleverness. However, when Aurora finally gives in to the temptation to use the magic wand her fairy godmother Merriweather left her in case of an emergency, she creates a mess that will require some fast thinking to clear up in time for the return of her parents, in-laws, and husband Prince Charming.
Meanwhile, in “More than a Peacock Princess,” Princess Jasmine from Aladdin demands a more substantive role than the ceremonial duties that her father has allocated to her. However, she gets more than she bargained for when she’s named the Royal Assistant Educator and placed in charge of a classroom full of unruly children. If that weren’t enough, her late mother’s beloved horse Sahara goes missing, and she has to find him before the Sultan finds out and punishes the kindly stable boy Hakim.
Neither story can be described as subtle, but there’s nothing wrong with the lessons they impart about perseverance and self-confidence. The stories telegraph their intentions from about a mile away, but neither feels excessively preachy or heavy-handed, and both remember to include a few good laughs along the way. Of the two, the Jasmine sequence is by far the better one. It seems more focused and puts far more at stake than Aurora’s story. Jasmine is the one that comes off as truly competent and capable; while it is unintentional, there are times when Aurora comes off as a bit of an airhead. Aurora’s story stalls more than once; while it may teach a valuable lesson about the real world, it’s kind of hard to keep up narrative momentum when one of Aurora’s tasks is to plow through a mountain of paperwork and make sure she reads things before she signs them.
However, despite running for less than 30 minutes each, both stories seem oddly lumpy and disjointed. Both introduce threads and story elements—such as Aurora’s plans for a banquet and Jasmine’s teaching position—that don’t really lead anywhere. As a result, both stories can seem unfocused and meandering. The musical numbers in both shows are also rather forgettable. I’m also a bit puzzled how either movie lets their lead characters “follow their dreams,” but at least the lessons about not giving up will give kids who watch the video a pretty good foundation for following and realizing their own.
I also have few complaints at the technical level. The animation is excellent, far better than most television shows, though it falls short of feature film quality. The DVD itself presents a razor-sharp image that’s enhanced for widescreen TVs. Both sequences manage to match the look and feel of their source films, with Aurora’s more angular European world standing in sharp contrast to the curves and geometric patterns of Jasmine’s Middle Eastern kingdom. The entire voice cast of Aladdin seems to have their reprised their roles, and the cast of the Aurora segment does a fine job at recreating the originals’ work. It’s also quite heartening to see the staff paying their respects to the original films with a thank you paragraph in the end credits.
The disc comes with few extras. Two games, “Aurora Dress-Up” and “Find Sahara,” are pretty self-explanatory and don’t contain many surprises. There is also a music video of “You’ll Never Lose this Love,” which stars Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The song is decent enough, and the video also serves as a trailer for the upcoming Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Kingdom of Kindness DVD.
Any opinion I might have about the DVD is almost irrelevant, though. I’m definitely not in the targeted audience for the movie, but luckily I had access to the Official Toon Zone News Video Test Kid, my 8-year old niece Mira, who is about as big a fan of Disney Princesses as they come. She eagerly anticipated the video night when we could gather around and watch the movie, and she enjoyed it quite a bit. She said she liked the Jasmine section more than the Aurora section because it had “more action and less blah-blah,” neatly concurring with this reviewer’s opinion if not quite for the same reasons. Interestingly, she also stated that she preferred the direct-to-video sequel Cinderella III over this video. Given a choice, she said she’d rather see Disney make more things like that instead. However, she was also sure to state that she’d be happy to watch this one again (and again).
It is also worth pointing out that her brother, the 13-year-old Brian, was willing to watch the video as well as part of the experiment. Unfortunately, he spent much of the video making fun of it as only a precocious and smart-alecky 13-year-old boy can. “Isn’t this kind of thing exactly why they invented the republic?” he asked when watching Aurora’s (mis)use of her royal power to refurbish the gardens and change curtains. While he did sit through the entire video, he declared that he thought it was “awful” and would leave the room and do something else rather than watch it again. Well, you can’t win them all.
Most importantly, the video has sufficient redeeming qualities that any supervising adults can enjoy it as well. Judging by the Belle music video and the trailers that promise a new video starring Cinderella and Mulan, there are going to be more of these original Disney Princess Enchanted Tales DVDs coming out of Disney in the near future. However, while it may not be the most memorable Disney direct-to-video project, Follow Your Dreams is a major step up from the dreck that has been released in the recent past. Parents can feel free to indulge their little Princesses with this disc without much worry, unless there’s a little Prince that needs to be accounted for as well.