Disney Princess DVDs take a new turn with "Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams." This 56 minute program, the first in a new DVD line, does something totally different: it offers entirely new and fully animated content. Finally, people get what they originally wanted and expected from the Disney Princess Collection DVDs. This disc features two all new animated stories starring Princess Aurora from "Sleeping Beauty" and Princess Jasmine from "Aladdin." What's more, Disney doesn't take advantage of the all-new animation by false advertising. They make no attempt to call this a "sequel" or "Aurora Meets Jasmine," (they don't interact, by the way, so don't have a geek-gasm), though "Tales of Perseverance" would have made more sense than "Follow Your Dreams." I suppose the latter is more appealing to the younger set though.
The program starts rather abruptly, as the closest thing there is to any opening credits are part of the main menu. To explain, as the DVD menu is kicked up for the first time, a proper English narrator introduces you to a magical castle in which a very special book is kept. The book is full of stories of Disney Princesses (and Mulan), sans the lovely Eilonwy (hmph), and when you select Play (or if you are simply entrusting Fast Play with full power), it immediately turns to a page featuring Aurora. The page comes alive, as Aurora greets the viewer and begins to talk about perseverance leading into the first story, "Keys to the Kingdom."
In "Keys to the Kingdom," Princess Aurora is left in charge of the land for two days while her parents, along with Prince Phillip and King Hubert, are away at a conference. Left in charge, she is determined to do everything well and on her own, no matter how long it takes. However, when the princess must send the three good fairies away with a speech King Hubert mistakenly left behind, Merryweather leaves her magic wand with Aurora in case she needs help. As the workload of signing papers and hearing villagers' grievances gets out of hand, Aurora finally does turn to the wand with disastrous results. One mistake leads to another, and Aurora soon decides she will have to find a way to solve the problems she has created on her own.
After some closing comments from Aurora, the book turns pages again and we are introduced to Princess Jasmine. She begins her tale, "More Than a Peacock Princess," which is about Jasmine wanting a more important role in the kingdom. Her father sets her up with a teacher's assistant gig, and Jasmine is quite excited about it, but this quickly goes bad as the students simply have no respect. Of course, she turns this around by the end of the story, thanks to the events that follow involving the royal family's beloved horse, Sahara. The horse belonged to Jasmine's mother who was the only one he would allow to ride him, so he is a very special animal to the sultan, if a disagreeable one. Sahara escapes one day though, and his young keeper (a grade-school Aladdin lookalike) is distraught. His family depends on the money he earns by keeping the horse. It's all up to Jasmine to retrieve Sahara before Sultan knows the horse is gone.
Well, enough with the synopsis. Let's talk about how good this program really is. For starters, this is better than expected, in my opinion. Of course, I'm constantly surprised by the complaints of consumer after consumer who is frustrated when they buy a direct to video release that isn't at the same quality level of a theatrical release. I guess I have come to know what to expect. So, when I say this is better than expected, I am comparing it to past releases of the kind. The animation is pretty darn good for a direct-to-video non-feature. I mean, I was expecting something in the vein of the Aladdin TV series, but this was better than that. Not in terms of the writing, but in terms of the animation. And, while the characters weren't always on model to the extent one hopes, they did a fairly decent job, as with the backgrounds. Of course, the bigger shock to the senses throughout is Aurora's story, as this is our first time to see an Aurora story since her feature film back in the 1950's. This makes the drop in art quality more disturbing. In addition to that, none of the voices are the same and Aurora's is extremely different. In Jasmine's case, you have the original voices and we're used to seeing her in varying qualities on the TV series and DVD sequels. As for the writing, and you should really pay attention for this part, this program is really strongly targeted at small children. There are those out there who don't realize how many teen and adult fans these characters have. For those of us in that older category, realize before you buy that these DVDs are made for little kids. That's hardly something to complain about, either. Yes, I wish they made more animated programs aimed at the whole family, in true Disney tradition, but I also wish Disney Channel had this type of stuff running in its Playhouse Disney line-up rather than so many computer animated shows and other stuff. Disney is focusing its direct-to-video content on preschooler titles, and I'm just glad they are able to squeeze a few classic character subjects into that model. Think of this as a modern take on the old Jiminy Cricket shorts. They were made to teach little kids too, and the animation wasn't exactly "Pinocchio" quality. The thing that probably makes these a little harder to enjoy is that the princesses are overly sweet throughout and talk down to the audience in the intros since they are intended to be talking to little ones. But, getting on with discussing the writing, the first story is a cutesy story that is about on the level of something from "Cinderella 2," if not a tad better. That's the dreaded 2nd film, not the much loved 3rd. Make what you want out of that. I feel that those stories would have been better received if they had been released in a format more like this one. At least this one doesn't have those horrible pop songs. There ARE songs in these stories though, but they're none too special and in the vein of "Cinderella 3." Yeah, that's the better one. There's also a new character in the Aurora story called the Duke, and he is supposed to be comic relief but isn't very successful at it. Perhaps he's funnier to little kids. Still, the Aurora story is tolerable because the visuals are better than TV animation, it's the first animated Aurora story in decades so it's a treat for Aurora fans, and magic wand play is always entertaining. And, of course, Aurora is a hottie. So is Jasmine when she's drawn right though, and her story is the more adventurous one. Not sure I'm going to side with the other opinions I've heard and say I like it better, as I enjoy the magic of the first, but the Jasmine tale is stronger overall with its story and songs, and one Jasmine bath scene, ha. Unfortunately, there is no appearance by Aladdin and the Genie in this one. It's just Jasmine, Abu, Iago, Rajah, Carpet, the Sultan and the guards, plus some new characters. And, while Jasmine's story is more adventurous, it doesn't come close to the material from the "Aladdin" animated series.
Naturally, these stories are great for kids, and there's nothing scary in them if you're one of THOSE parents. Not a villain to be seen. It's all kept very cutesy and unthreatening. Definitely, the main reason to buy this is if you have kids or if you're a Disney completist, but please don't buy this expecting a feature film, especially not a theatrical quality one. It's two kid-aimed stories about two Disney princesses meant to teach perseverance. The animation quality is good compared to TV stuff, but it's not feature quality. For the sort of product it is though, it's about right. If you know what to expect, you may be happy with your purchase or know to avoid it, but you can't get them for false advertising this time around.
Extra Features: These are hardly worth mentioning, but I will anyway. In addition to trailers for other stuff, you get two games and a music video. Actually, the music video IS worth mentioning. It's a Belle music video that also features all new animation (from an upcoming release in this line of DVDs). The song is called "You'll Never Lose This Love," and the release is to be called "Enchanted Tales: Kingdom of Kindness." That is, if Lasseter doesn't pull the plug on this DVD line, as I heard he was supposed to have done already. As for the games, they are very short and can't have much replay value. One is an Aurora Dress Up game, the other is a Find Sahara game. You probably will only play each of these once, but I don't know how kids would feel about them.