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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another hit with the target audience, 11 Sept. 2009
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This review is from: Barbie Presents Thumbelina [DVD] (DVD)
From the viewpoint of an adult, this latest offering from Mattel in the series of "Barbie" animated films for little girls would be a slight disappointment, as it is not quite as imaginative as some of the others in the series, and bears almost no resemblance to the original fairytale. But my daughter, now eight, enjoyed it very much. Her twin brother, who has now reached the age that he doesn't like admitting to enjoying anything girly, left the room when it was first put on, but couldn't resist coming back to see what his sister was laughing at, and pretty soon the pair of them were watching it together and filling the house with the sound of innocent laughter.

Like all the Barbie films it is beautifully made, charming, and, if my daughter is anything to go by, can hold the attention of a little girl for hours.

Tells the story of three fairies who find themselves translated to the home of a spoilt little rich girl, where they discover that her parents own company which is about to redevelop the meadow where the fairies live and in the process destroy their home. So they have to try to persuade her to some how stop this happening ...

(I wonder how many meadows Mattel have built factories on to make dolls? Never mind.)

Before we first rented one of the Barbie videos for my daughter, I was expecting them to be trite, over-commercialised, over-sugary and over here. In general, however, I have been pleasantly surprised.

Yes, they do have a lot of commercial spin-offs and a high saccharine count, but the quality of that film and the other Barbie videos we have subsequently bought or rented, was significantly higher than I had originally expected before I saw the first one. They have not just kept my children engrossed for hours - including my son as well as my daughter - but introduced them to some beautiful stories. Several of them also introduced my children to some great musical classics: others, of which "Barbie presents Thumbelina" is one, had instead some enjoyable original music. In all cases Mattel had hired first class international orchestras to provide the instrumental soundtrack.

On more than one occasion I have been listening to a CD of a classic such as Beethoven's pastoral symphony (Beethoven: Symphony No.6), or "The Queen of the Night's aria" from Mozart's opera "Mozart: The Magic Flute", and my daughter, who was then five years old, recognised and expressed appreciation of the music, and correctly remembered which Barbie film had used it. ("Barbie - The Magic Of Pegasus [DVD]" and "Barbie - Mermaidia [DVD]" respectively.)

However, this is not one of those Barbie films which you would buy for the music.

For reference, the Barbie films with beautiful musical scores taken largely from the classics include

Barbie - Swan Lake [DVD] [2003] (with music from the ballet of that name)
Barbie In The Nutcracker [DVD] [2001] (ditto)
Barbie and the Magic Of Pegasus (Beethoven)
Fairytopia II: Mermaidia (Mozart)
Barbie - In The 12 Dancing Princesses [DVD] (Mendelsohn)
Barbie - Barbie In A Christmas Carol [DVD] [2008] (various traditional carols)

The two best with the music which is original rather than taken from the classics, are "Barbie - The Island Princess [DVD] [2007]" and I can particularly recommend the music in "Barbie As The Princess And The Pauper [DVD]".

In terms of production values, the DVD runs very smoothly and is fairly easy to navigate around: it is as visually beautiful as any of the Barbie films to date, which is quite a high standard, and contains a few extras such as games.

Those people who enjoy criticising the way Mattel operate the Barbie franchise will not have much difficulty finding things in these films to sneer at. If you, or more importantly your kids, are allergic to an excess of twee sweetness, then these DVDs and the Barbie videos generally may not be for them.

One charge which is sometimes made against the Barbie films but which does not hold much water is the idea that they reinforce gender stereotypes, and that criticism does not appear at all applicable to this particular film. One of the builders in this story is female, the big business which is about to dig up the fairy meadow is owned and run by a husband and wife team who appear to be completely equal partners. As with more than one of these films, the plotline revolves around friendship and the love between parents and children rather than romantic love.

When a recent feminist press attack on the "Disney Princess" marketing brand said that it "made Barbie seem like a feminist icon by comparison" the remark was intended as ironic criticim of Disney, but IMHO it held more than a grain of truth.

To summarise, these films are beautifully made, and will hold the attention of most small children for long enough for the typical exhausted parent to clear the mess they have made in several rooms of the house or collapse for an hour's rest after doing so. And there are enough more sophisticated jokes thrown in that you won't be completely bored to death if you decide to watch "Barbie presents Thumbelina" with your offspring.
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Location: Whitehaven, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 238