Barbie of Swan Lake (2003)

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Released 7-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Childrens Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Short Film-The Music In You
Featurette-The Ballet Dances Of Swan Lake
Game-Explore The Stars!
Trailer-Barbie In The Nutcracker
Trailer-Barbie As Rapunzel
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 82:33 (Case: 81)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (39:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Owen Hurley
Studio
Distributor
Mattel Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Kelsey Grammer
Kelly Sheridan
Mark Hildreth
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Tchaikovsky
Arnie Roth


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French Titling
Dutch Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "You're braver than you think" - Barbie

    I guess it was only a matter of time before Barbie graced us on DVD with her many talents, and the animation Barbie of Swan Lake marks her debut as raconteur and prima ballerina. Obviously based on the classical ballet of the same name, the story concerns a little girl, Shelley, on her summer camp, who can't sleep and wants to go home. Luckily, Barbie is on hand to soothe the fretting child and tell her the story of the girl who became a swan, starring (surprise, surprise) the very same Barbie! The tale is similar to the classical Swan Lake, but Barbified, and features the beautiful villager Odette who chances into an enchanted land where the evil tyrant Rothbart, voiced by Kelsey Grammer (aka Stinky Pete from Toy Story 2), schemes to rule the land. He is aided by his bird brain daughter, the ravenous Odile and opposed by his cousin, the beautiful Fairy Queen. There's a troll with bad breath, a cute unicorn with a cheesy grin (Lila), and of course a handsome prince. There's a host of double dealings, treachery, magical transformations and, being a Barbie show, love triumphs and they all live happy ever after!

    The animation is beautifully rendered with soft pastel effects, rather than the hard attention to detail seen in the classic Pixar movies. The 'cast' features many members of the New York Ballet company, on whom the dance movements are modelled, so much of the ballet is authentic. The story is engrossing and held this reviewer's attention as well as that of his 6 year old son. As far as the liberties taken with the story are concerned, although they vary from the classic they certainly make the feature more palatable for the younger audience and though I have seen the classic many times I still enjoyed this version.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is excellent. We are treated to 16x9 enhanced widescreen 1.78:1 video.

    Detail is adequate in the necessary places but overall a soft focus is used, consistent with the dream-like qualities of the enchanted land. Low level detail isn't really as relevant in animation, but there was nothing lacking compression-wise in the darker scenes.

    Colours are slightly subdued though rich and there was only mild occasional grain visible against monochrome backdrops with an occasional hint of posterization.

    Other than occasional fine pixelization, there were no significant MPEG or transfer defects and I could see no film artefacts, suggesting a direct digital transfer.

    Subtitles are available in English with annotation for the hard of hearing and are accurate and helpful.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with a transition point at 39:27 located between scenes which isn't noticeable unless you're looking out for it.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   There are 3 audio tracks, all Dolby Digital 5.1 recorded in English, French and Dutch (belying the disc's intended European market). The quality of the French was excellent and in some ways preferable to the American accents - I wasn't in a position to judge the quality of the spoken Dutch.

    Dialogue was very clear and the voice talents of all the actors were excellent.

    There were no major gaffes in audio sync whether spoken or Foley effect.

    Music is credited to Arnie Roth - come on who're you kidding? The wonderful melodies are quintessential Pitor Tchaikovsky and arranging them in a simpler and less dramatic form doesn't qualify you as composer. Anyway, the score is played by the London Symphony Orchestra who deliver the goods in typically professional manner.

   The surrounds were well used and added to the atmosphere and excitement of the feature, particularly in the use of Foley effects. The centre was heavily used for dialogue and the front mains for music as per the cinema. Clattering unicorn hooves receding into the distance or sounds of wildlife in the woods were examples of rear surround effects.

    The subwoofer gently bubbled away in all the right places throughout the feature to augment the bass soundscape.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    In keeping with the quality of the feature we are treated to a few, high quality extras which are informative, educational and entertaining.

Menu

    Two menus here - the Title menu allows language selection - this isn't selectable on-the-fly during the feature. The Root menu is nicely done featuring a short animation with the unicorn and introductory voice-over from Ms Barbie, all in enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen.

The Ballet Dances of Swan Lake

    This is where you learn that a port de bras is nothing to do with an underwear consignment but part of the extensive ballet terminology. Barbie provides commentary on 4 selected dances from the ballet demonstrating the difference between a glissade and a rond de jambe and much more ....

The Music in You

    A feature on 5 students (all girls naturally!) aged between 15 and 18 at the Juillard School in New York City learning violin, harp, trumpet and cello - it might just provide some inspiration for your child to take up that musical instrument!

Explore The Stars

    There are lots of stars (of the celestial variety) in the enchanted land and here Barbie takes us through 10 constellations from Northern and Southern hemispheres, outlining how the shapes got their name and some of the background mythology - excellent.

Help

    Animated demonstration of how to use the remote in the feature - don't worry your kid will show you!

Trailers

    Tasters for Barbie in Rapunzel and Nutcracker - hmmm - I might just be tempted.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Both versions are equally good but intended for different target audiences - unless you need a Spanish soundtrack the R1 version has no advantages.

Summary

     Barbie of Swan Lake is a nice production and a palatable way of introducing some classical music and ballet to younger children. Though obviously aimed straight at girls, I suspect most boys in their pre-teen years would enjoy it too as long as their mates (and dad) aren't watching ~:).

    The video quality is very good.

    The sound quality is also excellent.

    The extras, though a little limited in number, are of excellent quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDEAD 8000 Pro, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE300E Projector onto 250cm screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersMartin Logan - Aeon Fronts/Script rears/Theatre centre/ - REL Strata III SW

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