Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Living A Ballet Dream
|Year Of Production||2001|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (50:35)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Owen Hurley|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, uhmm, the entire film? :-)|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Welcome to the first computer animated feature film starring Barbie!
Just in case you have recently emerged from the dark ages (or you're a boy ...) and therefore don't know who Barbie is, Barbie is a "teenage fashion model" doll created by Ruth Handler in the late 1950s and is probably the most well-known and successful doll in the world.
The plot is only loosely based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's story, so expect to be surprised even if you know the story well.
Barbie In The Nutcracker starts with Barbie (Kelly Sheridan) and her little sister Kelly (Chantal Strand) practising some of the ballet steps from the Nutcracker ballet. Kelly is feeling a bit depressed because she can't seem to master the steps, and Barbie decides to cheer her up by telling her the story of Clara from the ballet. Clara (Kelly Sheridan) is given a wooden nutcracker as a Christmas present, but it is soon broken by her high-spirited younger brother Tommy (Alex Doduk).
The plot structure is somewhat unusual in that it is really a story within a story within a story (the script writer must have been a computer programmer!). The story of Barbie and Kelly jumps into the story of Clara but we then enter the fantasy land of Clara's dream.
In Clara's dream, mice emerge from the wainscotting at night whilst Clara is sleeping and start fighting over food. The broken wooden nutcracker comes to life and starts fighting with the mice and in particular the Mouse King (Tim Curry). Barbie ... oops Clara ... wakes up and comes to the Nutcracker's rescue, but the Mouse King uses his magical powers to shrink Barbie down to the same size as the nutcracker and the mice.
Apparently, only the Sugarplum Princess can restore Clara back to her normal size, so Barbie and Ken ... oops again, the Nutcracker ... enters through the mouse hole into a magical kingdom where the Mouse King rules.
The ending features some nice animated ballet dancing that looks very realistic and was choreographed by Peter Martins from the New York City Ballet.
The transfer is in widescreen 1.78:1, and is 16x9 Enhanced.
Unlike the R1 transfer, which reportedly is a direct digital transfer from computer to MPEG2, this transfer seems slightly soft with saturated highlights, so it seems that this may have been transferred to videotape and then MPEG2 encoded.
The transfer also looks like it may have been upconverted from NTSC, as it features slightly jittery movements (from dropped/combined frames) as well as aliasing and shimmering.
The transfer is still quite pleasing though, and I don't think the intended audience will be complaining too much. Detail levels are high, and colours are vivid and fully saturated.
Some of the scenes have a "3D video game" feel about them, as movements look unnaturally smooth, but the ballet dancing at the end is very realistic and probably based on motion capture techniques from real dancers.
There are no subtitle tracks, apart from Dutch titling which is automatically enabled if you selected Dutch as your language for the title menu. You are prohibited from selecting this subtitle track using the controls on your DVD player.
I did not notice any significant issues with compression artefacts, as the video transfer rates are fairly high and the rather short feature (76:27) has been spread across two layers of an RSDL disc. The layer change occurs at 50:35 and is reasonably well placed - resulting in a minor but not annoying pause.
There are two audio tracks on this disc: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). I listened to the English audio track.
In general the audio track is quite pleasant to listen to, and I was surprised to discover that it wasn't as front focused as I thought it would be, and there are subtle instances of Foley effects as well as ambience being directed towards the rear speakers.
The subwoofer is also very lightly used to enhance the low frequencies.
The dialogue is crystal clear and I did not notice any issues with audio synchronization.
The background music consists of excerpts from the Nutcracker ballet music by Peter Tchaikovsky, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
|Surround Channel Use|
There's only one real extra on the disc, but it's a decent one - a half an hour featurette about 6 ballet students living in New York.
You get the choice of either English or Dutch menus. The main menu is 16x9 enhanced, and includes a menu introduction, animation and background music. There are also transitions to menu items, and "Barbie" says a few words of introduction during the menu transition to either the main feature or the featurette.
This is an audio only track featuring the voice of "Barbie" explaining the basic controls of a DVD remote, followed by a looped selection of music. The audio track is Linear PCM 2.0 48/16.
This is "filmed on location at the School of American Ballet" and is presented by Mattel Entertainment. Surprisingly, the featurette is 16x9 enhanced (it was actually originally shot on high definition video) and the audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
The documentary features the lives and stories of six students and former students (of various ages) at the ballet school, and includes footage of the school itself (it looks like the ballet studio where Barbie and Kelly were practising in the feature film is based on the school's training floor) as well as scenes in and around New York City.
The teachers at the school are interviewed as well as dancers at the New York City Ballet.
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;
Region 1 wins on this one, if your display device supports NTSC.
Barbie In The Nutcracker is the first computer animated feature film featuring none other than Mattel's famous doll. It is a fairy tale adventure only loosely based on the ballet which in turn was based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann.
The computer animation is somewhat reminiscent of Playstation more so than Toy Story, and the video quality is okay although slightly soft.
The audio track is excellent.
Extras are limited to a half an hour documentary on ballet students and dancers in New York.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-626D, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Denon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)|
|Speakers||Front and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500|