Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001)

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Released 22-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Childrens Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Living A Ballet Dream
Audio-Only Track-Help
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 76:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (50:35) 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 Kelly Sheridan
Kirby Morrow
Tim Curry
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Arnie Roth


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch Titling Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, uhmm, the entire film? :-)
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    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.

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

Audio

    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.

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

Extras

    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.

Menu

    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.

Audio Only Track - Help (1:07, 1:06)

    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.

Featurette - Living A Ballet Dream (32:39)

    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.

    Interviews include:

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;

    Region 1 wins on this one, if your display device supports NTSC.

Summary

    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.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, November 11, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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