- The ones starring Barbie and her friends in situations where things play like animated versions of girls playing with Barbie dolls with various Barbie playsets & accessories manufactured by Mattel.
- The ones that are fairy tales or princess stories where Barbie is the actress playing the role of the female protagonist. It doesn't really have much to do with Barbie herself, but Mattel figures it's easier to use the reputed Barbie brand name to promote toys from these fairy tales & princess stories than create a new toy franchise of each one.
The recent “Barbie: The Pearl Princess” animated film that came out on March 11 fits the second category too well. Barbie plays Lumina, a mermaid who dreams of being a princess and has magical powers to control pearls. And that's where the “The Pearl Princess'” ties to Barbie end.
With her friend Kuda the pink seahorse, Lumina eventually gets a chance to visit the sea kingdom's palace for a royal ball where she has her chance of making her dream come true. During the journey, Lumia will meet new friends, show off her talent with pearls & hairstyling (which make excellent gimmicks for Mattel's “The Pearl Princess” themed dolls), uncover a plot against the royal family, and learn the truth about herself. The animation is some crisp CGI with a fast-paced story lasting about 80 minutes.
While “The Pearl Princess” seemed like it was going to be one of those animated films about a young girl who steps into the real world and uses her self-confidence, determination, and friendship to mature and succeed in her life. But in the end, Lumina is simply a lucky mermaid who falls into success whether it's a job, a friendship, or a plot development. It's rather weak storytelling with little tension since pretty much everything is handed to and resolved for her. Lumina is at least assertive without being spoiled when dealing with a few roadblocks to her happy ending, which is a good lesson for young viewers to learn.
While the story is weak, “The Pearl Princess” is very good at demonstrating the dolls and playsets for this new mermaid Barbie toy line. Like their doll versions, the mermaids of “The Pearl Princess” get their hair styled and wear pearl accessories in the scenes where they prepare for the royal ball. The DVD includes an insert showing off a few “The Pearl Princess” Barbie dolls. Other bonus features include a few music videos, trailers for other Barbie animated films, and a “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse” short.
As animated films based off toy franchises typically are used to sell toys (and this Examiner has found himself with more Transformers, LEGO, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic toys thanks to such films), Barbie manages to succeed at presenting its new toy line in a pretty package with a straightforward story aimed at its target audience with “Barbie: The Pearl Princess.” It's not too complicated and then you can spend time having your own adventures with “The Pearl Princess” dolls when it's over.