No matter how many tough action heroines and feminist arguments you present before them, little girls will always love frilly prissy princesses until the end of time. The reason is simple; princesses are the living embodiment of everything little girls desire: wealth, high fashion, adoration, giant diamonds, great power WITHOUT great responsibility, and maybe a couple rainbow-colored unicorns that fly.
It took Disney a long time to figure this out, but once they did, they made tremendous amounts of cash from their stable of well-known princesses, who still grace a ton of products standing there looking happy and lobotomized -- whether that's true to their original characterization or not. There are plenty of Disney movies (and bad sequels) with princesses in them, but even that wasn't enough....to satisfy demand, Disney started putting out home videos about nothing BUT the princesses. The ugly fact is to maximize profits they put in as little time and money as possible. Most Disney Princess DVDs contain one Little Mermaid episode and one Jasmine-heavy Aladdin episode and that's it. One of their most profitable and popular properties of the 21st century was given a couple of unremastered reruns from the 90's. "Little girls are stupid; they won't know the difference...."
The practice changed briefly. The last DVD they put out was different -- it actually had original material. Because circumstances demanded it, two Disney characters who otherwise would have existed in repeats forever were given two new adventures -- though not necessarily as their original selves. The characters this DVD focuses on look stoned as usual:
The subtitle is "Follow your Dreams." Whatever that means. The most important thing to do when coming up with an excuse to brand your kids cartoon as educational is to come up with the vaguest lesson you can think of, so you can tack it onto the end of anything. You remember those old 80's cartoons where giant robots would clash and muscular men would flex their arms but not hit anything? Parents didn't like them very much, so for one minute at the end they'd take a random clip from the episode, like a guy bashing his head into the wall, and have him say "Kids, this may look like fun, but thousands get seriously hurt every year by ramming their heads into walls!" Poof, it's educational. (And that was a real example.)
This logic isn't ironclad. Dreams take many forms. What if a little girl's dream is to....bioengineer a drug-resistant supervirus?
What did they do with Jasmine and Aurora, anyway? Don't act like you're too tough to care. If you weren't curious, you wouldn't be reading this. Let's check out the description on the back and find out.....
---Never mind, forget the description. This is the real reason why I'm bringing this anomaly to your attention:
Yes, this is the first time Aurora has appeared in anything since 1959. Disney used this as an extra selling point to possibly boost sales beyond little girls, as if this was going to be anything close to Walt's Sleeping Beauty. We ain't dumb.
Generally, when Disney has brought characters like Cinderella out of mothballs after decades in storage, they don't act the same way they used to due to changes in society. In 1950 Cinderella could just sit around, cry, and have animals and Fairy Godmothers do all her work for her, and nobody would think that was a bad lesson to pass on. In Cinderella III she fully takes charge, organizes her rodent army, and pulls herself out of Tremaine's latest trap. "Steal MY Godmother's wand? NOT ON MY WATCH, %#$@!"
Similarly, the plot of "Sleeping Beauty 1 1/2" puts Aurora in temporary charge of the entire kingdom while her parents are off on a royal conference. So it's safe to expect that this won't be the same Aurora who slept through her whole movie. But if not that, then who? She barely had any personality at all. The titular Beauty who Sleeps has the blankest slate of any Disney Princess available; the film told you almost nothing about her. Instead, most scenes were stolen by the Three Plump Fairy Godmothers or Malificent. So it's anyone's guess who we're about to see.
King Stefan has some parting
advice for his daughter before he leaves. "Remember, Aurora,
you're a princess. Just stick with it, and you'll be fine."
Stick with what? Define "it."
What kind of advice is that, even for an escapist fantasy cartoon? "You were born into authority, so you should automatically know how to manage the complexities of an entire community"? That should go real well. You have to avoid more than just spindles this time.
With less than a half-hour alotted for the whole story, Aurora doesn't have enough time to sing as frequently as Disney Princesses are notoriously prone to, but that doesn't stop her from trying. Thanks to Stefan's lousy advice, she believes she's infallible to failure. She prances around singing advice like "Orange trees, everywhere! Paint the archway PIIIIINK!" to the gardener (this is played seriously).
When her Fairy Godmothers arrive, Aurora insists they aren't necessary. They can hardly believe it. It's stiff bland helpless Aurora. One of them was certain she was a mannequin until now.
She's gonna really mess everything up, right? Not....really. Her hired help seems much more panicked and inexperienced than she is. Somebody with the voice of Lord Bravery from Freakazoid is fretting that "there are so many papers to sign!" Aurora calmly sits down and asks for the first parchment so she can read it. "WHAT? YOU WANT TO READ IT??" the Duke shrieks. "BUT THAT WILL MAKE IT TAKE LONGER!!" It's common sense, which is something a man in his position should have, but he's not used to it. Apparently King Stefan never read anything he signed.
As Aurora's reading the first paper, the Duke knocks the stack over. He nervously gathers the papers up, then sees one on top of the bookshelf, so he climbs up there only to have the bookshelf fall on him. Then he sees another about to fly out the window, so he leaps for it and falls out himself. Aurora, meanwhile, is still sitting there flawlessly. 'Cause...she's so new at this, and the Duke (of hazards, apparently) has been doing it for decades....
I guess we now know what Aurora is. Aurora is....perfect. She's even more perfect than Mickey Mouse! What a letdown! The Godmothers now know what they must do, or at least Meriweather does. Aurora has to screw up something or this will be the most boring cartoon ever made!
Aurora entrusts the Godmothers with a document containing the King's speech for ther royal conference. Flora and Fauna leave, but Meriweather lingers. "Aurora, I'm not supposed to do this, but.....take my wand. If things get a little too difficult while we're gone, you might need the help. Remember, you have to be VERY specific....if you ask the wand to make you dinner, it'll turn you into a roasted boar with a side of potatoes!" Aurora is bound to get this wrong! Genius plan! ...At least I hope it was her plan.
Later that evening, Aurora finally finishes reading and signing the last paper. Then, for the first time ever, she makes an actual human mistake: she accidentally bumps the table and sends the stack shuffling all over the floor. "Ohh, hamburgers! I wish they could pick THEMSELVES up!" Aurora vents. She was holding the wand in her left hand when she said that.
It has to happen by mistake? She can't succumb to temptation on her own? She's STILL perfect. ARGH! How much longer do I have to wait?
Not much longer. Just before bedtime, Aurora pauses in front of her mirror with a strange gleam in her eye. Is she going to go Gollum? Pat the wand and have a lengthy conversation with herself while slurring her Ses? If I was writing this, that's what she'd do....but it's more innocent than that. "Hmm, maybe just one more. Make this dress a beautiful ballgown!" POOF! Alternately, Aurora could have reached into her gargantuan closet to do that, but I guess that would take entire minutes.
The next morning Aurora is deep into her next Royal Duty: settling the disputes of her subjects. Two cranky neighbors come in and complain that one guy's apple tree has its branches leaning too far over another guy's property. In response, Aurora whips out the wand and -- actually, she signs an order to have the tree pruned. NOOOO, SHE'S STILL PERFEEECT! Quit introducing plot elements for nothing!
Elsewhere, the fairies have delivered the speech, and are about to use their wands to fly home. Well, that's a problem. Meriweather has no choice but to confess she lent her wand to Aurora. As for how she got there without it, Meriweather used the wand on herself before she gave it to the princess so she could fly the journey the first time.
Her sisters chide Meriweather for being so irresponsible and they give her a lift on their journey back to the castle. They better hurry before something entertaining happens!
After an agonizingly long wait, Aurora finally exhausts all her resources and has no more papers to sign edicts with. But people still need help, and Aurora is PERFECT! She can't bear to leave anyone's troubles unresolved, but the only thing she has left is...
"Them darn wolves keep stealing my livestock!" complains a hick with a pitchfork. "Well, maybe no one will notice," thinks Aurora, and whispers to the wand to "make chickens appear."
That's too many and they're too young! Take two! "Make the chickens BIGGER!"
At last! Sweet chaos! These poor girls who watch these things...I hope they haven't fallen asleep by this point.
A chicken mistakes the farmer for corn and lunges at his head. "DUCK!" screams Aurora, and turns the farmer into a duck. "NO! NO! START OVER!" And everything in the room disappears.
"Ooohhh! Okay! Bring the farmer back! And the furniture! But this time, I also want cows! Not huge cows! Not small cows! Just lots and lots of medium-sized, normal COWS!" She gets that, but once again, too many of them.
She starts to speak to the wand again, but hesitates. "No, I can't rely on magic anymore! I have to solve my own problems!" The cows are still there and the line of people outside hasn't gotten any shorter. What can she do with these two elements?
"Okay, we're a bit short on resources, so the rest of you will have to come back later, but....WHO WANTS A FREE COW?? COWS FOR EVERYONE! YOU'RE GETTING A COW, AND YOU'RE GETTING A COW, AND YOU'RE GETTING A COW..."
The townsfolk are so thrilled they lift Aurora into the air Bar Mitzvah style.
The fairies and relatives return, and are pleased to see that Aurora handled things so well. They don't believe the story about the wand, though, until they find out what's for dinner....lots and lots of chicken leftovers. If you recall, though, Aurora made the giant chickens disappear. PLOT HOLE! PLOT HOOOOLE!
The intended lesson is that "you can make your dreams come true through hard work, not shortcuts like a magic wand that frequently gets instructions wrong. So don't use one if you find one." I'll keep that in mind.
The DVD says this over and over and over: "It's never a good idea to take the easy way out! You must WORK HARD and PERSEVERE to achieve your goals!" Well, that is true....and I guess it's good to put a message about hard work into something about princesses, whose appeal rests on the notion of pure wish fulfillment for nothing. But it's terribly hypocritical because taking the easy way got us these DVDs on the market in the first place!
As the storybook flips to the second half of the cartoon, you can see Mulan on several of the pages -- that was foreshadowing, because the next DVD was to star Mulan. It never came out, though -- the Cheap Princess Line was replaced with the Tinker Bell series, which has done far better both with kids and with critics. Maybe Disney watched this tripe a second time after they completed it and took their own advice. Who knows.
Since every previous Disney Princess DVD contained an Aladdin episode, they decided not to confuse anyone and made the second original cartoon about Jasmine. Yikes, I don't know if I want to continue. Seeing her appear there in new animation is like going to a reunion. It's been a long time since I saw the last adventure involving any of the Aladdin characters. I know this is too good to be true and the other shoe is going to drop the moment she opens her mouth and talks down to me.
"You found me! Hi there!
You'll never believe what just happened!"
"I was trying to do something important. But it was really hard too...and everybody kept telling me to give up." What, seriously? What kind of jerks do you know? Was that Iago saying that? Punch him in the beak!
Rajah comes into Jasmine's room holding a list of the day's itinerary in his mouth. As if we had to guess. Presumably, Jasmine's royal duties are going to be similar to Aurora's, correct?
Not even close. Jasmine's tasks include cutting the ribbon at the opening of rug shop stands and (for real) being the showgirl at the unveiling of the new '05 camels. This is what Agrabah does with its royalty? She's your PRINCESS, not Jodie Sweetin!
This does explain how she was able to walk around the streets all the time on the show without any of the citizens even blinking twice. Despite her status, she's a D-list celebrity. Is this because she's dating a street rat? How is that any worse than Britney and Kevin? She's still somebody.
After that, it's back to the palace to get her portrait done....
It must be someone from Deviantart holding that brush.
Well, Jasmine's tired of these indignities. "I feel like a...PEACOCK!" she complains. If you remember, this is the word she called Aladdin when he was dressed up as Ali and she briefly didn't see through his disguise. It's one of the worst slurs she has. Aw, don't be so hard on yourself. You got another cartoon, and that's one more than Ariel got.
Iago claims he was born to be a peacock but was switched as an egg.
Jasmine's tired of being a cheesy spokeslady. "I'm not living up to my full potential here. I could be a real service to the community, serving in schools or hospitals!" ...If that's all, then you could do that, princess...who's stopping you?
She has to sing about it, naturally, but her singing voice is different. In the past a different woman has provided Jas's singing voice...now it actually sounds like Linda Larkin (or as she's now called, Linda Larkin-Vasquez). The credits say it's Lea Salonga, though. ...Wonder what happened there. Lea's voice hasn't aged as bad as Carrie Fisher's but it sounds nothing like it once did.
The most absurd thing is that Jasmine makes it sound like being eye candy at camel shows is "all she ever does." Why didn't whoever wrote this actually familiarize himself/herself with the lore? Princess Jasmine lives a crazy, adventurous, perilous, action-packed life. She was kidnapped by a plant-controlling artist with Ron Perlman's voice. She lost her shadow and it turned evil and she would die if she didn't get it back before sunset. She was a rat at one point. She was a giant carrot with a face for 1.2 seconds. These are FACTS.
Before moving on, I should point out that at one point in her song, Jasmine sarcastically does this:
I just made someone's avatar picture.
Jasmine finds the Sultan and pokes and prods him into letting her do something meaningful. He finally gives in and suggests "You can maybe be the ROYAL ASSISTANT EDUCATOR!"
"YES! I'D LOVE TO! ...wait, what is it?" She braces for that to be another term for "Royal Curbside Sign Twirler".....
"You'll be working with your
cousin Sharma, at the Royal Academy of Young Scholars!"
Okay, she can handle that.
After the Sultan says this, he
goes to his stable, where the stableboy, Hakim, has to admit to
him that "one of the palace guards tried to ride Sahara
He yells at the guard in rage. "YOU KNOW IT WAS MY WIFE, AND ONLY MY WIFE, WHO COULD RIDE SAHARA!!"
Whoa, are they really going here? They avoided bringing up this elephant in the desert for the entire canon until now. Obviously there was some tragedy in the past, but not only did nobody ever talk about it, they barely even mentioned Jasmine's mother ever existed. In fact, a lot of Disney Princesses are missing their mothers, presumably due to illness, assassination, or being turned into a bug and stepped on. This is actually a Princess Cliche that has its roots in the original fairy tales -- no royal had a mother there either, and it was never explained why.
The Sultan means she could only ride it in both senses -- the horse immediately throws the guard into the atmosphere and he lands near a familiar-looking poopsmith. Sahara doesn't like anyone except the Sultan's dead wife. The only way anyone can approach him is to offer him an apple, like she used to do. This should be important later.
Suddenly, something falls from the tree near the wall and crashes at Jasmine's feet! It's Abu, who's been eating from the Sultan's fig tree, which he was supposed to stay away from (but you don't tell Abu to do anything). She reprimands him: "Abu, your obsession with those figs will get you into trouble someday!" That should also be important later.
It was mentioned earlier that Aladdin and Genie were off on a mission somewhere else. Why would Aladdin not take Abu? When have they not been together, except when he's been kidnapped? Strange.
Ding, ding -- the schoolbell is sounding; time for her new job! Jasmine arrives just in time to see Sharma run out of the building in a manic panic. "I'M TAKING A MENTAL HEALTH DAY IF YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS AT ALL CALL THE GUARDS! LOTS OF GUAAARDS!" She runs into the horizon until she disappears, her pace not diminishing a single second.
She is just that unrespected, even among the children. And think about that -- I said in my opening paragraph how much little girls idolize princesses. Some will even idolize a horrible person in real life if that person's lifestyle is close enough to a princess's life. That's all it takes. They'll glamorize Paris Hilton but not Princess Jasmine. Just how low is she?
I have to admit, even though it was predictable, I got a good dose of Schadenfreude out of this sequence, but even better was Jasmine's response to keep them in line:
....Wow, they were even too much for a tiger? I blame Agrabah's wussy liberal school doctrine.
That evening Jasmine spills her woes onto Anisa, the Royal Person who Watches the Princess Bathe. "I just don't think I can do it," she confesses.
"Nonsense, child. All you need is..." and here comes the theme of the DVD again.... "...perseverance!" And a more vicious tiger.
The next morning Jas wakes up to hear Hakim throwing rocks at her window...only she doesn't have a window, so the rocks just fly into her room and clatter on her floor. "What is it?"
"Sahara is gone! I don't know
what happened....I thought I locked the stable doors...I can't
lose this job, I have to feed my brothers and sisters---"
"You won't, I promise. And I'll get him back! I'll find him before Father comes here with his daily apple!"
Hakim looks a lot like the original 12-year-old version of Aladdin they were working with until the whole movie was overhauled. I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same model.
Inspecting the stable for clues, Jasmine finds....a half-eaten fig on the ground. Who does she know that likes figs? Abu is immediately put on the hot seat -- or the hot bale of hay.
It takes longer than it should to figure this all out, but Abu picked some figs, ate them on top of Sahara's stable door, and then fell off -- and his tail snagged the release latch. Iago pounces on Abu with such vigor that I was certain he did it and was trying to pass the blame, as Iago tends to do that, but I guess not.
Jasmine and company speed off on Carpet to search the desert for Sahara. Meanwhile, Anisa tries to distract the Sultan from visiting the stables as long as possible. I don't know who Anisa is either, but it's heavily implied she became Jasmine's mother figure after she lost her actual one. If Anisa is that important, why have we not heard of her for 15 years? You can't just invent a character like this when so much already exists without her. Where was she at Jasmine's wedding?
The tracks have been blown away, so they have no idea where to start looking -- until Abu points out an oasis. It's the only place for miles with things a horse would be interested in, and sure enough, he's there. Getting him back is going to be even harder, though. Jasmine has to somehow convince him to trust her. This is when she gets an apple -- wait, there are no apple trees in the oasis! So much for Chekov's Gun being fired. She'll have to settle for a serenade and work her second song into this portion of the story.
He doesn't like her at all! He bucks and snorts as hard as he can, but she's not getting off and she won't stop singing until he settles down! Eventually, he figures out he'd better surrender or he'll have to hear Salonga's aged voice all day.
Oops--it really HAS been all day. Anisa has been unbelievably keeping the Sultan distracted and occupied for over twelve hours now. She's almost out of ideas and down to yelling "THERE'S A SPIDER ON YOU!" and swatting him into the fountain.
It looks hopeless for Li'l Aladdin now, as the Sultan finally enters the stable and demands to know where Sahara is. Hakim stutters, "L-look, there's something I have to tell you...."
WHAM! He's interrupted by the majestic arrival of Sahara crashing through the stable doors, his mane blowing in the wind! And atop him is Jasmine, the only other person ever to successfully ride him!
"Jasmine, I'm so impressed
that you tamed Sahara, I'm open to ANY IDEAS you have for the
kingdom!" That was quick.
"Excellent! But first, I have some unfinished business to tie up..."
She's going back to those brats again, and taming them as she did the horse, once and for all. This time, though, the kids are so impressed Jasmine subdued Sahara that they remain obediently in awe of her. That's quite a stretch; the fact that she tamed a tiger is far more impressive, and they were unfazed by that. But that's the ending, and sensical or not, it's the only one there is.
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LOOK AT THIS SCREENSHOT FROM THE UNRELEASED MULAN CARTOON
You know....I wish they had not only released the Mulan short but put something in it about Mulan discovering she has long-lost royal ancestry, or something, just to end the deception once and for all. They keep calling her a princess and now half of America believes it. They might as well make it legitimate.