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Featured TV on DVD Review: Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess

March 16th, 2013

Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess - Buy from Amazon

Sofia the First is one of the newest animated shows to debut on the Disney Channel. It first aired on January 11th of this year, and a second season has already been announced, so clearly the network is impressed by its ratings. Will those who have seen the early episodes like it enough to stick around? And is the DVD worth the price?

The Show

The series begins with the usual Disney book of fairytales and three fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, begin to introduce us to the Kingdom of Enchancia. We first meet Sofia, whose mother, Miranda, works at a shoe shop. One day, King Roland sends for Miranda because he needs new slippers. When Miranda and King Roland meet, it is love at first sight and the pair are quickly married. This means Miranda is now Queen Miranda and Sofia is now Princess Sophia.

Going from a commoner to Royalty is quite a change for Sofia. It is also a change for Amber and James, Sofia's two new step-siblings. James seems quite nice and a little laid-back, while Amber's a little jealous. She also meets Cedric the Sorcerer, whose talents are dwarfed by his ambitions. In fact, his pet raven, Wormwood, is arguably smarter than he is. King Roland informs Sofia that there will be a Royal Ball, a sort of a coming out party for Sofia. This just makes Sofia even more nervous. When she sees how large her room is, it's just too much. She doesn't think she has what it takes to be a princess. She goes to her mother wanting to go back to their old life, but she and King Roland comfort Sofia. The King gives her a new amulet, one that Cedric immediately takes an interest in. It's the Amulet of Avalor and it will give him the power he needs to take over the kingdom.

The next morning, Sofia has to go to Royal Prep Academy, a school for young princes and princesses, where they learn all there is about being royalty. The next morning she learns a little more about the life of a princess after being waken up by some of the woodland creatures that followed her the previous day. She then learns her ride to Royal Prep involves Pegasuses... Pegasusi? The kids there make her feel welcome, everyone but Amber. Amber even tricks James into pranking Sofia with the Enchanted Swing Set. She takes it well, sort of. She does want to be alone for a bit and when she wanders off, she finds a baby bird that is lost and helps it back into its nest with its mother. As she leaves, she thinks she hears the birds say thank you.

When Sofia arrives home, Cedric is there waiting for her. He's acting nice trying to get her to trust him, all so he can steal the Amulet of Avalor. He gives her a tour of his lair, where Sofia sees his magic book, still on the page about the Amulet. Sofia reads the entry, which says, "With each deed performed, for better or worse, a power is granted, a blessing or curse." The next morning, Sofia is woken up by the animals again, but this time she can understand them. She's introduced to Clover, the bunny; Mia, the bluebird; Poppy, the robin; and Whatnaught, the squirrel. The animals take this opportunity to explain why they help princesses. It's for the food.

Sofia continues to learn about what it takes to be a princess, with help from James; however, Amber tricks her into wearing magical slippers during the dance lesson at school. Now she's desperate to learn how to dance before the ball, which is that night. She turns to Cedric for help, and he gives her what he calls a dancing spell. However, as he tells Wormwood, it is actually a sleeping spell and when Sofia says the words, everyone in the Ballroom will fall asleep and Cedric will only wake them up if Sofia hands over the Amulet of Avalor.

The plan works, sort of. When Sofia says the spell, Cedric is also in the Ballroom. He wanted to see the spell take effect and is put to sleep as well. (This is solid evidence that Wormwood is smarter than he is.) Now Sofia is the only one not asleep... except for one other person. Amber was so upset that everyone liked Sofia more than her, that she skipped out on the ball. Can the two sisters learn to work together and end the spell?

Sofia the First is better than I was expecting, and I had pretty high expectations, as the network was promoting it quite heavily. The voice acting is excellent with Ariel Winter as the lead and there are many great supporting actors here as well (Jess Harnell, Wayne Brady, Darcy Rose Byrnes, and others). The writing is very good with a charming central character and a storyline that will appeal to young girls. There are also some nice touches that will draw in adults. There are a few inside jokes, like the song about why animals help princesses. There are even some inside jokes about other Dinsey cartoons. (The show takes place in the tri-kingdom area, just like Phineas and Ferb take place in the tri-state area.) The animation is bright and colorful and there's plenty of energy in the writing and performances. I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

My only real complaint is the running time. This is just the TV movie, which was only an hour-long, with commercials. The price-per-minute is high for TV on DVD releases, even those aimed at kids. It is still worth picking up, but it is not a real bargain.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is a sing-along mode. The show has subtitles, unlike many TV on DVD releases aimed at younger kids. There is also a Princess in Training Activity Kit that includes a Tiara with stickers you can use to customize it, plus a few other activities. Sadly, some DVDs do not contain the activity kit, and if this is the case, you can call Disney at 1-800-72-DISNEY (1-800-723-4763) to get a replacement.

The Verdict

Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess should really entertain its target audience, while adults will have fun watching with their kids. The DVD isn't loaded with extras and the price-per-minute is a little high, but it is still worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess, Wayne Brady, Jim Cummings, Ashley Eckstein, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, Ariel Winter