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Newest 'Barbie' a Major Musical Effort

3 Jun, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Following in the footsteps of three computer-animated direct-to-video Barbie video releases, Lions Gate Home Entertainment's Family Home Entertainment is tuning up for the Sept. 28 debut of Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper — the brand's first musical film.

The $19.98 title (DVD/VHS) prebooks Aug. 24 and features Barbie in her first dual role as both a princess and a pauper, whose lives cross when the princess is kidnapped and the pauper must assume her identity to foil the kidnapper.

The 85-minute video, which features seven original songs by Broadway lyricist Amy Powers and performed by the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, includes the character voice of Martin Short as Preminger, the mastermind behind the plot to kidnap the princess.

According to Glenn Ross, president of Family Home Entertainment, the evil presence in every Barbie film has always been cast with a well-known voice, including Kelsey Grammer and Anjelica Huston.

“Martin Short is a great actor, and he has a very recognizable voice,” Ross said. “He also sings one of the songs in the movie.”

Ross said the decision to create a musical followed a theme prevalent throughout other Barbie films that dealt with different parts of the arts, such as painting, music, ballet and dance.

“Singing is just another art form,” Ross said.

Previous Barbie films, Barbie in The Nutcracker, Barbie as Rapunzel and Barbie of Swan Lake — created and released through a long-term licensing agreement with Barbie creator Mattel — have sold more than 10 million combined units, according to Ross.

“It has long been the philosophy of Mattel to use Barbie as a vehicle to introduce viewers to the arts,” said Ross, adding that the choice of the Czech Philharmonic, similar to the London Philharmonic in Swan Lake, was Mattel's decision.

Princess features numerous bonus material, including a CD of the film's soundtrack; a sneak peek at the next Barbie movie, Fairytopia; a sing-along option that allows viewers to accompany the tunes in the movie; a “My Favorite Songs” option so viewers can skip directly to their desired tunes or only listen to the soundtrack; animated interactive menus voiced by Barbie; and a trailer gallery.

Mattel is marketing separately a sound-activated interactive character doll, Sarafina, the feline friend who helps the princess and the pauper understand the value of friendship.

The battery-powered Sarafina responds to activities that take place in the movie by signals that are emitted throughout the movie.

“I think the fact that [Barbie] is a musical, the free CD and interactive doll make it a real unique gift in the fourth quarter,” Ross said.

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