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Review: Tangled - Cassandra's Revenge

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Today marks the last multi-part special on Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure before the series finale on March 1st. I had high hopes that Cassandra's Revenge would resolve Cassandra's heartbreaking betrayal arc once and for all, but it looks like that is being saved for the finale. Though there were some revelations in this special about Rapunzel and Cassandra's powers, they weren't quite as big as I was hoping. The special brought back Varian for a gorgeous new Alan Menken duet with Cassandra. It also progressed the sinister plans of the mysterious blue girl, who is the true antagonist likely has some sort of connection to Zhan Tiri, the show's final boss. It was an enjoyable special in terms of art and music, but I felt let down by the fact that they are saving all the big resolutions for the finale. Cassandra is beginning to feel like a broken record, saying the same things over again until the plot allows her story to progress.


The special kicks off with a new R…

Review: Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind

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It's been almost a year since Kingdom Hearts III made its long overdue debut. Amidst the disappointment that fans had with the highly anticipated game, the most popular question of all was "What about Kairi?" The new Kingdom Hearts III: Re Mind DLC, which came out yesterday, attempts to answer this question. Kairi is essentially the princess of the Kingdom Hearts universe, but is never treated as such. She is constantly placed on the sidelines, even after she receives her own keyblade to fight with at the end of Kingdom Hearts II. The Re Mind DLC addresses this issue immediately. When you start up the game after installing the DLC, a lovely new illustration of Kairi slowly fades into existence next to Sora's on the menu screen as a gentle reminder that she has been patiently waiting for her turn to be included in the story.


For half the price of the game, I can understand why some people would consider Re Mind to be a disappointment. There are some new scenes and gam…

Review: The Stepsister Scheme

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After years of reading fairy tale adaptations and reimaginings, I was in the mood for something a little different. I discovered The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines on a list of 20 modern fairy tale books. It stood out for a few reasons. First, the book takes place after the "happily ever after" part of its leading princesses' fairy tales, which gives it a similar feel to Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, in which the princesses are more experienced and willing to fight to keep their happy endings. Instead of focusing on one princess, the book features Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty in a girl-power team-up, giving it a Magical Girl vibe with a stronger focus on friendship than romance. It's also about a bunch of princesses teaming up to rescue a prince, and there aren't as many books out there about that as there should be. Right from the get-go, I knew this wasn't another reimagining of a story I've already heard a million times.


Righ…

Transformations

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Odette turned into a swan. Ariel turned into a human. Tiana turned into a frog. Thumbelina turned into a faery. Transformation is such a huge theme among fairy tales that it is practically embedded into their DNA. If you think beautiful transformation sequences are just a visual motif, you would only be half right. This theme is so common among fables because it represents a storytelling technique that has existed ever since stories started being told. Every good story takes a character on a complete journey, whether physical or metaphorical, that changes them by the time they reach its end. Likewise, each princess or prince who has transformed into their final form by the end of the movie leans a powerful lesson from their experiences. We see that lesson visually through the magic of animation and visual effects. For me, transformation sequences are the ultimate high point of traditional animation.


Every fairy tale princess begins her story as a sheltered ingenue who is thirsty for k…

What's Coming in 2020

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Last year was quite possibly the biggest year for princess media ever. I don't think anything from 2020 will compare to the sheer number of princess anniversary events, TV shows, books, and movies that 2019 bestowed upon us, but that doesn't mean we won't have anything to look forward to in the coming year. Two of our favoriteDisney Princess cartoons will be ending soon, leaving us with a tiara-shaped hole in our hearts. Fortunately, the advent of Disney+ allows for even more original content from the studio than feature films or Disney Channel specials, promising some low-key princess entertainment while the cinemas get overrun with live-action remakes. One such upcoming Disney+ original princess movie is Secret Society of Second-Born Royals.


Secret Society of Second-Born Royals stars the immensely talented Peyton Elizabeth Lee, who played the title role in Andi Mack, one of my favorite shows from the last decade. In this upcoming Disney+ original movie, she will take on t…

Review: A Princess of Wind and Wave

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Happy New Year, princesses! I concluded my 2019 with yet another of my favorite fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid."A Princess of Wind and Wave is the final book in Melanie Cellier's Beyond the Four Kingdoms series and her last book of 2019. Though it wasn't my favorite "Little Mermaid" adaptation of the year, it did focus on certain aspects of the fairy tale that other versions tend to overlook. A Captive of Wing and Feather, the previous book in the series, featured a protagonist who couldn't communicate with humans during daylight hours, which is something that would ordinarily apply more to "The Little Mermaid" than "Swan Lake." Perhaps it was for this reason that Isla does not lose her ability to speak in A Princess of Wind and Wave, making it one of the few "Little Mermaid" adaptations that does not require her to find an alternate method of communication on land such as writing or sign language. Instead, her limitations…

Review: Beauty of Rosemead

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It's been a while since I read Beast of Rosemead by Lucy Tempest. By the time I got around to its sequel, Beauty of Rosemead, I remembered very little except that the first book was very similar to the Disney adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast." Thankfully, Beauty of Rosemead had more than enough exposition to refresh my memory. As the fifth book in the Fairy Tales of Folkshore series and conclusion of Bonibel's story, I found it pretty enjoyable for what it was. I liked that Lucy shortened this story to two books since the Thief of Cahraman trilogy, her gender-swapped retelling of "Aladdin," ran a little too long with three books to tell a single story filled with exposition. She continues to shrink her garrulity with Princess of Midnight, the next book in the series, which is going to be a single standalone book. Beauty of Rosemead contained some of the same unnecessary exposition as the Thief of Cahraman and put too much focus on the eastern storytelli…

PattyCake Productions Released a Holiday Princess Special!

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It's a good year for princess holiday specials. Shortly after Elena of Avalor released a Hanukkah episode, PattyCake Productions premiered their latest Princess Academy short. I've always loved the incredible talent and attention to detail that goes into each one of PattyCake Productions' crowdsourced videos, and this was one of the best ones yet. Not only does it contain two completely original princess songs, but it also had a short storytelling session with gorgeous Disney quality illustrations. I also liked that they kept the story mostly secular since princess fans come from all backgrounds. Even though there was a Christmas tree and a mention of Christmas day in one of the songs, the princesses came together to celebrate an original holiday called the Winter Wishing Solstice and described some traditions that sounded very plausible for a fairytale-inspired religion. The short also featured an enormous cast with many characters that you don't see very often in Dis…

Kingdom Hearts Finally Shows Kairi Some Love!

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Kingdom Hearts 3, which came out at the beginning of the year, was an enjoyable enough sequel if you could overlook some rushed storylines and underdeveloped characters. The character that got screwed over the most was Kairi, the series' only Princess of Heart that wasn't from a Disney movie. Kairi's development within the Kingdom Hearts series is important because she doesn't have a movie or spin-off to tell her story while Sora, Riku, and Roxas are all playable in various other games. We know that she grew up in Radiant Garden where her grandmother told her stories about the ancient Keyblade War and that she eventually found herself stranded on the Destiny Islands where she met Sora and Riku, but that is where her story ends. Kairi made multiple claims about wanting to help Sora after she got her own keyblade at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2, but we barely ever saw her use it. Even when she did during one of the final battles in Kingdom Hearts 3, she was highly unskill…

Review: The Cursed Prince

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Aya Ling recently released The Cursed Prince, the third and final book in her Reversed Retellings series. Of the three fairy tales that she covered, I think the "Sleeping Beauty" fairy tale lends itself to gender-reversal the best without changing the themes of the original story because the roles of the protagonists have are not affected by their physical strength or conventional beauty stereotypes. Till Midnight, the first book in the Reversed Retellings series, changed the plot of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by requiring the princes to battle trolls at night instead of dance at a ball, which made them more conventionally masculine. In The Beast and the Beauty, Lady Sybil attempted to use magic, fashion, and makeup to make herself look more presentable to suitors in spite of her monstrous appearance, which are conventionally feminine things that we never saw the Beast do in "Beauty and the Beast." In contrast, the main character in "Sleeping Be…

Let's Welcome Disney's First Jewish Princess!

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When I first learned that Elena of Avalor was going to do a Hanukkah episode, I was hoping for a two-part special like The Magic Within that would provide enough time for the first Jewish Disney Princess to assert her individual identity outside of being Jewish. However, just like the Maccabees, I will make the most of what I've been given. "Festival of Lights" came out today as a single episode that focused almost entirely on Jewish characters celebrating Hanukkah, and I do not want to downplay the historical significance of it in any way, shape, or form. I've seen many holiday princess specials, and this is the first one that Disney has released about characters who grew up with the same traditions as me. This is so important because it normalizes Judaism for today's audience of children by showing them that not all fairy tale princesses celebrate Christmas.


"Festival of Lights" had a similar story to most Christmas specials except that it was about H…

New Mulan Trailer Reaction

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Disney released the new trailer for their live-action remake of Mulan today, and it's... fine, I guess. The trailer confirmed many of the rumors that were flying around since the movie began production such as how Mushu will be replaced with a silent phoenix and Shan Yu would be replaced with a new villain. We hear an instrumental track of "Reflections" throughout the trailer, but none of the actors drop their serious expressions to break into song at any point. That's because this movie is not going to be a musical. Even though the original movie had only four songs in it, they took place at four of the most memorable points in the story and carried the story in a fun and entertaining manner. Without Mulan singing her heart out about how her reflection doesn't show who she is inside or Shang belting out "I'll Make a Man Out of You" as he trains his troops, the movie loses many of the elements that made it so nostalgic, and without Mushu's anti…

Review: The Siren Princess

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The "Little Mermaid" nerd in me could not resist reviewing another adaptation of my favorite fairy tale. The Siren Princess is the second book in The Forgotten Kingdom series by Lichelle Slater. Its prequel, The Dragon Princess, had very little to do with "Sleeping Beauty," so I wasn't too surprised to find that The Siren Princess also had very little to do with the fairy tale it was based on. In fact, it had more in common with Peter Pan than it did with "The Little Mermaid" with a love interest who was none other than Captain Hook himself. This romantic version of Captain Hook was polite and heroic unlike Emma Swan's rough-around-the-edges beau from Once Upon a Time. There were a lot of random name references to Disney's The Little Mermaid, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but the characters' personalities bore no resemblance to the ones they were named after. Like its predecessor, I thought …

Review: The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince

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There are precious few video games that allow you to play as a princess who does something other than dress up or recover the royal jewels. Until recently, Child of Light was the only game I knew of for modern consoles that fit those criteria. That's why I was eager to play The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince when it went on sale in the PlayStation Store. Its storybook illustration aesthetic and sidescrolling gameplay look so similar to Child of Light that I mistakenly thought it was made by the same people at first. Once I actually started playing, it became clear that The Liar Princess has a much smaller budget and a more linear world. Instead of the colorful cast and robust battle command menus from Child of Light, The Liar Princess's story is told entirely by a single Japanese narrator accompanied by cutscenes of an illustrated storybook that depicting the story. I completed the entire game in a single evening, which made me question its $20 price tag.


Story-wise, The L…