Review: The Fairy Princess and the Unicorn (a.k.a. Bayala: A Magical Adventure)

This movie is a bit of an enigma. The animation is more beautiful than it has any business being, but the script feels like something that came straight out of a 1980s marketing team solely for the purpose of selling toys. And that appears to be exactly what it was. It has the look and feel of a Barbie Fairytopia movie from a bygone era. While it's nice to know that there are still movies like this being made, would it be too much ask for them to be made better? The Fairy Princess and the Unicorn is an extremely misleading title. The movie was not about a single fairy princess but, in fact, many winged elf princesses, most of whom were sisters. A unicorn appeared in one scene for about ten seconds and had absolutely nothing to do with the plot. The movie was apparently renamed from the more fitting title of Bayala: A Magical Adventure, which would have been a perfect fit for it. I guess their marketing team was worried that a movie named after a world no one has ever heard of wouldn't draw enough interest from their target audience, so they changed it to something that had very little to do with the actual movie. It was produced by a German animation studio called Ulysses Produktion but recorded with English voices.

The world of Bayala has a lot in common with Centopia from Mia and Me. Both are fantastical realms where winged fairy-like people reside, who are referred to as elves. They live in beautiful homes made of colorful flowers and trees. Different sections of the land contain different types of elves, who can be identified by their wings and powers. Everything about this movie is pure eye candy. Some elves have rainbow-colored wings, others have wings made of frost, others are more butterfly-like, and others still have brightly colored feathered wings. The sun elves have a duty to help protect dragon eggs, while the dragons watch over their own young. The shadow elves are enemies of the sun elves, ruled by the wicked Queen Ophira, who kidnapped the eggs of several sun elves before they were born and forced them to grow up in her Shadow Realm. Princess Surah, who is the closest thing this movie has to a protagonist, has a similar backstory to Adora from She-Ra. She escapes the Shadow Realm as a teenager, but by then, she has already grown shadow elf wings, causing her to be afraid of her own powers, similar to Elsa from Frozen.

As beautiful as this movie was to watch, I had trouble staying focused on the many characters and plot points that were forced into its 80-minute runtime. It was targeted toward a very young audience and felt even more juvenile than a Barbie movie. Yet the story threads were difficult to follow even for an adult. It seemed like every five minutes, we were meeting someone new or learning about some new quest. Marween, a scrappy young elf, becomes just as crucial to the plot as Surah when she discovers a dragon egg and realizes that she has a rare ability to talk to dragons. The film keeps shifting between her quest to return the egg and Surah's quest to return to the Shadow Realm and recover her lost sister, Nuray. Because of all the convoluted overarching plots, Surah's reunion with her twin sister Sera near the beginning of the movie feels forced and not as emotional as it should have been. Even though she struggled with whether or not to use her shadow elf powers, Surah maintains virtually no psychological scarring after being raised by the evil Queen Ophira. She also has an older sister named Eyela who was just crowned queen, packing even more story into the already convoluted plot.

With such a messy script, it seems like the entire budget of the film went into the animation, which is admittedly breathtaking. I've never seen a CGI fairy movie with such smooth movements, character models, and facial expressions. It made the world of Bayala come to life to the point where I wished I could become an elf and live there myself. There were many different parts of the world such as the Shadow Realm, Sun Realm, Frost Realm, and Rainbow Realm, and it felt like it could have easily been a real place. The bright pastel color palette made it pleasing to the eyes with plenty of teal and blue instead of abusing the usage of pink like so many movies for this age group are prone to doing. I loved that every being that lived in Bayala was magical. The elves had a unique political alliance with the dragons to the extent of which I've only seen previously in books. Unicorns probably played a crucial role in Bayala's ecosystem as well, but it felt like any story points involving them got cut for time. I can see why the creators weren't able to include more scenes to flesh out the many characters and story threads. The movie's animation was so lush and detailed that it must have taken a ton of work just to pump out the scenes they did use.

I think that The Fairy Princess and the Unicorn should have kept its original title or at least been changed to something that went better with the plot like The Fairy Princesses and the Dragon Egg. Regardless of the title, the movie still offers beautiful imagery to lovers of fairy princesses and unicorns. If you are looking for an emotional fairy tale with strong characters that are easy to relate to, it may be best to look elsewhere, such as one of the many Barbie movies with fairies or mermaids in them. However, if you are looking to lose yourself in a magical world of winged princesses, dragons, unicorns, and soft colors, Bayala may be a good option for you. The animation is stunning, and the world is every bit as magical as Mia and Me's Centopia.

Comments

PrincessContent said…
Just like as I said in my comment on your Barbie Princess Adventure post, I get really disappointed when toy companies make bland movies/tv shows just to sell toys.
But I have to say, while looking at the trailer I got the feeling that this movie has more heart to it. From your review I guess it’s just in need of some more re-writes to make the plot-points work better.

Also I think the change of the title is not something the film studio decided to do. I think it was someone in the US who thought it was batter to market it that way. The movie is still called Bayala – A magical adventure in Europe.

I don’t know about the US, but the toys this movie is based on are very, very popular in most of Europe. The company is called Schleich and their toys are really beautiful. Many of them fit for decoration. Not just the Bayala figures but also many from their other toy lines.
I highly recommend the mermaids. They are lovely! <3
Lisa Dawn said…
I have a beautiful figurine that I got from the Germany pavilion at Disney's Epcot many years ago of a pink fairy riding a horse covered in flower garlands. I think it's made by Schleich, but I'm not sure. Unfortunately, I left it back at the office I work at, and I haven't been able to go there for months due to the COVID-19 lockdown order where I am.
PrincessContent said…
There's a company called Papo that also makes simliar type of toys like Schleich but I wouldn't call them cheap rip-offs. Many of them also look beautiful and when you hold a Papo figurine next to a Schleich one you can easily tell which company it belongs to without checking for the company names.
Since you got your figurine from the german pavilion Im pretty sure it's made by Schleich. Papo is a french company :)

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