In the early 2000s, there have been so many Barbie animated movies. We have all grown up watching these animated movies at one point in our lives. The Barbie Animated Cinematic Universe has an abundance of lighthearted moments, iconic villains, and adapting classic fairytales with loveable animal sidekick characters. All of these animated movies are now classics, and the millennials and even Gen-Z enjoy them.
Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses (2006)
In Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses, King Randolph sends for his cousin Duchess Rowena to help turn his daughters, Princess Genevieve and her 11 sisters, into better ladies. But the Duchess takes away all the sister’s fun, including the sister’s favourite pastime: dancing. Thinking all hope is lost they find a secret passageway to a magical land where they can dance the night away.
Growing up I always adored princesses. I was obsessed. I loved their big fancy rooms, their gorgeous clothes, and their thrilling romances. That is definitely part of why Barbie in the 12 Disney Princesses was my favourite Barbie movie growing up. But rewatching this movie now, it was so much more than that.
I loved how big this family was. All twelve sisters despite their different interests and ages slept in one big room. Being literally princesses they could have each had their own room at least if not a wing, but they chose to share one room because they genuinely liked each other. Also the King, despite his flaws, adored his daughters and in his own way wanted what was best for them. This was a family that, despite hardships, still deeply loved one another.
Additionally, this was a family that cared deeply for each other even in the presence of someone who wanted to abuse that care (Duchess Rowena). The princesses because of their love for each other and their mother were able to discover a safe space to get away from Rowena’s abuse. They were able to create a place where they could be themselves and get away from her conservative thoughts about what a princess should be.
Furthermore, this movie shows how those outdated thoughts about what a princess, and at large what a woman, should be is used to control people and kill their sense of individuality. Despite all of this, the princesses remain themselves, and it is only by being themselves that they are able to save themselves, their father, and the kingdom.
Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper (2004)
For many years, I have always wished to have a secret doppelganger that lived a better life than I have and I’m pretty sure most of this is due to the fact I would make my parents rent Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper from the library over and over again until the DVD had more skips than a DaBaby Album. The story of a girl that comes from royalty and those rich people’s struggles and a girl who comes from nothing more than debt and an awful job that doesn’t follow her dreams of what she wants for herself. In a time where it feels like you just want to escape from your current life to something that seems to be better.
The film follows both Erica, a talented seamstress who truly longs to be a singer and Princess Annalise, a princess who wants to save her kingdom from financial ruin when their gold mines seem to run out of gold.
When you ask about a Barbie movie with the best songs, this film will always be the first one I bring up. From “Free,” “I Am A Girl Like You,” to the underrated bop “The Cat’s Meow.” Most films that were straight to vhs or DVDs at the time wouldn’t have gotten as hard as they did with their music but Barbie was never disappointed when it came to her animated films soundtracks. I always find myself belting out “Free” after work or while on break because it really is that song and probably is the song that has had the biggest impact on my life since I first heard it and has a deeper meaning for me now that I’m older trying to find my place in the world due to the feeling of being trapped and unable to spread my wings like I would like to.
During this time when so many of us feel both girls locked away without hope trapped living a life that was set up by someone else, it’s amazing to have those reminders that we make our own stories which is what’s also powerful about Barbie the doll herself, she’s just the prompt and we are the storytellers who get to build on from her figuring out the stories we want to tell
Barbie of Swan Lake (2003)
While the economic recession and the beginnings of unhinged reality television were making ripple effects in the rest of the world, I just wanted to be a ballerina. While this seems like a simple choice in an otherwise chaotic beginning that will have innumerable repercussions later, Barbie of Swan Lake invests in the simplicity of doing what you love over the bigger theatrical feats and solid structuring of the other Barbie animated movies. But, obviously, that doesn’t mean we love it any less, if anything we love it more – for the almost realistic ballerina dance moves (praised by real-life ballerinas for the authenticity of the Pirouettes), the Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet compositions supported by an original score that is helmed closest to the original libretto, the most evil villains in the Barbie animated filmography and her most elegant magical transformation dresses.
The film follows Odette, a talented but very shy dancer who works in her family bakery. This is where the structure spirals out of rationality so, please, keep up with me; one day Odette follows a beautiful unicorn, Lila, into the Enchanted Forest and finds a magic crystal. The crystal personifies into the Fairy Queen, who proclaims Odette is to defeat the evil wizard Rothbart, who exploited mythical creatures and wanted to extend his dictatorship to humans before the Fairy Queen sacrificed herself. Still, he has slowly been regaining the strength to unleash his wrath. Now, Odette’s destiny is the saviour of the Enchanted Forest.
But Odette doesn’t accept her new destiny. She is overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and her shyness escalates to insecurity. It’s an emotional moment and it is only made worse when Rothbart shows up, alongside the annoyingly high-pitched Odile, who steals her beauty and curses Odette into a swan. As her powers are too weak, the Fairy Queen can only partially reverse the curse, allowing Odette to regain human form by night but turn back into a swan by day. She barely escapes a group of hunters, only to return to her human form in front of Prince Daniel. He is enamoured by Odette’s appearance. This falls into Rothbart’s plan to have Odile seduce Prince Daniel at the ball by misrepresenting herself as Odette. He wants to secure the Enchanted Forest and is prepared to use Odile to secure the mortal kingdom. While this movie is an ode to Tchikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet, the ultimate romantic dance between Prince Daniel and Odile is awkward, and the stiff computer animation can only take so much of the blame.
Meanwhile, the real Odette, still cursed in swan form, vows to defeat Rothbart. Odette finds courage within herself; travelling to enchanted forest libraries, conquering trolls through kindness and even fighting Rothbart in his animal form, the eagle. The once-shy Odette empowers herself through her intelligence and true love to prove she is powerful enough to defeat Rothbart and save the Enchanted Forest. It’s Black Swan (2010) without the trauma for those preparing for the double watch of Barbie and Oppenheimer.
Barbie as Rapunzel (2002)
As a kid, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls. I had the Barbie dollhouse and several Barbie’s in my possession. And then the animated movies happened. One of the first Barbie movies that I remember watching was Barbie as Rapunzel. It is, in my opinion, the best-animated movie from the Barbie Animated Cinematic Universe, and I have rewatched it so many times.
In the second movie released in the Barbie franchise, a young Rapunzel with long, floor-length hair lives in a castle as Gothel’s servant. Her job is to look after Gothel’s every need, from cleaning the castle to bringing her food at a particular time. Rapunzel spends her time painting pictures of her only friends, a young dragon named Penelope and Hobie, an anxious rabbit. Gothel disapproves of Rapunzel’s desire to leave the castle and accuses her of being ungrateful. One day, she and her friends find a hidden basement underneath the kitchen. Rapunzel discovers a hairbrush gifted to her by her parents, whom she thought had abandoned her when she was a baby. She realises that Gothel must be lying to her about everything.
During her discoveries, she finds a passage out of the castle and wanders into a small town. Rapunzel meets Prince Stefan while rescuing his little sister, Princess Katrina from a pit trap. Rapunzel leaves without learning Prince Stefan’s name. Gothel discovers that she had left the castle and uses her magic to trap her inside the tower. But with a magic paintbrush, Rapunzel leaves the castle to find freedom.
One of the most iconic moments in Barbie as Rapunzel is the montage where she uses her magic paintbrush to change into her sparkly, glittery ballgown. As one of the earliest computed-animated projects of the Barbie Cinematic Universe, the animation is quite awkward. But the movie has plenty of great elements such as the colourful, artistic visual images, adorable animal sidekicks, and an iconic evil witch Gothel, performed by Anjelica Huston.
Barbie as Rapunzel uses a magic paintbrush to inspire Kelly, Barbie’s sister, to paint. There is a nostalgic charm present in the movie, while also focusing on themes such as kindness and the importance of friendship. All of this represents the Barbie brand and becomes a classic and memorable animated movie.