Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sofia the First: Holiday in Enchancia (2013)

Aww, Sofia. I wanted you to be fun. I wanted you to be clever. I like the idea of a Ur-princess narrative. But you were only sticky-sweet and not-too-terrible.

Sofia the First is an animated series from Disney Junior, about a girl whose mother marries into the royal family of a fairy-tale kingdom. According to Wikipedia, she is the bearer of a mystic amulet that connects her to advice from other Disney princesses.

In this episode, we're introduced to their traditional winter-gift-giving holiday: Wassailia! It's a fairly simple fantasy Christmas. There are presents, decorated evergreen trees, and traditional foods. The most prominent point unique to Wassailia is the lighting of a special candle in honor of the season that...it's not quite clear, but it seems to bring blessings on the family.

The kids (Sofia and her step-siblings James and Amber) sing about how they celebrate the holiday to open the episode. Sofia is excited for her first Wassailia in the castle, but the party can't start yet because the king has gone into town for some last minute shopping.

Sofia goes out to the stable to check on her tiny punk Pegasus, Minimus. By the way, her animal companions are a little weird. The rabbit is ‘urban’. Not quite offensively so, but just odd.

Also, apparently other people don't know she can talk to animals. It seems a little unfair that she has princess powers and Amber doesn't.

In any case, we start the actual plot as the king heads home to the castle, only to crash in a rising blizzard. The horses run off, and the king and his party are rescued by a local...woodcutter? I'm not clear why this guy is wandering the woods in a blizzard. Anyway, the woodcutter brings them to his home to wait out the storm.

Up to this point, the episode has been hokey, and the animation a bit cheap, but it hasn't been stupid. Now it gets stupid.

Once the queen realizes that the king must have been delayed somehow, rather than sending a trained rescue party, or even going out with a trained party, she takes all the children in a flying carriage to look for the king. Really? Way to jeopardize the entire royal family.

They find the fleeing horses, but the storm is getting worse, and the Queen’s party prepares to wait out the storm in their (landed) carriage. Sofia wanders off briefly, determined to do something to find her dad. Her amulet helpfully sparkles, and today's princess mentor is…. Aurora!

CG Aurora is actually well designed, but her advice is stupid. She suggests Sofia enlist her animal friends to get the forest animals to look for the king. My problem with this is that Aurora’s animal friends were useless. As Erin pointed out, “The only thing Aurora's animals ever did was pretend to make out with her.”

Sofia’s animals are inexplicably helpful, after an almost kinda pretty montage they return with news of where the king is, and the queen and kids get to the woodcutter’s cottage in time to share their holiday.

So far we've learned to charge out into danger no matter what action makes sense, because animals will help us.

But Sofia has one last ridiculous lesson to teach. She gives the present her dad bought her in town to one of the woodcutter’s kids, thereby guilting her step-siblings to do the same. (This charity should be somewhat overshadowed by the mountains of gifts waiting for the three royal kids back at the castle, but no one mentions that.)

One more song and we're done. It's kind of a cute example of a generic fantasy Christmas, but overall I can't recommend this being worth your time.

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