Barbie & the 12 Dancing Princesses

a floral wreath with the words: Barbie & the 12 dancing princess in it and a ballerina on the word dancing.

Hello, people who may or may not appreciate Barbie movies, this is for you. Check out my take on Barbie & the 12 Dancing Princesses!

So as a child, I loved this movie. I think it was my favorite Barbie movie but my mom might argue that Barbie in the Nutcracker would either be a close second or tied. I watched it again to see if it was as good as I remember and let me say, while the animation style is not great, it came out in 2006 and used CGI animation. So I don’t know what y’all expect. I would describe this movie’s animation as *quality*. 

Barbie Backstory

In case you don’t know, ‘Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses’ was based on a Grimm Brother’s fairy tale, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”. In the original fairy tale, a king wonders what the princesses are up to every night. Every night the princess would go to a magical land through three forests made of valuable material (i.e silver, gold, etc). 12 princes would ferry the princesses across a lake to a veranda and would dance the night away with them.

So the king says to if anyone can figure out where the princesses are going and what they are doing, that person can marry one of his daughters. A veteran happens to be in the kingdom and is given a magical cloak by some lady on the side of a road. This magical cloak happens to come from the wizarding world of Harry Potter in the sense that it completely conceals the wearer’s presence. So he dawns this Harry Potter cloak and follows the princesses. Through each of the forests, he grabs a flower to prove that they exist and he was there. He joins the youngest princess/prince duo in their boat. Then he somehow comes back to the king and tells him all that transpired and gets his trophy princess wife. 

Barbie & what happened in this movie:

In the movie, there are twelve princesses whose names you won’t remember and that’s one of the running jokes of the movie. There are one set of twins and one set of triplets and Barbie is not the oldest. They are all talented and rambunctious and not proper. They have dear old dad and mom died but it’s never said how.

One day dad decides his daughters need to become proper ladies so he brings his cousin. Now she’s obviously evil with a name like Rowena, a pet monkey, and a monkey-like henchman (sorry if any of these apply to you). The princesses up to this point all had distinct hairstyles and color schemes based on bright colors. Rowena and her crew are more muted colors. She basically makes the princesses’ lives miserable. She takes away their pretty clothes, their colorful bedding, and their various hobbies in favor of off-white dresses with buns, fans, being on time, bedtime, and some good old-fashioned discipline. 

Did I mention she’s also poisoning the king but low-key because her scheme can’t be revealed yet?

At some point, it’s the triplets’ birthday. They do their birthday tradition that morning to celebrate the princesses’ fifth birthday which makes them late for breakfast. Rowena comes in and says no more singing and dancing until they are proper ladies. She does not care that it is their birthday because she is a villain with no redeemable qualities. Meanwhile, daddy-dearest is getting sicker and is seeing a doctor. The doctor gives medicine to Rowena who immediately throws it away. The princesses tried to tell dad about Rowena but he is an oblivious parent™.

Utterly miserable, the triplets receive their traditional birthday gift from their mom (via their sisters) which is a knock-off version of the original fairy tale. They read it and realize they have a secret passage to this magical world in the book. They go to this other world and it doesn’t have three forests or princes but it does have boats that lead to a veranda that has lots of flowers.

These are magical flowers that will grant any verbal wish.

So if you wanted to dance the night away to classical music so you can do ballet, you totally can. They get back to the normal world after spending the entire night dancing and Rowena is reasonably mad. She asks where they went and what they were doing. They tell her the truth but she doesn’t believe them. Since dad is sick, they go see him and save this conversation for another time. 

That night, she puts her monkey henchman on guard duty, and–surprise–the next morning, the princesses were able to go to the other world and come back and make it seem like they hadn’t left at all. To punish them, she forces the princesses to do maid work. 

The princesses decide to run away to the other world indefinitely. This grabs the attention of Barbie’s love interest. He’s a peddler who was kind of irrelevant up until this point. He noticed this one dance she did outside in the garden when delivering shoes. He goes to the princesses’ room and gets let into the other world. 

Guess who was watching the love interest do all of this? 

Rowena’s actual pet monkey. He tells Rowena and she’s able to go to the other world too. While the love interest is casually explaining his side quest proving Rowena’s evil that I forgot to mention earlier, Rowena steals a couple of flowers, goes back to the real world, and has her monkey-henchman smash the portal to the other world. She has the king make her queen in writing and declares the princesses as traitors.

Since Rowena destroyed the portal, the other world is kind of fading and the princesses + cute boy have to now get out of the other world to stop Rowena. They do this through a *romantic* partner dance to the title song that is now forever stuck in my head. They stop Rowena by using their hobbies and talents that were depicted at the beginning of the movie. Rowena accidentally curses her monkey-henchman and herself to dance forever via magical flower. Dear old dad makes a complete recovery and Barbie marries her love interest. A classic happy ending. 

Barbie & it’s time for my analysis

As an adult, I have a couple of issues with this movie beyond simple things like continuity and useless characters. Rowena was trying to teach the princesses discipline and grace and leadership skills. Albeit done poorly, I don’t like that the movie villainizes hard work and good values.

Also, I mentioned this briefly, but Rowena has no redeemable qualities. Why does she want the throne in the first place? Is she the queen’s sister and blames dad or their daughters for her death? That would make sense and give me some empathy. If that’s the case though, why is she so insensitive to the princesses honoring their mother’s memory? Would it not be better to allow the princesses to have their hobbies in moderation versus all the time? I don’t understand. The part when she’s queen and puts her painting over the deceased queens was awful. If I were one of the princesses and I saw that, I would be enraged. 

That being said, this movie does a few things right. There aren’t really any useless subplots and I appreciate that. The story is entertaining and while not all of the characters are memorable, Barbie is great. Overall, it lived up to my childhood expectations. 

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading through my rewatch review of “Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses”, I appreciate it. Comment below your favorite barbie movie. If you like my content, consider subscribing to my mailing list and if you want a review on something similar, click here      

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