Director – Greg Richardson, Screenplay – Elana Lesser & Cliff Ruby, Producers – Jesyca C. Durchin, Jennifer Twiner McCarron & Shea Wagerman, Music – Arnie Roth, Songs – Megan Cavallari, Rob Hudnut & Amy Powers, Animation Directors – James Boshier & Gino Nichelle, Production Design – Walter P. Martishius. Production Company – Mattel Entertainment/Rainmaker Animation.
Kelly Sheridan (Ro), Alessandro Juliani (Prince Antonio), Steve Marvel (Azul/Minister), Susan Roman (Tika), Christopher Gaze (Sagi), Andrea Martin (Queen Ariana), Candice Nicole (Princess Luciana), Russell Roberts (King Peter), Bets Malone (Tallulah), Melissa Lyons (Singing Voice for Ro), Patricia Drake (Queen Danielle), Garry Chalk (Frazer)
A young girl washes up on a desert island. There she is befriended by three animals, the elephant Tika, the peacock Azul and the meerkat Sagi and finds that she can talk to them. The animals name her Ro after the letters on the broken label of the trunk that washed ashore with her. Ten years later and Ro has grown to womanhood. A ship commanded by Prince Antonio of Apollonia comes upon the island. Antonio is taken by Ro and invites her to return to Apollonia with him. Upon returning, Antonio finds that his father, the king, has made plans for him to marry the Princess Luciana. Ro’s unworldwise ways and enjoyment of the company of animals has her regarded as odd by Antonio’s parents. Luciana’s mother Queen Ariana has plans to usurp the kingdom once Luciana and Antonio are married. She sees Antonio’s interest in Ro as an impediment to her plans and so creates a scheme to poison all the animals of the kingdom and have Ro blamed for this.
Barbie as The Island Princess was the tenth of the animated films based on Mattel’s Barbie made by Canada’s Mainframe Entertainment. The previous Barbie films from Mainframe are Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001), Barbie as Rapunzel (2002), Barbie of Swan Lake (2003), Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper (2004), Barbie Fairytopia (2004), Barbie and the Magic of the Pegasus in 3D (2005), Barbie in The 12 Dancing Princesses (2006), Barbie Mermaidia (2006) and Barbie Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow (2007). By the time of Barbie as The Island Princess, Mainframe have now been bought out by the Canadian visual effects company Rainmaker Studios and renamed Rainmaker Animation. Under the Rainmaker banner, Mainframe subsequently produced Barbie & the Diamond Castle (2008), Barbie in A Christmas Carol (2008), Barbie Mariposa (2008), Barbie and the Three Musketeers (2009), Barbie Presents Thumbelina (2009), Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale (2010), Barbie in a Mermaid Tale (2010), Barbie: A Perfect Christmas (2011), Barbie: A Fairy Secret (2011), Barbie: Princess Charm School (2011), Barbie in a Mermaid Tale 2 (2012), Barbie: The Princess & The Popstar (2012), Barbie and Her Sisters in a Pony Tale (2013), Barbie in The Pink Shoes (2013), Barbie Mariposa and the Fairy Princess (2013), Barbie and the Secret Door (2014), Barbie: The Pearl Princess (2014), Barbie and Her Sisters in the Great Puppy Adventure (2015), Barbie in Princess Power (2015), Barbie in Rock’n’Royals (2015), Barbie and Her Sisters in a Puppy Chase (2016), Barbie Spy Squad (2016), Barbie Star Light Adventures (2016), Barbie: Dolphin Magic (2017) and Barbie: Video Game Hero (2017).
At the same time as one says that, Barbie as The Island Princess is also slow moving. The various songs drag the exercise out. The main problem though is that Mainframe/Rainmaker have still to crack the art that Disney and particularly Pixar have in making their characters burst forth from the screen with life. Barbie as The Island Princess feels populated by standard animation characters – the talking animal sidekicks and the evil scheming queen, while Ro seems like a Disney princess around the point of Cinderella (1950). They all follow eminently predictable arcs – the prince torn between the tradition-bending girl he loves and the one that his family are pushing him to marry; Barbie/Ro discovering that she is a princess all along at the end. There is the odd scene that stands out with a little more – like where Ro encourages the royal monkey Tallulah to shake off its life of decorum and enjoy the pleasure of swinging through a tree again – but The Island Princess feels like it needed more of this.
While in the previous films, Barbie has been characterised as either a fairytale princess or even a fairy, here she is something akin to a female Tarzan or even a Sheena, Queen of the Jungle – a princess raised on a desert island who has the ability to talk to animals, which sounds an improbable stretch when you consider that this is the classic girl’s doll Barbie we are talking about.