It is very easy to meet the 'Barbie' films with a lot of dislike and scorn and they are all very lowly rated here (despite some favourable reviews). It is understandable to take issue with the dialogue (a fair few are ropy in this regard), the predictability of the stories, the odd annoying character, the animation in a few (not all are well animated) and whether there is enough for adults to keep interest.
Despite not being the main target audience, to me they are mostly better than given credit for, easy to take them for what they are and don't deserve to be dismissed as baby-ish and for little girls only (a very narrow minded generalisation). Are they animation masterpieces? No. Are they among the best films ever made? Again no. Are they worth watching if taken for what they are? Absolutely for most of them. Most of them look good if not having the polish of studios specialising in computer animation (Pixar for one), often great music, good lessons and messages, a good deal of charm, have their heart in the right place and have entertaining characters well voiced (some had actors of considerable calibre like Tim Curry, Anjelica Huston and Kelsey Grammar) and a likable title character that particularly young girls can relate to.
There are better 'Barbie' films than 'Barbie and her Sisters in a Pony Tale', such as 'Nutcracker', 'Diamond Castle', 'Island Princess', 'Pink Shoes', 'Prince and the Pauper' and 'The 12 Dancing Princesses' ('Rapunzel' and 'Swan Lake' are remembered with fondness too). There are a few not so good ones, pretty awful actually, like 'A Fairy Secret', 'A Fashion Fairytale' and 'The Princess and the Popstar'. There is agreed a preference for the original/traditional 'Barbie' than the more modernised ones, those in question did it generally very clumsily.
'Barbie and her Sisters in a Pony Tale' is not without its flaws. The dialogue is often less than brilliant, there are one too many stilted and not of particularly good quality (my definition of ropy but am trying to use another word or definition less used). While more eventful and not plodding along as much as the story for 'Barbie Mariposa and the Fairy Princess', but it does tread very familiar ground and done in a way that events are unsurprising, which occasionally takes away from the fun, and needed a little more kick in the pace.
Most of the animation is not bad at all, never is it Video Brinquedo, Spark Plug Entertainment or 'The Swan Princess' CGI-animated and 'Alpha and Omega' sequels bad (which makes one physically ill watching them). It is however not as polished as other entries in the 'Barbie' series, especially in character designs and movements that look a little stiff.
However, on the most part there are some bright colours and handsome and imaginative backgrounds and some characters move with freedom. The soundtrack is cute and catchy, though there has always been a preference for the classical music-oriented ones.
Although the story is less than perfect, like 'Barbie Mariposa and the Fairy Princess', it does have cute and charming moments and has its heart in the right place. Appreciated the positive messaging, hardly new the messages taught but done in a way that's heartfelt and not like the film is talking at you. As well as being closer to the original Barbie rather than trying to make her modern. No negative messaging like in 'A Fairy Secret' and 'A Fashion Fairytale'.
Not having the romance at the forefront and not dominating the proceedings was a good idea and instead focusing on the competition and the chemistry between Barbie and the other girls. The scenes with the wolves that parents may be worried about frightening children is not that scary, it's pretty tame compared to many other animated films with peril. Some will argue that pre-schooler girls are the main target audience, but given a chance boys and older audiences will enjoy the competitive aspects of the film and also the colourful verbal insults and sparring with the two managers of the rival riding academy.
Regarding Barbie herself, she is very likable and resourceful with a sympathetic personality that never gets annoying or bratty. The voice work is spirited, cannot imagine Barbie without Kelly Sheridan (the 'Barbie' films without her did suffer from her absence on top of even bigger problems) and she continues to grow.
Overall, nice and decent effort if not among my favourites of the franchise. 7/10 Bethany Cox