Well, we've got the third "Monster High" release within a year, and the first one to be given the honor of a Blu-Ray release. For the uninitiated, "Monster High" is a line of toys, animated specials and other merchandise for kids (whom I earlier jokingly referred to as "Goth girls-in-training"). It's marketed by Mattel, apparently to those who are turned off by the oh-so-perfect world of Barbie. The students at Monster High are supposed to be the offspring of more famous monsters and supernatural beings- such as Count Dracula's daughter named Draculara (voiced in this installment by Sue Swan), the daughter of Frankenstein's Monster named Frankie Stein (Kate Higgins), Manny Taur the Minotaur (Audu Paden) and Clawd Wolf (Marcus Griffin) son of the Wolfman. One again this new release has been CG-animated by Canadian studio Nerd Corps Entertainment, and again the quality of the animation isn't as good as a typical CG-animated feature film but a step above most made-for-TV fare. As before there is an interesting design scheme, with the Monster High school building resembling a castle and most objects are coffin-shaped, including the school lockers (reminding me of the cover for the 1980s B-movie My Best Friend is a Vampire), speakers, tablet computers and cell phones.
This time around, it's an Aladdin-like storyline as Howleen Wolf (America Young), the "annoying little sister" of Clawd and Clawdeen, enters her first year at Monster High and realizes she's not popular. She thinks putting up a big sign with her name in lights will get her some fame, but it ends up blowing out the school's electricity and as punishment she's sent to the attic to do some cleaning-up. This is where she finds an old lantern, which when polishing summons Gigi (Joni Goode), a genie who's been trapped inside for hundreds of years and grants her thirteen wishes. Gigi immediately warns her that she'll be tempted to use her wishes selfishly and she needs to fight that temptation. It turns out Gigi's shadow is a separate being named Whisp (also voiced by Goode), who in the past has gotten into the minds of Gigi's previous masters and controlled them in an effort to make herself more powerful. Clawdeen nevertheless wishes to be popular, and suddenly she is. At first she tries to use her remaining wishes to help others, like wishing for her brother and his friends to realize their dream of being contestants on a stunt show called "Die Trying," and for Abbey Bominable to win the Student Disembodied President election. Whisp soon gets the best of Clawdeen however and she soon makes more evil wishes such as making ever-popular Cleo DeNile a "nobody" who isn't even recognized at school anymore, and things spiral further out of control. Clawdeen's friends are troubled at her not being "herself" anymore and try to set things right.
"13 Wishes" isn't quite as clever as the previous entries in the series, mainly because it uses a story that's already been done many times and doesn't take a whole lot of advantage of the characters' "monster" statuses. It still retains the design scheme and animation style used so far however with some amusing details you'll have to watch closely for, along with a few plays on words. The "Die Trying" subplot with a host who's a sort of cross between ghost and skeleton is pretty fun as well. Since this was made for kids, there's a lesson learned by the end. The "Monster High" theme song has been replaced by a new one that is quite catchy but isn't used too much.
I had previously reviewed the other two "Monster High" releases, Ghouls Rule and the 2-episode Friday Night Frights / Why Do Ghouls Fall in Love? and lamented at how the CG animation suffered on standard DVD's limited resolution. Someone at Universal must have taken notice, as "13 Wishes" has been released as a Blu-Ray and DVD set, and I was certainly looking forward to seeing how it would look. It does look much better than the standard DVDs, but one of my main criticisms of the picture looking rather soft appears to have been a stylistic choice of the animators as that softness is still present here. If I had been projecting this on film I would have been struggling to get it into better focus, but if that's how it's supposed to look I'm not one to argue. A standard DVD is also included, and it still appears much less detailed than the Blu-Ray. (Oddly the DVD is coded only for region 1 while the Blu-Ray is all-region.)
Audio on the Blu-Ray is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and expectedly isn't as spectacular as the sound mix of a theatrical movie, but still has a number of good surround effects. Spanish and French dubs are included in standard DTS 5.1, and all tracks on the standard DVD are 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Both discs include English SDH as well as Spanish and French subtitles.
As on the previous DVDs, we get three animated shorts that have a more traditional animated appearance but likely were still done via computer. They convey a bit more of a demented sense of humor than the main feature but are still relatively kid-safe.
A 3-minute "Sneak Peek" of "Ever After High," a new series from Monster High's creators is included, which appears to apply the same concept to fairy tale characters. Seems a bit redundant but might have potential. Also included (all in HD) are trailers for the previous two "Monster High" DVDs- seeing these in hi-def takes me back to the earlier years of DVD when some discs would include good-looking promos for titles available only on VHS. There's also a trailer for another upcoming "Monster High" title called "Frights, Camera, Action!" which thankfully already indicates that it'll be on Blu-Ray, and trailers for "Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse" and the live-action "Saige Paints the Sky." Both discs open with a promo for a "13 Wishes" video game.
I don't know what today's kids have thought of the "Monster High" franchise, but although I'm out of its target audience I've found it rather clever and amusing, and having witnessed most traditional toy lines such as "Barbie" promoting unattainable perfectness it's refreshing to see something like this encourage kids to be themselves and not worry so much about what the rest of the world thinks. "Monster High" would have had a great place in a Saturday morning cartoon lineup if those were still around, and I'll look forward to checking out its future efforts. There's still rumors of a live-action "Monster High" movie in the future, which could be really interesting to see.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.