Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A look back: Barbie and the Rockers

You know, it's a strange thing about cartoons from the 1980s. By all accounts they shouldn't be remembered very well. The animation wasn't very good, the story lines were sometimes just laughable and many of them were essentially just toy-commercials.
But for some reason it was something that always stuck with me ever since I watched these shows as a kid.

The theme songs.

Why is it that I seem to remember every single 80s cartoon theme song I heard growing up?
Everything from Transformers to M.A.S.K. to He-Man to Maxie's World.
And I never watched Maxie's World! The theme song was in a commercial at the end of a tape with the Super Mario Bros Super Show!
SO WHY DO I REMEMBER IT!? Or any of this for that matter!?

So maybe you have figured out by now that one of the many songs stuck in my head was the opening song to the TV-special known as Barbie and the Rockers. Although I mistakenly remembered it being called "Barbie and the Rock Stars" which in retrospect probably sounds better than actual title.

Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World was an animated TV-special produced by Saban and DIC Entertainment and was based on the toy line with the same name (sans the "out of this world" of course) and was also given a sequel called Barbie and the Sensations: Rockin' Back to Earth. Both were released on a VHS which I wouldn't be surprised if my little sister watched religiously. I, however didn't. I was too occupied with manlier things at the time, like... uhh... Action Man?

Nothing screams "EXTREME!" like being late.

But that didn't stop me from getting that first song stuck in my head as well as a couple of other ones. So one day when I was particularly bored and the songs once again resurfaced I decided to do some research on this pink abomination. And then I decided to put my own sanity on the line by reviewing it. Let's dive right in, shall we?

The first part of our two-parter starts of with the eponymous group led by Barbie performing at a live concert where they sing about how they're "rocking out" and are "totally in the groove".
Actually it first starts with a title card telling us the title, like it matters. It also says that it was written by someone named Martha Moran.
But after that we get to see Barbie and the Rockers perform! Well, actually for a good chunk of the one minute long song we don't actually see anyone on stage and from the looks of things the band was beamed onto the stage towards the end of the song.

So the band instantly begins playing their next horrid song and we get to see Barbie, looking just as inanimate as ever and sparkling like a freaking Meyerpire.
We also get a short glimpse of the rest of the band, most of them playing on pink instruments, and we get a rather disturbing close-up of one of the band members who smile into the camera.
I guess it's supposed to be Ken but I'm not even entirely sure it's a guy considering the curly, gold hair and long eyelashes. Oh, and he also sparkles.

I'm not sure I can go on typing with him looking at me like that.

Anyway, apparently this is supposed to be "the hottest band in the history of the world".
Now, would you ever consider listening to a band called "Barbie and the Rockers"? Can you even imagine someone saying with a straight face that they like listening to a band called "Barbie and the Rockers"? It just spells disaster. I'm guessing the people who listen to this band are just doing it for the amusement factor. Kinda like how people only read All-star Batman & Robin because of how awesomely bad it is.

Well, it would seem that I'm wrong about that because apparently Barbie (and the Rockers) are so popular that they have won every single world music award, their album has sold triple platinum and we are told how successful Barbie is all over the world. Oh, and she has also become an ambassador for world peace.

You heard me. Barbie, the girl who thinks math class is tough and likes throwing pizza parties, is now an ambassador for world peace.

Her jacket also changes colour between shots.

Anyway, after Barbie (and the Rockers) have wrapped up their world tour everyone is curious about what she's going to do next. Personally I'm hoping that she gets herself wasted, looses her virginity to some other celebrity and ends up having two children, publicly embarrasses herself and falls into Scientology and then one day be found dead with her face in a toilet somewhere.

So Barbie and her band takes an elevator up to what must be some kind of café or bar for obscenely rich people. This café is situated above the clouds to give an open view of the night sky.

"Look at those stars!" exclaims one of the female band-members.

They are greeted by a woman who responds: "And the brightest star of all: Barbie!"

OH-HO HO HO! I hope this star to goes supernova soon...

So the woman snaps her fingers, summoning a chair down from the ceiling. It's not even attached to anything, it just kinda floats down. What.

One of the girls of the band, apparently named Dee-Dee, sighs and says she feels blue now that the tour is over and the redhead girl asks what they're going to do next.

Barbie responds by standing up and starting to dance.


Then the rest of the band gets up too and together they have choreographed dance-routine where they sing about how they're best friends.
Remember, kids! If you're friends didn't put together a dance-routine complete with a song about how good buddies you are they're not really your friends!

All right, taking a break from being snarky, some of this dance sequence is actually pretty well animated. (In fact it's better than their stage performance.) It's just too bad the song just about makes me want to shove pencils into my ears.

Cut to the next morning with the sun rising between some pink skyscrapers. Oy... Barbie walks out, still wearing the same clothes as the night before.

"I can't believe it! We danced all night! Who could that be?" Barbie says without even TRYING to act. She heads over to open the pink door (yes) to see who it is. Personally I hope it's the voice director coming over to fire her.

Nope. Just the mailman coming to deliver a letter of such grave importance that it is engraved in gold which prompts the other five members of the band to gather round her and start pestering her to read it out loud like they're in freaking kindergarten or something.

Apparently the World Peace Organization have decided to throw a fucking ball in Barbie's honour seeing as how she's now the ambassador for world peace (which I'm still not buying). Barbie seems delighted by the thought of this. Evidently dancing all night didn't tire her out one bit.
She immediately asks Ken to accompany her to the ball and Ken immediately accepts.

Well, that was quick. How long have you been planning this, Barbie? There are two guys in your band and you probably didn't have to go with either of them if you didn't want to.
Must be the sparkles.

"But Diva. What am I going to wear?" What are the odds it will be something pink? And who's Diva?

So we get a montage of Barbie and her three female friends trying on different outfits.
Actually that's a bit of a stretch. Most of the montage consists of Barbie and her friends just continually moving their heads back and forth with blank, zombie like expressions on their faces.
And this is intercut with stills of Barbie's three friends wearing different outfits and generally acting like idiots just being rotated upside down to try and hide the fact that they were too lazy to animate anything. And all this is set to another song which isn't quite as awful as the last one. Mostly due to the fact that it's a cover of Beatles song.

Barbie eventually settles on a pink ball-gown that no one past the age of six would wear complete with a freaking tiara (with pink gemstones in it of course. Oy...)

She rushes down the stairs to greet Ken who responds "I don't think you've ever been so gorgeous." Ken, that's a bit hard to believe when you sound like you're trying your best to sound disappointed.

Then they start dancing.

Like, right away. Immediately, as soon as Barbie comes down those stairs she latches onto Ken and begins spontaneously dancing with him. Barbie HAS been planning this!

They are then instantly transported to the ball where they are still dancing. And all the other guests start applauding them and saying bravo. I'm guessing they were impressed with Barbie's teleportation-act. Also, who says bravo at a ball? And these are people from all over the world. Why are they all saying bravo?

She then walks up to the man conducting the band and whispers something in his ear. He then stops the music in favour of letting her speak. What, that's it? She just wanted to hold a speech? She whispered in that conductor's ear for seven seconds! What the hell did she say? It shouldn't take almost eight seconds to ask someone to turn down the music. You probably didn't even need to whisper, you could just say "Excuse me, I got something to say". What did she do, issue him death-threats?

Barbie takes the stage and announces her next big plan for Barbie and the Rockers. It is...

Are you ready for this?


Well, I'll say it anyway.

They're going into outer space.

Yes, she says their next big concert dedicated to world peace is going to be performed in outer space.

"Outer space!?" Ken exclaims, neatly mimicing mine and everyone else's feelings while all of the world leaders start applauding at this supposed joke.

Barbie and Ken returns to the... studio I guess... and tell the rest of the band who responds exactly like Ken did. "OUTER SPACE!?" "Yes, outer space!" Would you stop saying that?
Who uses the term "outer space" anyway these days outside of 1950s sci-fi parodies?

"But no one's ever done that before" says Guy-who-still-doesn't-have-a-name.

That's because it's stupid.

"Gee, if we could really pull it of, it'd be super-sensational!"
"Not if. When!" Barbie replies.

So you're not even going to hear what your fellow Rockers have to say about this, Barbie? You're going to force them to go into space regardless of what they think? What does your agent think about this? In fact where is your agent? You killed him, didn't you? By the way, shouldn't NASA have some say in this? What do they think about sending six people with no prior knowledge of spaceflight into outer space to perform a rock concert?

Oh, she does ask the other members of the band what they think of her idea. I still say she should have asked them BEFORE publicly announcing her idea.

Ken seems supportive of her idea however.
"I wouldn't miss this for the world! Uh... for the universe." Hahahaha. Die, Ken. Seriously.

The rest of the band joins in and approves her insane scheme.
I especially like how still-nameless-guy says "okay" with complete apathy.
Apparently he's sceptic towards the idea because, in his words "there's so much to do so quickly".
This guy is now my favourite character if only because he seems to be the only one with some semblance of brain activity. Oh, and turns out his name is Derek.
Derek, you are my number one guy.

"You're right, Derek. But with hard work and a little magic..."

Then she starts dancing again.

For the love of God, Barbie! Can't you even finish a sentence without having to break out into spontaneously dancing? I think you might have some sort of strange dancing disorder.
I especially love how Ken just stands there and stare at her like he's wondering: "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
Turns out it's time for another montage where we get to see the band undergo the training necessary for spaceflight. Kinda. Barbie gets to walk upside down in a giant hamster wheel and sit in one of those centrifugal thingies. And yet her hair stays the same throughout the whole thing. Her hat doesn't even come off! And that is all the training we see. The rest of the montage consist of the girls putting on makeup and Ken and Derek mimicking the opening to Back to the Future.

Cut to... the spaceport. No mention of where this is or how much time has passed but apparently they have a shuttle ready to launch and everything. And the band is now wearing even more ridiculous eighties clothes.
The shuttle itself is wrapped up in yellow gift wrapping with a giant ribbon around it. That must have taken forever to set up. Barbie cuts the ribbon which makes the now white wrapping come off to reveal...


You can't be serious.



"It's... pink!"


"It's... magic!"


Still, the band seems more than happy to board this... thing. So they do.

"I can't believe it's real. Can you?"

No. I quite frankly can not.

We get the mandatory ten second countdown. "Five... four... three... two... one... lift-off!" Check ignition and may God's love be with you.

This is Major Tom to ground control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in the most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

What, I'm not allowed to think about better music while watching this?

Anyhow, Barbie (and the Rockers) are now in space. It was so anticlimactic I hardly noticed. You'd think launching a giant heap of condensed pinkness into space would be something memorable but no.

"There aren't words to describe it." None that you know at least. "Our little world, with so many different people." Yes, I can see how she became an ambassador for world peace.

But our world peace ambassador quickly looses interest in Earth and instead starts gawking at other celestial bodies as yet another montage starts up! What is this? This is like our third montage in the last ten minutes! Actually it's more like a music video this time around and we get shots of Barbie riding around on rainbows and more shots of the horrible, pink space shuttle. And since it might just be music video I probably shouldn't try to bring too much logic into it but I'm not sure what solar system this is supposed to take place in.

We see a small red planet which could be Mars and a bigger planet which could be Jupiter since you can also see Saturn. But there's no asteroid field to speak of and Jupiter is blue for some reason. Then we see five other planets that I have no idea what they are supposed to be and probably shouldn't be located so closely to each other.

Barbie, the Rockers and the unfortunate space shuttle then reach a space station in the shape of the flower that I guess was set up solely for this concert. Man, the space program sure was way ahead of it's time in the 1980's. Not only could we set up space stations outside the solar system and travel there in no time at all. Barbie and friends didn't even need to put on spacesuits or anything throughout the entire trip. And no ill effects from radiation, space sickness or any negative effects on bones or bodily fluids whatsoever.

But that's not all. Upon landing Barbie (and the Rockers) are greeted by some twenty people who have come out to meet them IN THE DOCKING BAY. I guess in the eighties we also evolved past our need to breath. Barbie is shocked because she wasn't expecting such an audience. (Speaking of which what's the point of even having a concert in space? No one is gonna be able to come see it.) They even have a dressing room set up!

This leads us to asdjhjvsjdvhlyig ANOTHER MONTAGE! We had one not 50 seconds ago! Oh, and now they're all weightless despite the fact that they weren't just a moment ago. So they slip into even more hideous eighties clothes. I especially like the part where they put on their shoes because although Barbie and her three friends are weightless their shoes are not.

Dr, Leonard, the... uhh... guy in charge of the space station I guess... summons an elevator to take them to the stage. He apologizes for not having a limousine ready to take them there but Barbie and her five idiot friends are so blown away by this amazing invention called an elevator that they forgive him.

He shows them the severely underwhelming stage (Not enough pink, dammit!) and asks them what they think. "Yeah, you did a great job" responds Derek again with complete apathy as if to say: "Eh, we're putting on a concert for world peace in space".
But that's not all. Dr Leonard pushes a button which opens up the roof of the station in the form of pink flower petals. That's what this station was missing! Now the mockery of all of God's creation is complete. We have giant pink flower with a bad 80s pop-band inside floating around in space.

But now it's time for the big live concert. Apparently this is going to be aired on television seeing as how there are cameramen standing by. Does anyone out there know how long it would take for this footage to reach Earth? Then again, it seems that all of a sudden the DeathFlower is orbiting Earth instead of the outer rims of the solar system. I don't know. I was entirely too distracted by the fact that Barbie (and the Rockers) aren't even going to bother rehearsing or at the very least have some kind of program prepared for this big, world-changing concert. They just run straight onto the stage and start broadcasting.

We cut back to Earth where everyone is applauding this train wreck and Barbie proceeds to thank them (how would you know when they are applauding?) by saying "thank you" in every single language. I take it this is going to take a while.
"For this very special moment I've written a very special song. I'd like to sing it for you." Really? I thought you were going to wipe your ass with it!

We then get to hear this "very special song" and... well, it's not terrible. It's not even bad but I have to ask what an 80s rock song with the lyrics "everybody rock" repeated over and over again and is guaranteed to feel outdated ten years from now have to do at all with world peace and the unification of mankind. The neon light show erupting from the pink space flower doesn't make more sense of the situation.

Barbie then drones in her usual, monotone voice: "Today is the first day of world peace. If we all want it enough it won't be the last." All in a rather creepy, robotic manner with her eyes fixed on the screen like this is part of some evil brainwashing scheme.

"Obey Barbie. Or I will kill you. And everyone you love."

Whatever, film's over. There's a part two that I'm planning on reviewing as well but now I gotta go do something manly like play Gears of War to try and wash away all the pink I've had to endure. See you around.

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