Chief Justice Michael Stailey defies fairy classification...or so he would have us believe.
Our review of Tinker Bell (Blu-Ray), published January 14th, 2009, is also available.
Enter the World of Fairies.
For a project that had endured so much turmoil over the past two and a half years, from major story overhauls to replacing their leading lady, Tinker Bell turns out of be a sweet, subtle entrance into a whole new world for fans and animators alike.
Facts of the Case
Born from the laughter of a baby, a new fairy (voiced by Mae Whitman) arrives in the heart of Neverland's Pixie Hollow, at the base of the Pixie Tree. This fully formed female is welcomed into the fairy community by Queen Clarion (voiced by Angelica Huston) and all her subjects, who watch in great anticipation as the initiation ceremony determines reveals her special talents to be that of a master "Tinker." Tinkers are the engineers of the fairy world, creating the tools that assist the Nature Fairies in changing the seasons on "The Mainland," better known as our world. Yes, these sprites are responsible for everything from the Fall color change to the painted spots on each lady bug. Sadly, Tink does not enjoy her role behind the scenes and convinces her friends to help change her talents so that she too may visit The Mainland as a Nature Fairy. But as is often the case with those of us who deny our true selves, disaster looms large for Tinker Bell, and it is only by embracing her God given talents that she can rally all of Pixie Hollow to help divert a Mainland disaster not seen since the Ice Age.
Under the watchful eye of former Disney chair Michael Eisner, the company set out to bleed dry every existing property to fill the company coffers and bolster shareholder value. This edict gave us such lasting films as Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, The Return of Jafar, and Belle's Magical World. Thankfully, following the installation of Bob Iger as head mouse and the merger with Pixar, the creative disdain for these direct-to-video films helped shut down the assembly line. The only three projects to survive the John Lasseter-driven worthiness gauntlet were The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, Toy Story 3 (currently in development), and the proposed Fairies line spearheaded by flagship release of Tinker Bell.
When first announced back in 2006 at the International Licensing Expo, Disney unveiled Brittany Murphy as the actress who would give voice to Tinker Bell, one of the company's most recognizable characters, and one who had been mute since her debut in Walt's 1953 production of Peter Pan. But when Lasseter and his team came in to re-evalute the project, Murphy was sent packing and the story was reworked using the classic film as its foundation. This pushed the release back a year from its original Fall 2007, scrapped a four year, multi-million dollar merchandising campaign tied into its release and aimed squarely at the 8-12 year tweens too old for the "Disney Princesses."
But somehow Lasseter's magic touch can spin gold out of the most ill conceived creative disasters. Tinker Bell is an enchanting origin story which not only fleshes out the character, but introduces us to race of creatures and an area of Neverland we have yet to explore. Owing much to the Harry Potter mythos, Pixie Hollow is divided into boroughs, much like Hogwarts houses. When a new fairy is born, the Queen welcomes them by allowing the various icons of the boroughs to resonate with the new arrival. In Tink's case, it was the hammer of the Tinker fairies that drew itself to her, burning brighter than any fairy in memory. But their existence as worker bees isn't the glamorous life Tink sees in her friends Rosetta (voice by Kristin Chenoweth), Silvermist (Lucy Liu), Iridessa (Raven-Symone), and Fawn (America Ferrera). It's through this questioning of one's self that we see the character develop the many personality traits Tink has been identified with over the past 55 years. And it's message of understanding and embracing our own uniqueness, especially in the face of peer pressure and jealousy, will come through loud and clear to the film's target audience.
Lead by the charming Mae Whitman—who most will know as George Michael's less-than-memorable girlfriend Ann on Arrested Development—the cast does a fantastic job of developing distinct and enjoyable personalities for each of the spotlight fairies. We also get comic relief in the form of Clank (Jeff Bennett), Bobble (Rob Paulson), and Cheese (likely to be a fan favorite), and an adversary for Tink in the form of Vidia (Pamela Adlon) who is sure to be back with a vengeance. At a quick paced 78 minutes, the story flies by and may leave your young'uns wanting more. But, since this is the first of four planned features—with the second being 2009's Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure—you can expect to see much more exploration of these characters in the years to come.
While those with Blu-ray players will definitely want the high-def treatment, this standard definition release is anything but second class. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Tinker Bell is a beautiful film. Unlike most 3D computer animation these days, the Pixar influence can be found in every frame, from the soft expressive detail of the character designs, to the rich majesty of Pixie Hollow's many magical environments. DisneyToon has long been identified as the cheap television stepchild of the Disney animation empire, but hats off to the entire artistic team for going the extra mile and creating a world fans will look forward to spending more time in. The Dolby 5.1 audio mix is lush with strong Celtic sensibilities thanks to Joel McNeely's resonant orchestral score and ethereal children's choir enhancing the inherent magic of the film.
In terms of Bonus features, "Creating Pixie" is a 10 minute making of featurette that glosses over the development troubles and focuses on what brought them to the final version. Six deleted scenes, with optional introductions by director Brad Raymond and producer Jeannine Roussel, give you a glimpse of what the abandoned story might have been and I'm sure you'll agree they made the right choice. "Ever Wonder" is a fun animation-infused live action look at the magic fairies bring to our world on a daily basis. "Magical Guide to Pixie Hollow" is an interactive guide to Pixie Hollow with Tinker Bell and Queen Clarion serving as our docents. "Tinker Trainer" is an DVD ROM tool that helps you explore your own inner-Tinker gifts. And "Fly to Your Heart" is a music video for the film's title song, as performed by Disney Channel's latest princess, Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place).
Fans of the classic Peter Pan need not fear that the book or the film have been bastardized in any way. In fact, Tinker Bell dovetails nicely into the mythos, layering even more pixie dust on the already intricate tapestry woven by J.M. Barie and Walt's Nine Old Men. In fact, those fond of the magical innocence of the first two Harry Potter books will find much of the same enjoyment here. While geared towards young girls, there's more than enough here for the entire family to enjoy.
A worthy enhancement to the Disney-defined world of Peter Pan.
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Scales of Justice
• "Creating Pixie Hollow"
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