After growing up in the 90’s, the thought of watching a straight-to-video Disney film is one that did not really interest me. Most of the sequels they released were unanimously terrible and only a few gems glimmered out of the river of ankle-deep sewage. Oddly enough, shortly after Disney announced that it’s DisneyToon Studios would not be releasing it’s straight to video sequels (despite the fact that they are now making a spin-off to Cars called Planes, which will probably be just as bad as most of the straight-to-video sequels), it announced a completely different take on the trend of films they had been releasing since 1994’s Return of Jafar: a series of films based off of Tinker Bell.
Now many people would ask: how do you make a series of films based off of a character who doesn’t even speak? The answer is simple, make it all about fairies and not include Peter Pan whatsoever (a decision that personally cut me to the core, but that’s neither here nor there) and in turn, create a completely brand new line of merchandising akin to the Princess line that would act off of Tinker Bell’s already suprisingly devoted fanbase.
Just as an aside, Tinker Bell is one of the oddest characters in the Disney canon. People love Tinker Bell in that she is one of Disney’s mascots and is always present in firework shows, and has been used in the introductions for shows like Disneyland, so her appearance is one that is highly saturated and ripe for people loving her without actually knowing anything about her besides the fact that she is a fairy and is magic. That being said, her actual character in Peter Pan is one that is really either loved or hated. People who like her, adore her for her “sassiness” because of how she jealously treats Wendy; people who hate her think she is just mean and cruel for the same reason that the other crowd loves her. I wanted to like Tinker Bell mostly due to the fact that I love her character design, and Marc Davis’ animation on her is amazing, but I was unfortunately in the latter camp despite my knowledge of her character and why she was acting the way she did.
Luckily, the first Tinker Bell movie allowed me to actually like her character for the first time in my life.
The film opens on the “birth” of Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman, Katara from Avatar: the Last Airbender, Roxy Richter from Scott Pilgrim VS the World, and Ann Veal in Arrested Development) from the first laugh of a newborn baby and we find out that all of the fairies in the world live in a location within Neverland called Pixie Hollow and that they each are magically assigned to a job when they are born. They can be a garden fairy, a water fairy, light fairy, animal fairy, and others. Tinker Bell is a tinker fairy, a fairy who fixes and creates items and tools for the other fairies, but is not quite in love with her job. Her new friends Rosetta (Kristin Chenoweth), Iridessa (Raven-Symone), Fawn (America Ferrera) and Silvermist (Lucy Liu) try to teach Tinker Bell about their jobs to see if she has the talent to do them, and of course, she fails on a spectacular fashion. The fairies are all preparing for the changing of the seasons from winter to spring, as they change the seasons on Earth, and in a spectacular Disney fashion, Tinker Bell ends up ruining the preparations, but learns that she has the power to create and tries to save it.
Tinker Bell is a much more likable character in this film than she is in Peter Pan. She’s sweet, curious, and determined to figure out her role in the world, but she does have that jealous and angry streak that was present in Peter Pan, it’s just not a constant thing like it was in that film.
One of the things I noticed about the film were that there are a few similarities that can be derived between this film and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that I could not help but notice. Both feature characters trying to figure out their role in life (Tinker Bell and the Cutie Mark Crusaders), both feature the changing of seasons actually being caused by the characters. They’re not huge, but they definitely exist.
I fully expected this movie to be bad, and not that awesome kind of bad (in other words, the Pac Man effect: when a film is so bad it goes all the way around to being good), the really, really, genuinely awful kind of bad. A year or two after the film was released in 2008, I spent some time over at my neighbor’s house with their young children who were watching Tinker Bell and I was genuinely surprised that it was not only watchable, but that I wanted to actually watch it in it’s entirety. It’s not a remarkably good movie, but it is very entertaining to watch. The animation is good, not great, but good. The characters are well designed, but a lot of the faces look very similar and move in kind of a weird way. The music is nothing special, but it’s passable and it doesn’t intrude on the film.
If you’re a Tinker Bell fan, you’ve probably already seen this film, but if you aren’t a fan of the fairy you should still see it. It’s a pretty good film that above all else, entertains. I’m definitely interested in seeing the other Disney Fairy films and will probably get to those sometime in the next few weeks.