Tinker Bell Review

This review was previously posted on my column over at ldsblogs.com. I would love if you guys checked out that column and maybe added a comment or two.  It would make my day!

Welcome to another week’s pick for Family Movie Night!   This marks my 10th entry in this column (12th video on my channel).  I’ve really enjoyed working on the series so I hope you have as well.

Today I hope I can introduce you to a series which may have fallen outside your radar. Since 1953’s Peter Pan, Tinker Bell has become one of the most iconic figures in all of Disney.  Tinker Bell is even the one that puts the sparkly ring around the castle in the Disney logo.  With this kind of notoriety, it was probably only a matter of time before everyone’ favorite fairy got the starring treatment in a Disney film.  And not only one film but a series of to this point 7 films!

It might seem easy to discount a direct to DVD series like the Fairies franchise but I’m telling you they are well done.  The voice talent is top notch.  The animation is bright and colorful and the stories are predictable but entertaining.  But most importantly I like what the characters and message give to young girls who the franchise is mainly aimed at.

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With the exception of Frozen it is no secret girls get the short end of the stick when it comes to magic or superheroes in animated movies. Of the 13 current Disney princesses (or Princesses in waiting as Elsa and Anna are designated.  ), Elsa and Rapunzel are the only ones with magical powers.  Many Disney female villains have magical powers like Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Madame Mim, Ursula, or Mother Gothel but basically none of the good girls (strange isn’t it?).  The fairies from Sleeping Beauty are one of the only notable exceptions but they are the side characters not the leads.

You could say the same thing about other popular franchises which sometimes have a token hero female like Black Widow in Avengers, Hermione in Harry Potter, or Wonder Woman in Justice League.

This makes what girls get in the Tinker Bell series special because it is almost all about girls and they each have a special power that makes them unique.

In the first film, Tinker Bell, we get to see Tink created (Mae Whitman) and find out she has a special skill called tinkering- basically a knack for inventing things and putting stuff together.  The problem is she lives in Pixie Hollow and the most prestigious job is to be part of the nature fairies who go to the mainland and wake it up for the day and help the seasons change.

The main pixies of the series are introduced to us in Tinker Bell and they are:

tinkerbell-and-friends-disney-movie-tinker-bell-open-walls-1179903Rosetta (Kristin Chenoweth)- she is our garden fairy who helps things get planted, take root and grow

Iridessa (Raven-Symone)- she is the fairy of light that lights fireflies and brings the world out of darkness

Silvermist (Lucy Lieu)- she is the fairy over water and helps make dewdrops for the plants.

Fawn– (America Ferrera)- she is the fairy of nature and connects with all the animals in the forest.

There is also  Vidia (Pamela Adlon) who is Tink’s rival and Queen Clarion (Angelica Huston) who rules Pixie Hollow.

Tink likes working in the tinkering department but she is still jealous of the nature fairies that can wake up the mainland.  This makes the main story of Tinker Bell a unique one of Tink both learning to value her own talents and abilities while also expanding into new worlds  and dreams.

The voice work is top notch in this and all the Tinker Bell films and this first film sets the groundwork for all the characters and the world we will get for 7 more films..  Think of it as an origin story in a way.  It is not one of the best of the series but it is a good first step into the world of Pixie Hollow.

Tinkerbell-And-Friends-e1395939724591And I do like the message of accepting who you are while still dreaming big.  Overall, it is a well animated, entertaining first step into a great series  especially your daughter will love.  Think of it as the Avengers for girls!

That said, I don’t think your boys will have a terrible time watching Tinker Bell.  There are several boy characters and girls like Fawn who are more tomboys.  It’s not like the Barbie movies which are more exclusively girls only.

Tinker Bell is definitely a film and series that is geared more towards children but I find them tight enough and engaging enough to greatly enjoy.  Just give them a try and have an open mind and I bet you will like them too.

Enjoy your time in Pixie Hollow!

To see the rest of Rachel's reviews, click here.
To see the rest of Rachel’s reviews, click here.

I would love to get some feedback from the readers on these choices for Family Movie Night.  I have tried to do a variety so you aren’t watching the same type of movie each week; however, if you’d like more of a particular style or type please let me know.  Put in the comment section any feedback on how your kids react to this or any other film I have reviewed.

Thanks so much!  Rachel

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Pirate Fairy: A Review

pirate fairy5In 2014 20 films were submitted to the Oscars for consideration.  Of that 20 I have seen 17 (including the film reviewing right now).  Of the remaining 3, one should be coming up in the next week or so and two I have found impossible to find (Cheating and Giovanni’s Island. If anyone knows a way clue me in!).  Three I am not reviewing on this site because they are garbage and I try to only review movies I have at least one positive thing to say about aside from the Disney Canon which I reviewed all of them.  If people really want me too review them let me know.  The three garbage films are Nut Job, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return and The Hero of Color City.  If you want to read a review tearing apart three movies I will do it but only if by request (this is a hobby after all, so it should be something I enjoy). 🙂

But today I get to review the 6th installment in the Tinker bell series produced by Disney Toons, the mostly direct to video wing of Walt Disney. My blogging friend over at Animatedkid is reviewing the entire Disney Toons Canon (bless his heart…). The movies are terrible but his reviews are great so check it out.  The Tinker bell movies may seem like masterpieces by the time he gets to them! https://animatedkid.wordpress.com/

I’m actually excited to talk about this movie because the entire Tinker Bell series are way better than you might at first think. They are pretty well animated, have decent stories and good voice performances.  Are they Oscar worthy?  No but they really are  entertaining, well made movies.

And I’d say The Pirate Fairy is the best of the series I have seen.  It’s a cute little  story which I think girls will love.

pirate fairy2The story for The Pirate Fairy is centered around a fairy named Zarina (voiced by Christina Hendricks of Madmen fame).  She is a curious fairy and is easily bored doing her job as a dust-keeper (in the Fairy world all the pixies have distinct roles like Animal Keeper, Spring Fairy etc).

The Dust Keepers make pixie dust for all the other pixies to use and they have an assembly line that follows time tested methods for making yellow dust that is magic out of concentrated blue stones.

dust keeper homeZarina wants to know why they do things the way they do and she begins experimenting with different combinations of dust causing different reactions.  Unfortunately one of those reactions causes a kind of explosion and Zarina is forbidden from being a dust keeper.

After Pixie Hollow celebrates the seasons, Zarina runs away and takes the blue dust with her. Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman), Silvermist (Lucy Liu), Iridessa (Raven-Symone), Rosetta (Megan Hilty), Fawn (Angela Bartys) and Vidia (Pamela Adion) go after her . It’s a fun collection of girls and personalities- kind of like the fairy world Avengers ;).

pirate fairy3

When they find Zarina it turns out she has become a pirate (captain no less) on a ship with James Hook (voiced by Tom Hiddleston!). He is of course up to no good!

pirate fairy9The rest of the movie is a back and forth between the girls, Hook and the pirates.  Eventually Zarina realizes Hook is just using her to get the pixie dust so his ship will be able to fly. The girls have to defeat Hook, rescue Zarina and get back the blue stones.

pirate fairy4So yes The Pirate Fairy doesn’t reinvent the wheel but there are a lots of little winks to the original Peter Pan movie like showing the origin of the clock in the crocodile or how Hook met Mr Smee.  The girls have fun personalities and Zarina is very likable.  Hiddleston hams it up as Hook and overall it’s not a bad watch. It’s not quite special enough to be worthy of a B but still a strong recommendation especially for the target audience.

I think girls 5 and under will love it and it has a nice message about being curious, smart and valuing everyone’s unique gifts.

The animation is pretty good with the pixie dust sparkling all over the ship and characters.  As I said the voicework is good and Joel McNeely does a great job with the music.

If you have a young girl I think they will really enjoy The Pirate Fairy. For what it is trying to be it does it very well.

Overall Grade- C+  (Not every movie has to be a masterpiece for me to heartily recommend it).

Consider the Audience

As I’ve been watching all these Disney movies a thought has struck me which I want to present to all of you.  When is a movie just not made for me? What responsibility does a movie have to please a general audience verses a niche group?

On first glance it seems like there are movies that entertain every demographic.  Pixar films are often brought up.  However, even their movies have typically pleased some audiences more than others.  For instance, Toy Story 3 was universally praised by critics and most audiences, but my nieces found the ending with the incinerator to be too upsetting. They didn’t like it at all.

Toy_Story_3_incinerator_scene_screenshotSo should they have taken the incinerator scene out because it upset my nieces?  Well, that depends who they are  making a movie for? As my nieces were a secondary audience, not the primary the scene stays and is actually a very profound, tense and exciting moment for most viewers.

This invites lots of interesting questions.  In fact, my thoughts are very scattered on the topic and I’m struggling to focus them in a coherent way.

Here’s some points to consider:

Small audiences need and deserve stories for them.

barbie movies

Let’s face it.  We live in a world where movies are the predominant storytelling device of our age.  More so than books and I still think more so than TV, especially for children.  So imagine how difficult is to be say 3 or 4 and hear about all the exciting movies your brothers and sisters get to see.  Things like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings that are not appropriate for your age group.   Even most Disney movies are not made for the smallest kids.

Tinker-Bell-Movie-Three-Pack

That’s what makes it nice when movies are made for these toddler to preschool age audience.  For example, the Barbie movies, Tinker Bell movies are made for girls 3-7 and for that demographic they are made very well.  I haven’t seen all of them but the one’s I have were engaging and very well done.  Now a 50 year old movie critic could tear them apart but they aren’t made for him, so who cares?  (I’d give boy examples but I only have nieces so don’t know any). I think it is great girls have their own franchises and films to get excited about and learn from.  That’s great!

An even more narrow audience for movies is the toddler age.  Part of this is because 1-3 aged children can’t sit for the length of a movie.  This is one reason I loved the 2011 Winnie the Pooh movie.  I don’t want to give away my review but it is a rare Hollywood movie made for very small children.  First of all, it is extremely short.  It has simple ideas and plot but lovingly told.  Even the other Winnie the Pooh movies I have seen are too scary and usually too long for toddlers. It uses repetition and is friendly and happy, which toddlers love.  The music is hummable and sweet.

I can’t even think of other movies for toddlers, which are even made, and even fewer that are made well (Curious George movie was a good one that gets a lot of flack from those outside its intended audience).  Most entertainment for toddlers is television (and I don’t think toddlers should spend much time in front of the TV if any but most parents need a moment or two for a break.  Let’s be honest!).   Should these shows worry about being entertaining to teenage boys or 2o year old college students?  No.  That’s not their audience!

toddlersAnother example of a narrow audience is religious films . With the affordability of digital film-making, movies can be made for a smaller audience and still be profitable.  This gives us movies like the evangelical films of Kirk Cameron or the Mormon films made for my faith.

mormonShould someone making a Mormon film worry about pleasing an Evangelical or an Atheist?  No, that isn’t their audience.  Any movie who tried to make all religious groups happy would have a tall order.  It could be done with good writing but there is something nice about having a movie made, telling a story just from my religious perspective.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Now is an audience an excuse to making a bad film? No. If anything you should put more effort into telling a story for your smaller audience.  It should be even better than the average Hollywood schlock because you have a more narrow window of people to appeal too.  That’s why I hate when people say ‘it’s for kids’ as if that somehow means it is stupid.  The best kids movies inspire their creativity and imagination.  The best Mormon films make me want to be a better person (and I’ll be honest I’m not the biggest fan of most of them).

It angers me when I can tell filmmakers of any genre are being lazy.  Your audience, no matter how narrow, deserve a good effort.  (For the record, I feel the same way about Michael Bay movies.  His audiences deserve more of an effort to make a good film).   I should be able to walk away from a movie and say ‘well, that didn’t work for me but I can see who they were trying to reach and how some could enjoy it’.

Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame_gargoyles

Another problem we can have is when a movie doesn’t understand its audience.

Hunchback of Notre Dame is a perfect example.  Even its defenders usually admit it is a mature film not for small children.  But the studio still wanted it to be for small children and their families so they threw in kidlike violence and humor which ruined the movie.  It’s way too dark for these kids and the immature moments are off-putting for adults.  It makes it a tonal mess and a frustrating experience.  If they had just said ‘you know what . This movie is for adults’ like Pans Labyrinth or even the later Harry Potter films it would have been a favorite of mine.  As it is I just can’t endorse it.   Trying to appeal to the wrong audience, or too many audiences, ruined the film.

We can also have films who have a main and secondary audience.  This is what Pixar does well.  Children are the primary audience with parents being the secondary.  This makes sense since both are usually at the theater watching (a lot of the age specific films I listed above are direct to DVD which is probably the best way to appeal to some audiences). What I personally hate is when the secondary audience sullies the primary, or takes over the tone and feel of the film.  This was my issue with the Shrek movies . Instead of a few jokes, the innuendo is so strong the films feel vulgar to me.  I honestly hate them.

So, the priority is making a good movie but in order for that to happen filmmakers must ask themselves ‘who is my audience?’  and we as filmgoers need to be willing to say ‘this just isn’t made for me’.  It’s not bad for a film to be made for toddlers or any other demographic.  That is very good because they can participate with us in this great storytelling device of the movies.

All audiences deserve quality and to have movies made for them to enjoy.

Movie 14: Peter Pan

Now we have come to arguably one of the most iconic Disney movies ever made, Peter Pan.  Aside from other studios brands like the lamp in the Pixar logo no other movie has created a female character that has become more powerful in Disney branding than Tinker Bell in Peter Pan.  You could argue she is the most iconic character in all of Disney next to Mickey.

tinkerbell logo
Tinker Bell is often featured in the Disney logo and her pixie is always surrounding the castle. This DVD logo showed her the most prominently.

It’s kind of surprising when you think about it that in 1953 a character dressed like Tinker Bell could become so iconic with Disney.  And no she is not modeled after Marilyn Monroe as some rumors have suggested.

But does the movie Peter Pan live up to the legacy of the Tinker Bell creation?  This is a tricky question.  I had a tough time researching for this review.  My normal sites and resources for getting production notes and details didn’t have much and I couldn’t even find that many clips and photos to show you.

That said, I have some ideas of my own on what they were trying to do with Peter Pan.  Call it conjecture or an educated guess but I suppose that is all right in a blog.  Feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree.

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JUMBLED UP THOUGHTS ON PAN

Let’s start with the story.  Peter Pan is based on the play by JM Barrie and like Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella it was another story which was near and dear to Walt.  He hoped to do it earlier but he had trouble getting the rights.  Finally with the war years behind them Walt started doing features again and the success of Cinderella allowed him to make Alice and Peter Pan.

Peter Pan is of course about the Darling children Wendy, Michael and John who tell each other stories about Peter Pan- the boy who never grew up.  One evening they meet Peter and he takes them to Neverland where they meet the villainous pirate Captain Hook, as well as Lost Boys, mermaids, and an Indian tribe.

The original play is much darker than the Disney version, which is a pretty big departure for the studio.  It’s actually kind of surprising given their track record of embracing darker themes and scenes (think Pinocchio).  For example, in the play Tinker Bell is just a fragment of light but she decides to drink the poison intended for Peter Pan and dies.  It is pretty sad and something I think previous Disney films would have included.  For some reason, they not only took out the darkness but went in the polar opposite direction making the film very light and comedic in tone with long sections of slapstick.

My guess is the action adventure TV and radio shows in the early 50s were especially popular with young boys. Shows like The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and Adventures of Superman were big hits.  Disney had also made the live action Treasure Island film in 1950.  All of these shows and movies had a combination of action and humor and their influence can be seen clearly  in Peter Pan.

sword fightingWe can also see the attempt to appeal to boys in the way Wendy is treated.  She is nothing but sweet and kind throughout and yet she is told she talks too much, shot at, almost drowned and walks the plank.  I had never noticed that before this watching…

mermaidsLike I said earlier, I was surprised this go-around how much slapstick is in the movie.  Most of it involves Captain Hook, who is a genius of a character.  Disney takes what was a menacing but foppish character in the play and makes him a conniving, smart captain who is prone to pratfalls and scrapes.

This scene is one of the best comedic scenes in all of Disney.   I certainly don’t think we see such a comedic villain again in Disney until Robin Hood’s Prince John.

It’s very funny!  The vocal performance by Hans Conried on Captain Hook is also one of the best in the history of animation.

Another great scene with the captain:

The music is interesting in Peter Pan.  It is playing in nearly every scene kind of like Bambi. While there are several good songs, it all feels more commercial and less substantial than previous films.  My  favorites are Second Star to the Right and You Can Fly.

There are also several good songs by the pirates and they are sprightly and fun.

I think these pirate shanty’s might be the first villain songs in Disney although they are more sung to Captain Hook and not by him.

A few of the other songs like Your Mother sung by Wendy are more bland throwaways.

Then we have the indians or injuns as this movie likes to call them.  Much like the crows in Dumbo, many modern viewers feel the scenes are racist.  But where I defended Dumbo because the crows were friendly and singing about elephants, it is hard to defend the scenes in Peter Pan.

red man2First of all, the scenes with the Indians are longer than the crows and they are much more culturally insensitive.  The song ‘What Made the Red Man Red’ while a catchy melody is pretty bad.  There is a line in the song that says:

Why does he ask ho?

Once the injun didn’t know

All the things that he know now

But the injun, he sure learn a lot

And that’s from asking ‘How’?

I squirm a little just typing it.  It’s one more reason why I think Disney was trying to play into the Lone Ranger and other Western shootem ups audience that were popular.  Such a stereotypical depiction of Native Americans was typically found on such shows of the 50s.

The other thing that is a bit of a disappointment in Peter Pan is it’s not that pretty.  Even the package films had moments that felt like art.  I don’t know if it is just the slapstick but there aren’t many moments in Peter Pan where I sit back and say ‘wow, that is beautiful’.  This is surprising because Peter Pan had the entire Gang of 9 and Mary Blair who made such a huge influence artistically in Alice in Wonderland.

The flying scenes and the scenes at the end with the ship are lovely but really that is it as far as artistry.

shipNow I don’t want to seem like I am being too hard on Peter Pan.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with creating a comedy for kids.  And the slapstick scenes are done very well.   This scene at the end where Hook gets his comeuppance is extremely funny.

In a lot of ways I compare Peter Pan with Aladdin, with the latter having the definite edge.  But both movies were made to appeal to boys more than girls.  Both had huge secondary characters and bland main characters and  both had male villains.  Nothing wrong with that.

In a way it is interesting Tinker Bell came out of Peter Pan as the star.  She’s kind of a bitter fairy throughout the whole movie and for not really a good reason.  She is angry from the start that Peter is almost kissed by Wendy and tries to have her killed, betrays her location to Hook and all the rest. (all the women in Peter Pan are pretty vindictive and jealous over Peter which is strange considering he’s just a boy).

tink madPart of her success probably also has to do with Walt’s attachment to Tinker Bell.  She was often featured on his TV show.  Here he is with her in 1966 (his last appearance on TV).

I suppose Tinker Bell encapsulated the magic that Walt Disney loved.  The pixie dust could make dreams come true!

Conclusion

For me Peter Pan is a mixed bag.  2 great characters, fun action, a few good songs,  and some very funny comedic bits.  That is certainly enough to give it a hearty recommendation to adults and children alike.  However, it is not enough for it to be a top-tiered Disney film in my book.  It’s good but it doesn’t blow me away with artistry, music, story or message.  Plus, there is  the ‘red man’ scenes which can leave a bad taste in my mouth.

So for me…

Overall Grade- C+