Every once in awhile there comes a story so familiar and yet unexplored, that you can’t help but wonder why it took so long to be told. Tinker Bell is one of Disney’s most beloved characters and yet her story has never been fully shared, that is until now. “Tinker Bell” is the latest direct to DVD animated film from Disney. While many of the direct to DVD titles from Disney are decent enough, they often lack something special, something magical, something that has garnered Disney a place amongst great storytellers. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that “Tinker Bell” is one of the strongest Disney direct-to-DVD films in recent memory.
“Tinker Bell” begins with the narrator sharing how fairies are born, “The first time that a baby laughs, a fairies life takes flight.” And from there the story, too, takes flight as we watch the wind carry a bit of a dandelion all the way to Pixie Hollow where Queen Clarion (Anjelica Huston) and the rest of the fairies gather to see what new fairy will arrive. With some pixie dust, the dandelion seed becomes Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman). From there, Tinker Bell must learn her talent, so that she may become part of the fairy community. Turns out, Tinker Bell is a tinker, a fairy that makes things in order to help all the other fairies achieve their goals and bring the seasons to pass.
Tinker Bell is initially taken with the idea of being a tinker and having a place in the fairy world. She meets two energetic tinkers, Bobble (Rob Paulsen) and Clank (Jeff Bennett) who take her around to see how things work, like fairies painting leaves and painting dots on lady bugs. Her new friends introduce her to some of the springtime fairies: Rosetta (Kristin Chenoweth), Fawn (America Ferrera), Silvermist (Lucy Liu), and Iridessa (Raven-Symoné) who gladly show her what they do and tell her how they gather elements of spring to take to the mainland. When Tinker Bell hears about the mainland, she is instantly determined to go along. There’s only one little problem, Tinkers don’t go to the mainland, they stay behind and create the objects that ensure the other fairies can get to the mainland on time to bring seasons change.
Tinker Bell runs into trouble with Vidia, a fairy who does a little bit of everything for every season. Vidia instantly doesn’t like Tinker Bell and tries at any chance she can to sabotage the new fairy. She tells Tinker Bell she doesn’t do anything special, which only ignites Tinker Bell’s desire to do more with herself and prove that tinkers are special. She decides that she must go to the mainland to prove it. While flying about, bitter from her encounter with Vidia, Tinker Bell discovers pieces of human items on a beach. Bubble and Clank tell her that they’re “lost things” that come from the mainland to Neverland. Before she can fiddle with them, the tinkering expert, Fairy Mary (Jane Horrocks) takes them away not realizing what they may be worth.
With spring approaching, Queen Clarion is coming to review all the preparations, which means the fairies have a chance to make a good impression. This gives Tinker Bell the idea to invent something so wonderful that she will prove to the Queen and Vidia that she is special. Unfortunately for Tinker Bell, her plans go awry. Determined she’s not just a tinker, she sets off to have her new friends Rosetta, Fawn, Silvermist and Iridessa teach her how to do what they do so that she can prove she’s worthy of going to the mainland.
The spring fairies try to help her, but Tinker Bell can’t quite get the hang of it. She wanders off discouraged and once again finds “lost things”. She puts the items together enthusiastically only to discover she’s fixed a jewelry box. The spring fairies see what she’s done and tell her that she really is a tinker, after all she was tinkering with those parts and made something beautiful. But Tinker Bell refuses to listen and seeks help from her last hope, Vidia. Vidia, of course, leads her in the wrong direction. Tinker Bell only ends up causing more damage, resulting in the entire springtime square being destroyed. Without the items gathered for spring, there can be no Spring.
As Tinkerbell sits alone, she finds the “lost things” Fairy Mary took and begins tinkering with them. Before long, she has a plan to save Spring. The other fairies hear her plan and rally around her, working together with Tinker Bell’s new inventions that integrate pieces of nature and items from the mainland in hopes of saving Spring.
All of the talented voice work here is light and energetic and wonderfully portrayed. Bradley Raymond’s direction offers several touching and beautiful moments. The ending is especially moving, tying the story of Tinker Bell and Peter Pan together with subtlety and charm. The inventions in “Tinker Bell” are rather clever and the fairy homes and Pixie Hollow are marvelously imagined and brought to life. The art design of the film is truly stunning from beginning to end. While the look of the fairies are charming, it’s the design of their habitats and the items they use to create seasons that truly add to this film. It’s wonderful how the story isn’t just about Tinker Bell, but about the importance of seasons and the role they play in our lives. “Tinker Bell” is a truly imaginative story with lots of elements that add to its abundance of charm and that little something you always hope for with Disney - magic.
VIDEO: : “Tinker Bell” is presented by Disney in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is generally excellent, as the bright, poppy animation looked crisp and clear throughout. Some minor edge enhancement appeared, but no artifacting or other issues were encountered. Colors looked bold, well-saturated and crisp, with no smearing. Black level also remained solid, as well.
SOUND: The film is presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1. Although activity is fairly tame, the material doesn't create much in the way of opportunities for aggressive use of the surrounds and most viewers in the young target audience will probably find the rather basic sound design enjoyable enough. Dialogue and effects are strong and clear, and the music remains rich throughout.
“Magical Guide to Pixie Hollow”
You get to pick which area of Pixie Hollow you want to learn more about. There’s Sunflower Meadow, Springtime Square, and The Pixie Dust Tree. In each section Tinker Bell and Queen Clarion talk about some of the fairies that live there and what they do. This is a quick, but lovely storybook look at some imaginative fairies and the area of Pixie Hollow they occupy. With upbeat narration from Tinker Bell and Queen Clarion, it’s worth a peek.
“Tinker Trainer” - DVD-ROM activity
Opening with “Have you ever wondered”, this live action glimpse at all the magical things in nature that occur around us everyday. As children and families go to school and walk around their neighborhood, we see fairies adding dew drops to spider webs, growing grass and flowers, painting a rainbow in a sprinkler and tinker bell fixing a little girls toy. This has a sweet ending, but is otherwise somewhat hokey.
“Fly to your Heart”- Music Video by Selena Gomez
In a section marked, To The Mainland (next to the ballerina), there are more features including:
“Creating Pixie Hollow”
A behind the scenes look at how “Tinker Bell” came to be. Discussion of Tinker Bell being one of Disney’s most iconic characters takes place and how everyone involved wanted to be sure that they did the character justice when taking on the responsibility of creating her back-story. This is a wonderful look at how the world of Pixie Hollow was created and what information/inspiration the creators drew upon including Disney’s “Peter Pan” and J. M. Barrie’s story. They talk about how in order to prepare for the film, they would get up close to nature and take pictures of all kinds of items from the ground and put themselves at the fairies level. It’s fun to hear how they brought back pieces of nature and were encouraged to work in nature and see things in new ways and design things fairies would use by scale. John Lasseter (Executive Producer) talks about where the idea originated. He says that the idea first came from Disney publishing, and how impressed he was by the connection they made to the fairies and nature. Again, this is a great look at making “Tinker Bell”, and certainly recommended.
You can chose to view the deleted scenes with or without introductions by Director Bradley Raymond and Producer Jeannine Roussel. The introductions set up what’s going to occur and why, and then share why they chose to change it or delete it. I definitely recommend watching with introductions as it’s interesting to hear why some things are deleted. The majority of the scenes are from the original story reel, which is also interesting since it’s a glimpse at one of the steps taken before reaching final animation.
“Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Edition”
“Disney Movie Rewards”
“Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure”
“The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (Special Edition)”
“Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow”
“The Secret of the Magic Gourd”
“Wizards of Waverly Place”
“Disney DVD Games”
Final Thoughts: "Tinkerbell" is a pleasant surprise, as the sweet direct-to-video offering is a treat of a family film. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended.
The Film B+