Far be it from
me to criticize Tink, whether she appears on the pages
of a book, in laser light form on stage, or in Walt
Disney's 1953 film version. Tinker Bell is such a fun and
occasionally mischievous character that every time she
appears on-stage or film, you usually hear laughs and
applause. She represents the childlike innocence of a
smart kid who likes to have fun, and on occasion, gets
jealous. So why has Disney decided to take this
wonderful character and turn her into a fashionista who
"Tinker Bell" is on now on DVD and Blu-ray. This review is on the DVD.
I'm a purist in the sense that great stories, characters, music, etc., work for a reason. Fine writing, fine direction and fine acting can draw an audience into a story. That's probably why "Peter Pan" has endured for so many years. Children identify with kids not wanting to grow up. Teenagers identify with the idea of everyone must grow up at some point. Adults enjoy it because it brings them back to those innocent days of childhood. It works on all levels. But when someone tries to freshen the formula to update a character, or merely market it to sell products, the character loses its charm and the very meaning of why the character exists.
Tinker Bell is such a wonderful invention from the mind of J.M. Barrie. When I was younger, my parents took me to see the stage version of "Peter Pan" at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA. One of the most exciting parts of the show was a laser light depiction of Tinker Bell who flew around the stage and theatre. The kids in the audience were amazed. What made this version of Tinker Bell so neat was that the orchestra added chimes to her movements. The audience believed that there was an actual pixie flying in that theater that night.
Walt Disney's film version is probably the most known version of the famous story, and what a splendid version it is. Marc Davis did a tremendous job on her design. She's spunky, sweet and has the playfulness of a pixie that we might imagine. She was so well done by Davis that she's nearly as recognizable a character as Mickey Mouse or Ariel. The beauty behind Davis's depiction of Tinker Bell is that she communicates her expressions through her face and body movement. This is so simply done that the audience knows exactly how and what she's feeling. We don't need to hear her. That's part of her magic and that's Tinker Bell tick.
I shouldn't be surprised that Disney would eventually make and market a Tinker Bell movie that makes her talk. I'm not suggesting that Disney (or any other studio) not try to expand upon classic characters. If they find a good reason to continue the adventures of Mickey Mouse or Ariel, why not? As long as the story is true to the character, and the story is worthy of making. In this case, Tinker Bell is turned into a fashion diva with friends with Southern California mall rat accents and attitudes. The worst part of this, in my opinion, is the fact that Tinker Bell now talks. Why?
We're introduced to Tinker Bell and we're told that fairies create the colors of trees, create snowflakes and so on. Nice idea, and it could've actually been done with a fanciful story. Tinker Bell could've gotten herself into fun adventures. But there's not of that here. The whole story really has nothing to do with Tinker Bell's connection to the world of Neverland and Peter Pan. Instead, this is more of a movie that resembles something from Mattel's Barbie Princess world. All of the characters are cut-outs of each other, with not much personality. Most of Tinker Bell's friends are stereotypes who are into trends and fashion. In the "old" days, we used to call these types Valley Girls. I guess they existed way back in fairy time.
Tinker Bell is drawn with respect to Marc Davis's original concept. She's actually done well and looks cute, yet still looks too "computerized" to my eyes. Traditional Tink, done in 2-D in old fashioned animation, is more believable to me. That said, the animation in this movie is very good and looks three-dimensional. The colors are bright and the overall world that was created for the movie is good looking. Despite those positives, there's not a whole lot to recommend.
There really isn't a purpose to this movie being made. I imagine Disney is capitalizing on its own "Princess" line. This of course has been very profitable for the company. If it's any indication of how successful the "Princess" line has been, go to Disneyland any day of the week and see how many little girls are dressed up as their favorite princess. When I think about it, Tinker Bell wasn't really a princess. She was Peter Pan's best buddy until Wendy came along to supposedly spoil things for her. Tinker Bell, in a way, was one of the Lost Boys.
The story of Peter Pan is timeless, but it's been strung out. We've had the dreadful "Return to Neverland," and Steven Spielberg's depressing "Hook" already. The lure of little girls and money made "Tinker Bell" a reality. I don't have a problem with that. But I do have a problem, so to speak, with Tinker Bell being turned into somebody she's not. She's not supposed to talk. Her communication has always been through light and her facial expressions. What I've always admired about the Walt Disney version is how Marc Davis infused delightful mannerisms in Tinker Bell of happiness, sadness, jealousy, and kindness. You didn't have to speak English or any other language to understand her. What you saw is what you got. In this film, she's cute and charming, but the production completely ignores those traits that made her Tinker Bell. She was sometimes mean. She was jealous. She also had love in her heart and wanted to have fun. In this movie, she's surrounded by stereotypical fairy characters (if you've seen any of the Barbie Princess movies, you know what I'm talking about), and doesn't show us the real Tinker Bell.
This film, from what I understand, had some trouble getting made. John Lasseter, coming in as the head of Disney Animation, sat down with the director and his staff and had a little pow wow on how to make the movie work. Unfortunately, it's a flat and uninvolving movie, despite being aimed to little girls. And from what I've heard, Disney is banking on more Tinker Bell movies. There's gold to be mined in Tink's world, to be sure.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © WDSHE. All rights reserved.
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