If I learned one thing from watching Disney’s Secret of the Wings, it was that glaciers are very stealthy. That, and Tinker Bell is still the best character from Peter Pan. That being said, hello everyone and welcome to the movie review you never knew you needed!
That’s right, this week I had the privilege of being able to sit down and watch the newest movie in the Disney Fairies franchise, Secret of the Wings. In which our beloved winged friend Tinker Bell learns she has a sister, and the two of them manage to save Pixie Hollow from a horrible disaster. Sound like a story plucked from a bedtime story? Well that’s probably because it is. But that shouldn’t stop you from giving this movie an honest chance, especially if you have children around to watch it with you. [Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead.]
Let me start off by saying that I’ve never seen any of the other Disney Fairies movies, so I can’t speak for how well the franchise has been done up until this point. What I can say though, is that if this movie is any indication of how well crafted the other films are, I might very well have to give them a view. I should probably mention though that I’m a little biased towards fairies. They’re cute, often mischievous and belong to a fey mythos that has always intrigued me. The idea that other beings could exist in our world along side of us yet remain entirely different from humanity in nature and dispossession is one of the coolest part about fey mythology in my opinion. Likewise, despite being almost entirely alien in their goals, fey are often given fundamental roles in the natural world or their natures play off of some part of the human psyche. Where as gods and angels exist in a realm wholly unlike and above our own, the fey live right outside our doors; yet are so very inhuman (or sometimes human) at the same time.
Now you might be saying to yourself, “Jason, that’s all good and fun and all, but what does this have to do with Tinker Bell? Last I recall she was just a snotty little pixie who got jealous of Wendy and made people fly.” Well, you’re not entirely wrong. Tink is still a bit of a snot, but her stubborn and headstrong nature aren’t necessarily a bad things when you’re talking about the main character in a series otherwise overrun with characters who just go about their lives doing their jobs. You see, that’s the brilliance of the world and setting Disney has crafted under the Disney Fairies franchise; it remains true to the fey mythos.
Each fairy has a job, you see, and Tinker Bell is (as you might expect) a tinkerer. A role that’s very important in Pixie Hollow, as the fairies there seem to always be up to all sorts of industrious things. At the start of Secret of the Wings, we find Tink and her fellow pixies doing their best to help bring about a smooth transition to winter. While most of them are helping build baskets (designed to carry snow) to give to the snow fairies that live in the Winter Woods, a section of their forest that is in perpetual winter and is off-limits to regular “warm” fairies. The pixies aren’t all making baskets though, and others are busy herding up the animals to deliver them over to the other side of the forest (where they can hibernate or do whatever it is they do in the winter). As a fan of seeing how the pixies fill their niches in the natural world, I loved seeing all the little jobs they had.
Anyway, as Tink helps herd some animals her curiosity gets the better of her (like always) and she hops on over to the other side of the woods to experience the winter wonderland that lies over the half-frozen stream separating the two woods. While over there, her wings start to sparkle in a way they never have before; that is, before they start to freeze. Because true to the warnings given by Queen Clarion (the head pixie in Pixie Hollow), the Winter Woods is no place for a warm fairy. Tink won’t let that stop her though, and quickly hits the books after a trip to the fairy hospital in an attempt to learn more about the sparkling in her wings. As fate would have it though, the chapter that has the information she needs has been thoroughly chewed to bits by the bookworms that help maintain the library. Figures. Luckily though, the man who wrote the book is still very much alive and well. There is only one problem, he’s a winter fairy.
Determined not to let a thing like potentially freezing to death stop her, Tinker Bell “tinkers” up some new winter-proof attire and formulates a plan to sneak into the next shipment of baskets to smuggle herself over to the Winter Woods. What could go wrong?
Well if you ignore the fact that she almost falls to her death and the fact that she had no way of really knowing that her coat would keep her warm, her plan goes pretty well all things considered. And soon Tinker Bell finds herself in the library of the Keeper, the man who writes all of the books in Pixie Hollow. As it turns out though, the Keeper isn’t alone. Another pixie’s wings have also been sparkling, and she’s gone to the Keeper for answers as well. Of course Tink can’t help but show herself when both of their wings start to sparkle at the same time, and the reason for the phenomenon is soon revealed to them via the magical aurora borealis hologram thingy the Keeper keeps in his library. Sound a little ridiculous? Well, it kind of is. But it works because this movie is freaking GORGEOUS.
Did I forget to mention that earlier? Well it’s true, this is one GREAT looking movie. At least on Blu-ray. The team behind this movie really has a grasp for how to use colors in an amazingly beautiful way. I was continuously surprised with how great everything looked both in the vibrant forests of Pixie Hollow and the cool snow-covered forest of the Winter Woods.
Anyway, back to Tinker Bell. See as it turns out the two of them were both born from the same laugh, something that doesn’t happen often, making them the pixie equivalent to sisters. Reunited at last, Tinker Bell and Periwinkle (arguably the most adorable name ever) decided to explore the Winter Woods together and catch up on all that time they never had. This is, of course, strictly forbidden by the rules set out by Lord Milori (the guy that runs the Winter Woods); but that doesn’t stop Tink and her sister.
Their family reunion doesn’t last forever though, and eventually Tinker Bell is sent back home to Pixie Hollow; but not without promising to sneak Periwinkle over and show her around the very next day. Things don’t go quite as well as they’d planned though, and eventually Pixie Hollow itself is put in very real danger. As you might expect, Tink and Periwinkle eventually help save the day, and everyone more or less lives happily ever after. What can I say, it’s a kids movie? When a portion of your target audience isn’t even old enough to talk, it’s kind of hard to craft a complex and multi-layered narrative. That isn’t to say the movie isn’t without its subtlety though, as there is a certain “surprise” regarding a story told mid-way through the movie that I’m pretty sure most kids won’t see through. Don’t go into this movie expecting a masterpiece, because it’s not. But if you were expecting a masterpiece from a straight to Blu-ray Disney release then we need to have a talk.
But anyway, the REAL draw to Secret of the Wings is the talent that went into it. From the clearly talented art department to the movie’s stellar voice cast, it’s amazing to see such a well-developed movie come out of what might be considered a “cheesy” or “lame” Disney property. The fact that John Lasseter (the man behind Toy Story) was an executive producer on this movie should give you an idea of the kind of quality that lies lurking within this film. And the voice cast? Like I said, You’d be surprised who voices the many fairies of Pixie Hollow…
Katara herself, Mae Whitman, voices Tinker Bell.
Lucy Hale from Pretty Little Liars voices Periwinkle.
Timothy Dalton AKA Jame Bond voice Lord Milori.
Anjelica Huston, who played Morticia Addams in the Addams Family movies, voices Queen Clarion.
Matt Lanter AKA Anakin Skywalker from The Clone Wars voices Sled.
Jeff Bennett AKA Johnny Bravo voices The Keeper.
Rob Paulsen AKA Pinky from Pinky and the Brain voices the goggle wearing Bobble.
And of course my girl Grey DeLisle AKA Azula voices Periwinkle’s peppy friend Gliss.
If a list like that isn’t enough to convince you to at least give this movie a chance, then I’m not sure what will. The story might be simple and the characters might look too cute for you to want to take them seriously, but behind this movie is some serious talent that shines through regardless of the medium. What more can I say? So the next time you swing by the video store with your kids to grab a film for a family movie night, keep in mind that not only is Tinker Bell still alive and kicking; but her and her movies are almost single-handedly keeping fairies and the fey relevant in a day and age where kids can find any answer they want in a 5 second Google search. And all while looking absolutely stunning. Kudos to Disney on this one.