The Tinker Bell Confessions, Part II

So about this time last year I wrote a blog post entitled The Tinkerbell Confessions,  a post that discussed the fact that my prejudice against a certain blond-haired, green-clad fairy had  been challenged by the new range of Disney’s Pixie Hollow movies.  Check out the post here.

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Basically, Peter Pan’s  “Tink” has been  given a make-over, gaining back story and agency as a “Tinker” fairy, which means she’s essentially part inventor, part engineer.   Her adventures in Pixie Hollow and on Earth involve her use–and mis-use of her talents in the first three movies.  The fourth movie focused on Tinkerbell discovering that she has a sister in Winter.  In the fifth movie,  The Pirate Fairy, Tink isn’t even really a main character.  That honor falls to Zarina, while Tink remains part of a 5-friend ensemble cast.  I’ve done a brief description of each movie in the original post.

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Seriously, fairy with a sword what’s not to like?

 

By the time you get to the newest Pixie Hollow movie to hit Netflix, well, it’s only gotten better.

Tinker Bell and the Legend  of The Neverbeast tells us the story of the mysterious green comet making it’s way past Pixie Hollow.  An event that only happens once every thousand years or so.  As it arrives in the sky, it wakes a mysterious beast from a deep sleep. Something that no one living in Pixie Hollow has ever encountered before.  Now, this should really be  Fawn and the Legend of the Neverbeast, because as promised in trailers, this movie focuses on our fun and energetic animal fairy.  This impulsive and rather reckless fairy who tends to act from what her heart tells her, often gets into trouble over the fact that her actions are not wise, even if well-meaning.  Tink shows up  to help Fawn occasionally, but she’s just a background character in the whole story.  Having the movie focused on one of the other fairy girls from the ensemble is a new step for Disney all on its own. (One wonders if each of the other  friends will get their own movie–I’d be all for it!).  Tink probably gets less screen time here than in any movie to date.  And you know what? It didn’t matter. It was Fawn’s story.

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Who else did matter?  Our newest named fairy: Nyx.  Nyx is from a new job description of fairies: the Scouts. Now, if you’ve been watching these movies from the beginning, you know the writers have done some major changes to the canon several times.   The addition of the Scouts is one of these–but it’s not an unwelcome change.  In fact it’s one of the most welcome shifts yet in the show.  This is the first time we have a protector calling the world of Pixie Hollow.  The Scouts are tough, ready to take on danger, out to eliminate threats and skilled in the use of tools and weapons.  They don’t rely on overt magic, similar to the Tinkers in that their talents are more grounded.  The Scouts keep Pixie Hollow safe.   Their leader is Nyx.

 

 

Nyx is action- hero material.  She’s tough, brave, absolutely confident in her skills to ward off danger.  She breathlessly moves from defending one fairy, to stopping a full grown hawk–and does it without an ounce of fear or hesitation.  She commands her Scouts effortlessly to work in tandem with each other. She has their respect and loyalty.  She’s powerful, commanding, a little daunting and totally amazing.  Her coloring suggests Native American roots (though these are fairies so I don’t know how that would work).  Next to Fawn, she’s the character with the most presence in the movie.  Nyx is the Scout who has to fix things when one of Fawn’s animal projects  goes out of control.

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Now, this could have gone the way of the original movie with the conflict of personalities between Tink and Vidia.  Thankfully, it doesn’t.  Nyx may not like what Fawn does, but she’s not vicious or mean, just annoyed.  Fawn may find Nyx’s vigilance making things complicated for her, but she’s grateful for the Scout fairy and never resents her, even if she disagrees with her.  There’s no pettiness in this movie–characters aren’t reacting out of ego and status, but rather from their own conviction as to what is right.  Altogether a more complicated thing.  Nyx is never a villain–only a fairy who has made a mistake based on what she knows and what her priorities are.  And when Nyx comes face to face with the extent of her mistake, she does not lose her power or become a different fairy–she acknowledges that mistake and moves on to defend and protect with this new information.  She’s magnificent.

"TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST" Pictured: Scout Fairies. ©2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This is a beautifully done movie with great music, great character development, and a real fantasy plotline that blends the male/female traditional storytelling into a wonderfully epic tale.   The only glaring misfire in this movie for me?  There’s this one scene with Nyx at the library where our librarian character tries to lamely flirt with Nyx.  The exceedingly off tone flirting isn’t even amusing–it’s as annoying for us as it is for Nyx, and blessedly over within a minute or two.

This is a movie I’d happily recommend anyone share with their young daughters, and sons.  As much as I may be annoyed with Disney for how they market to girls, this particular animation is doing something very, very right.

Review: Lilliput

Lilliput by Sam Gayton, illustrated by Alice Ratterree (Peachtree Publishers,  Expected Publication, August 2015)

Gulliver’s tales of tiny people still resonate.  It’s rather funny.  My kids have lately fallen in love with Gulliver’s Travels (1939, Paramount Pictures) despite the animation’s age.  The story of the “giant” Gulliver who comes to the land of Lilliput where he helps stop a war and unite two kingdoms is a charming and delightful one for kids.  It’s a good reminder that no matter how old or dated a medium might be, a good story will shine through.

It’s also a reminder to me that while there are always some stories of little people to be found,  it’s been a while since someone has gone back to the original material of Swift’s Gulliver for inspiration.    But that’s exactly where this story goes.  Sam Gayton’s novel tells the story of what happens when Gulliver goes back to Lilliput … the crime he commits, and the very small girl with the huge spirit who just wants to go home again.

Lily is a small child of six the day a giant rises out of the sea, scoops her up in his hand and takes her away from all she’s ever known.  She later learns this giant is Gulliver, the man who visited Lilliput once before.  He’s written up his travels for all to read, but no one sees him as anything more than a crazy tale-teller.  Driven by the need to prove himself,  Gulliver takes Lily back to London as his proof . . . and as his prisoner.   He teaches her English, dresses her and feeds her, but he will not let her go.  Our story really begins six months later.  Or six years later by Lily’s perception.  For Lilliputians, a month equals a year in their own lifespan, and so our captive ages from six to twelve.   And not a day goes by that Lily does not aspire to escape her prison and return to Lilliput.  Even though each wild escape plan has failed, she tries again despite facing cruel punishment for her efforts.  Lily’s escape is finally achieved–at least in part–when the note pleading for help she composed is answered by the clockmaker’s apprentice.  Finn Safekeeping is the human boy who has come to help Lily, but he is as much a prisoner as she is, and the two of them must help each other to ultimately be free.  It’s not going to be easy.  For in order to escape, Lily will have to find the way home . . . something only Gulliver knows.  And Finn’s master, the sadistic clockmaker would like nothing better than to get his hands on Lily–and keep her working as his slave.

Dark villains, daring escapes and indomitable spirits . . . this is an unforgettable story of adventure, magic and the determination to get home again.  What could be better?

Gulliver is a rather woeful villain–who doesn’t really realize how terrible he is.  He’s so absorbed in his goals that he can’t see what he’s really doing to poor Lily, and constantly goes on about awful British “yahoos” while never seeing the truth. Our clockmaker, on the other hand, is a nasty piece of work who lives to cause unhappiness for others.  Finn Safekeeping is a strong  and honorable ally, a boy who has his own hopes and dreams that he could follow, if only he were free to do so. However, if there’ one character in this novel I love more than any others, it’s the character of Lily.  You might expect a tiny girl kidnapped from her home and brought to giant London would huddle in her cage like a teeny Thumbelina,  perhaps adapting to her circumstance and coming to accept her new reality. Not Lily.  She is fierce and determined and will not allow Gulliver to steal that away from her.  Despite the years he’s taking from her, she will not bend.  She will go home again, no matter how many failed escape plans fill the past months.  She’s not sympathetic to Gulliver despite his explanations and rationlizations. She recognizes goodness–and wickedness.  She is a real person with a powerful sense of agency.  And she’s magnificent.

Before I forget, the illustrations provided by Alice Ratterree really add to the book.  They help to set Lily’s size in the gigantic London and to enchant us with her POV and adventures.  Though, I have to tell you, my favorite illustration is at the very end of the book . .. I think you’ll know it when you see it!

The story itself is at turns extremely dark: our villains are nasty and their eventual comeuppance is neither gentle nor pretty.  This is a story for older kids who are comfortable with reading darker and scarier themes–and perhaps have read some of the original Gulliver’s Travels to boot. Despite the darker stuff, the story ultimately is one of triumph  and hope for the future. The book has been out for a while in Britain,  but isn’t due to be out on the shelves  in the states until August.  I’m hopeful we’ll see more from this author in the future.

Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher:Peachtree Publishers

Publication Date: August 2015

ISBN13:    9781561458066

Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Flashback of a Flashback! Seventy years old and still going strong! . . .

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of my favorite heroines,  I’m reposting my earlier Flashback piece on Pippi!  Enjoy!

 

You’re a super strong girl who lives with a horse and a monkey, filling your days with all kinds of adventures–defying the authorities and flummoxing criminals.  Do you remember:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, translated by Florence Lamborn (Puffin, c1945)

 I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first encountered this red-haired rebel and challenger of authority, but I knew I liked her.   Pippi Longstocking, the nine-year-old girl whose mother died and whose father is away at sea, lives on her own in her rambling house, Villa Villekulla.  She has has a horse living on a porch, and shares her home with a monkey . . . and has a suitcase full of gold coins.  Oh and did I mention she’s super strong? Pippi tells wild stories that may–or may not be true, but she unrelenting in her tale-tellings.  She’s full of good-humored mischief and has enough impertinent questions to drive any humorless authority figure batty.  She was probably the first strong female protagonist I encountered–one who lived outside the rules of society, defied any need for protection, and did it all with a warm heart and a cheerful disposition.

This is one time when “strong female character” really does apply.  Because Pippi is super strong–super hero strong in fact.  She may not being going out to fight crime in spandex, but she probably could if she wanted to.  She’s a girl who does exactly what she wants, lives how she wants and is perfectly, perfectly comfortable in her own skin.  Not too bad a role model if I do say so myself.

Originally written in Swedish, Pippi was the brainchild of author Astrid Lindgren that started as a story for her daughter who was home sick from school.  That story evolved into a character who is beloved around the world and has remained a classic staple of children’s literature for decades.  The book has been published in 64 languages and made into a number of different movies and televisions series.   While there was a movie made in the US in 1988 (The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking)  the most iconic Pippi was played by Inger Nilsson in the Swedish television series Pippi Longstocking (1969) .    In the late 1990s, a lightweight animated television series was created by Nelvana that followed Pippi’s adventures from the books–it’s still available on certain children’s cartoon channels like Qubo.   Sadly, Pippi comes across as a little too conventional in the cartoon to really work well.

Interesting tidbit of trivia I found: apparently Hayao Miyazaki had expressed interest in creating an anime feature based on the books back in 1971, and had gone so far as to visit Sweden and the author.  The movie was never made, though some watercolor concept stills were created that can be seen here at Comics Alliance.  It seems that  ultimately Lindgren turned down the offer . . . but knowing Miyazaki’s love of strong female protagonists (and red heads), it’s too bad this was never taken further.

There are two more chapter books of Pippi’s adventures that can usually be found on the shelves: Pippi Goes on Board (1946), and Pippi in the South Seas (1948).  These continued our protagonists’ adventures at sea and reuniting with her papa once more–while they’re not as popular as the original story, they can usually be found on library shelves.  The later books–particularly the South Seas adventure does come with a bucket load of nonPC native descriptions that may rankle more modern readers.

But that’s not the end of Pippi!  There were also several shorter, picture book stories that were translated into English, and a comic book series that’s only recently become available in the US.

Astrid Lindgren wrote more than the Pippi books, although they’re less well known in the States. The other one you might spot on the shelves in the US is Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter  (1981).  I’ve yet to read this one myself, but intend to.  Especially since the book features the marvelous illustrations of Trina Schart Hyman.   .

Upon reflection, this was probably the first translated work of fiction I read as a child.  I wasn’t actually aware it was translated at the time, and only figured that out as an adult.  But I did recognize that the story took place in a different country.  I often wished I could go visit Villa Villekulla and share dinner with Pippi.

Any other Pippi fans out there?  Comments welcome!

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