The Tinker Bell Confessions
Tinker Bell. Likely you hear this name and you think immediately of Peter Pan’s fairy sidekick. Most likely you think of the blond haired, green clad fairy minted by Disney that’s come to be a part of the logo itself for the company. If you’re like me you grew up knowing her as the sassy, jealousy-ridden sprite who couldn’t stand Wendy.
Even in the original Peter Pan book by J. M. Barrie, Tink’s main characteristics include a mean streak towards Wendy (she not only strikes a deal with Hook, betraying Peter, but earlier in the story has the Lost Boys duped into thinking the flying girl is a Wendy-bird that they should shoot down). Between that mean streak and the basic association of fairies with all things glittery, magical and girly it would seem obvious that Tinker Bell would be the last sort of heroine I’d like or introduce to my daughter.
I’ve no real patience for fairy princesses or glitter. I avoid all that really girly-girl glitz and pinkness when I can. Hoping to keep my daughter a little less influenced on that front as long as possible. So, when I heard there were going to be a bunch of movies starring Tinker Bell I rolled my eyes and groaned and basically assumed they’d be a glittery sugar fest of blah. (Yes, I’m a bit of cynic with some things).
Well kudos to Disney for defying my expectations and quite a few assumptions.
They’ve given Tink a reboot. Oh, she still looks much the same–perhaps a little less “pin up” than the original but still blond with that green dress.
Disney’s done some dressing up of Barrie’s origin myth for fairies, and created an entire domain populated by fairies of all kinds. When the original movie trailers started coming out, I was just in “I’m never going to see this” mode. Clearly there were going to be lots and lots of fairy friends and an entire world of fairies for Tink to interact with. It just didn’t seem like anything I’d ever reconcile with.
And then I happened upon not the first, second or third movie, but the fourth. The Secret of the Wings. I found it at a point where my kids were desperately looking for new things to watch and they’d just seen Peter Pan. So I brought it home and watched it first myself–fully prepared to hate it. And . . . I didn’t. In this fourth movie, Tink’s curious about the Winter Woods–an area where warm fairies aren’t allowed to go (since it will freeze their wings). She discovers she has a sister in the Winter Woods, a fairy who was born from the same laugh she was. Now she’s determined to reunite with her sister–despite the challenges in their way.
Now, I didn’t start with the first movie (I’ll discuss it in a bit) but from the first few minutes of the opening, it’s clear Tink isn’t a “girly girl” sort of fairy. In fact, she’s an inventor. She’s an explorer. She’s the one who asks “why” when every other fairy just accepts things as they are. Tell me where in Disney’s major heroines we have anyone like that. When Tink finds an obstacle, she figures out solutions–she doesn’t become helpless. She’s brazen, brave, determined. She takes on real damage at one point in the story and keeps quiet about it because there’s a crisis to be dealt with. There’s no romantic threads for her in the story. She has male and female friends who’ve come to accept her for who she is.
It’s not going to go and make me buy the merchandise (which frankly is appalling) and it doesn’t completely erase the “girly” nature of the show, but Tink actually gives us a character with the traditional heroic qualities we more often see in male protagonists. The movies have some flaws, don’t get me wrong. One of the biggest issues I have with the Pixie Hollow stories is how white the characters tend to be. Despite five movies to date, we’ve had only one main character among the fairies that has darker skin. It would be nice to see Disney look to a bit more diversity in the animated cast, but I really can’t complain about Tink herself.
So to date, we’ve had five full-length movies featuring this new Tink and the world of Pixie Hollow Fairies.
This is Tink’s reboot debut. Viewers are introduced to Tinker Bell’s origins as a baby’s first laugh, and her welcome into the community at Pixie Hollow. At her welcome, Tink is tested to see where her talents will lie. And those talents apparently lie in “Tinkering”. Tinker Bell is a tinker fairy, one who invents and fixes things, solves problems and figures things out. By human standards, we’d call her skills the equivalent of being an inventor or engineer. And how often has Disney created a main heroine with such skills? It’s a nice play on Tinker Bell’s name as well, so kudos to Disney for that. The Tinker fairies all dress in green and spend their calling making and inventing things.
Tink quickly decides that she’d rather be something more magical than a Tinker fairy, and despite the fact that audience sees how clever and inventive she is, she goes about trying to learn her friends’ talents so that she can stop being a Tinker. It’s a nice way to introduce the main cast and get a glimpse of their talents, but Tink fails again and again. And she’s allowed to get angry and make mistakes. In the end, she has to fix her mistakes, and figures out that her skills as a Tinker make it possible. When she embraces her talent she’s a force to be reckoned with–diagrams, Lost Things and all!
By the way, the music is another plus in all of this–some lovely stuff!
This second movie brings us a Tinker Bell who is fully embracing her fairy Talent, and getting into a fair amount of trouble and mess from trying out inventions. Even so, she’s been given the task of crafting this year’s Fall Scepter to hold the moonstone. Tink has a male friend in this movie, Terence whose constantly trying to help her out. But when Tink accidentally breaks the precious moonstone, she decides against asking for any help and goes off on her own on a quest for a magic mirror that could grant her one wish.
I think this movie had some problems to it: Terence felt like too much of a possible romance and a bit too bland to really work well as a main character. The other members of the ensemble cast from the first story have very little contribution to make to the story–this is all about Tink, her intrepid spirit and abilities . . . and her temperamental outbursts. In a lot of ways this story shows Tink in her weakest light, despite her willingness to make an airship of sorts to assist her in her travels. She’s constantly pushing away her friends, and doing a number of things that make her feel sorry for herself and sulk rather than problem solve. It’s not a terrible movie, but Disney’s real strength with these lies in the ensemble cast.
Our ensemble cast is back. And so is a wildly curious Tinker Bell. On one of her trips to the mainland she spots a car and insists on checking it out and seeing how it works. Her curiosity then leads her to a little girl’s crafted fairy house. Vidia, the fairy who has a temper and gets annoyed easily at Tink shuts her up in the house to teach her a lesson, but then panics when the little girl comes back and actually captures Tink. From here on out the story breaks into two parts, our fairy friends ensemble making their way on the mainland to rescue Tinkerbell, and Tink’s relationship with her captor, a little girl named Lizzy who’s a bit of a scientist herself. Lizzy yearns for her father’s attention, but her single dad appears to be constantly distracted by his work and worries.
Tinker Bell decides to help Lizzy out, but puts her fairy friends at risk when her sympathy causes one of her friends to be captured by Lizzy’s father. This movie is pure fun with a very human sort of element. It’s definitely the sort of movie that will play on the fantasy of discovering a fairy and having her as a secret friend. Still, Disney manages to give this movie heart and spirit without completely going sappy.
Tink investigates the forbidden Winter border and discovers she has a twin sister. The two were born of the same laugh, but separated and were welcomed on opposite sides of the border. Winter fairies wings cannot get warm or they will break, warm fairy wings will break if they get too cold. Tink decides she must break the rules about crossing the border (first to discover she has a sister, and then to bring that sister into the warm part of Pixie Hollow to show her the wonders there). She figures out an invention to allow a crossing, but when the device malfunctions, it upsets the balance of seasons, and all of Pixie Hollow begins to freeze. This is the story that gives Tink what is pretty much a hero’s journey and redemption.
As I said, this is the one I first watched, and it’s pretty much my favorite, with perhaps the exception of the fifth movie . . .
The newest of these movies actually doesn’t focus on Tinker Bell. Instead, the audience is introduced to a new fairy, Zarina. Zarina, like Tink, is curious about the world and loves to investigate, question and experiment. Unlike Tink, she likes to do so with pixie dust. Zarina’s disregard for the rules that say she shouldn’t mess with dust wind up causing an extreme amount of damage when her experiments go out of control. Zarina runs away when she’s stripped of her position . . . But now she’s back and she’s stealing Pixie Hollow’s precious blue pixie dust. Tinker Bell and her friends are the only ones capable of stopping Zarina, but when she switches their natural gifts (Tink is suddenly a water fairy, etc.) the fairy gals have to figure out how to work with an new set of skills. Zarina’s not just a thief, she’s the captain of her own pirate ship, with a human pirate crew! And they have plans for that pixie dust . . .
This is the first movie that drops Tink as the central character, allowing Zarina to fill that position. The rest of the cast are present, but this is Zarina’s plot arc and ultimate redemption. What we have here is our scientist. Our experimenter who was a little too reckless, but is also extremely gifted with what she can do. This movie continues to place solid values on a can-do curious spirit. Not a damsel in distress around here. I could really learn to like fairies . . .
We’ve had spirited heroines and kick-butt heroines. We’ve had bookworms and collectors, dreamers, and smart-mouthed outcasts. But I can’t think of a single animated Disney heroine who is an inventor. Until Tinker Bell. Here we have a fairy not interested in her looks, not really blessed with “magic” powers the way some of her friends are, –her talents lie with tools and knowledge. There’s no obsession with boys, no endless fashion commentaries. The values are centered on friendship, bravery, invention, determination, and confidence in one’s own skills.
So gosh darn it, I’m a Tink fan.
Any others out there surprised by this Disney series of movies?