Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tink Week and A Half: Day Seven

I remember seeing some advertisements for Secret Of The Wings when it was coming out on DVD, and before that I knew that the Disney Fairies were a franchise for Disney, but I didn't really realize just how big it became until this movie came out.

I saw ads for this EVERYWHERE.  It was in books and on TV, there were trailers for it before movies, I had to watch the trailer before I could watch Youtube videos.

And yet, somehow it all still went past me without my even casting a curious eye towards it until just recently.  Which is too bad, because if I had started with this, it might have been on my "best of the year" list last year.

There's a few things to note about this movie.  This one wasn't advertised as part of the Disney Fairies franchise, instead being part of the DisneyToon Studios products.  I think it was around this time that Disney was starting to decide they would wind down and phase out the Fairies as a franchise, which was too bad.

But let's get into the story.

The movie starts out strange, because like the last short, it gives us the "origin story" of a fairy we've never met before.  Zarina (voiced by Christina Hendricks), a dust keeper fairy (like Terrence), is very much like Tinker Bell: inquisitive, impulsive, and has a hard time accepting "we don't do that here" as a reason for anything.  She wants to experiment with pixie dust and try to figure out its secrets (which means she's right next to me for wanting detailed explanations of how things work), but winds up causing a huge accident when she swipes some blue pixie dust for her experiments.  She gets stripped of her job as a dust keeper (which, when you realize that these are the things they're DESTINED to do since birth, is a pretty huge deal), packs her bags, and leaves Pixie Hollow.

Zarina, in her Pixie Hollow Days.
A year later, at a huge celebration regarding the four seasons (remember, each of the previous movies involved the seasons somehow...well, except for the one about the games), a mysterious figure uses poppies to put all the residents of Pixie Hollow to sleep save for our usual heroic team.  The figure then steals all of the blue pixie dust and takes off with it.  

Zarina, after she discovered how to wear the best costume I've seen in a long time
Tinker Bell and her friends pursue her, just to find that Zarina is now the captain of a ship of pirates.  In their attempt to steal the blue dust back, Zarina uses her knowledge of dust to take out the entire team in one "blast" and winds up swapping their talents.  Tinker Bell can suddenly manipulate water, Silvermist flies extremely fast, Fawn manipulates light, and so on.  Now, with powers they aren't familiar with and a ticking clock, the fairies need to get their blue pixie dust back and figure out if Zarina can be stopped and/or redeemed.

I'm summing it up that far, because if I do anything else, I'll- oh wait.  There's one thing I can spoil because they PUT IT ON THE &#@% BOX... one of the pirates is a young man named James, destined to become the greatest pirate in history, Captain Hook.

I just- I just... ARGH.  I hate when they do that!

Let's...let's just get into the breakdown before I go on another rant about that.

The (Oh So) Good:

Let's look at the new characters first.  Zarina is a great new character and antagonist.  We get a sympathetic character who makes a (pretty sizable) mistake, but never comes across as completely irredeemable.  Christina Hendricks surprised me by doing such a good job with the character, but then, I haven't seen her in Mad Men and only really know her from Firefly.  

I didn't say it before, but James is voiced by Tom Hiddleston, and he's simply amazing.  For one thing, I had no idea he could sing until the big song from the movie came into play, but he's amazingly good at it.  Being able to switch from the kind, doting James to going full on Captain late in the movie was something I expected (I mean, he's CAPTAIN FREAKIN' HOOK), but it was still chilling to watch.

The interplay between Zarina and James is some of the best interaction I've seen in the movie since Tinker Bell making friends with a human child.  James is pretty much the only human alive who can actually make out Zarina's speech so it doesn't just sound like bells, and the two have such a strong bond through the film.  Him doting on Zarina, her teaching him how to fly and teasing him, if it wasn't for the fact that we know who he is and the fact they're both the "villains" of the piece, it would almost be a great Disney romance, but sadly we know it's doomed since, well, he's CAPTAIN HOOK.

Oh, and for the record, I'm going to put this here for you all to watch.  Listen to Tom Hiddleston sing.

The fact this song exists gets a special mention.  So far through the movies, the music hasn't really been good or bad, it's just been mostly forgettable.  Disney relied on a lot of young female pop stars to provide "empowering" songs or "thematic" songs for more emotional moments, but they all tended to fall flat and be something I barely noticed.

This is really the first full-on Disney "song" of the series, and it's something I'm going to remember in amazement for a long, long time.  The voice work, the catchy melody, the fact that Silvermist is so dumb she's going to dance along out in the open when they're trying to stay hidden... everything about that song just worked and clicked, making this really feel like a full-on Disney production.

In regards to the regular cast members, this is some of the best character work we've had since The Great Fairy Rescue.  Every character gets a chance to shine again, and watching different personalities try new things with unfamiliar powers is a hoot.  I mentioned before about how some kids see the fairies as "superheroes" and this is really the first time you see the powers used that way.

Plus, the coloration redesigns are pretty neat.
Silvermist, with the "fast flying" talent, pretty much breaks the sound barrier every time she moves and needs practice to keep from overshooting everything any time she tries to move.  Rosetta becomes an animal fairy, leading to her freaking out as bugs are inexplicably drawn to crawl on her (and a baby crocodile that I'm sure has NO relevance to any future stories bonds to her like she's its mother).  Fawn becomes a light fairy, and actually manages to focus light into actual lasers (including a pretty funny scene involving Rosetta's hair).  Iridessa gets garden fairy powers, able to summon forth seaweed from the ocean floor to hold a ship's anchor in place while Tinker Bell gets water control powers, creating waves several feet tall IN THE OCEAN.

And then there's Vidia.  Vidia, if you're going by the process of elimination, gets "tinker" talents, and watching her expression of horror as it sinks in is great enough to begin with, but her reaction every time she exercises her talent ("Okay, height and weight ratio is good, and if I can only find some ROPE.... *pause* *GASP!*").  Watching her flip out at being brought down like that and then learn just what her talent is capable of is more great growth for a great character.

All of the characters get some more growth.  Rosetta learns to appreciate creatures she might not necessarily have wanted around her, Vidia gets her humility, Iridessa ... still stays Iridessa, but there's a few great moments where she's chastising Fawn for burning her name in a barrel with LASERS, Fawn remains the lovable tomboy, and Silvermist remains endearingly dumb.  I mean, just watch this clip and marvel at it.

Silvermist, don't ever change.

The Bad:

While the animation is a step up again from where it previously was, Zarina seems a little -too- lifelike sometimes, leading to some weird stuff in the Uncanny Valley (Google it, kids).  The turn made by one character is lessened a bit after another character turns (if you know what Heel Turn and Face Turn from wrestling mean, you'll understand that) but I think it would have meant more if one character had shown more doubts about their actions rather than simply going along with everything.

Things also get rather neatly wrapped up at the end, with everybody just simply shrugging like nothing had happened a year ago and that what Zarina can do now is just completely cool with everybody.

Now, I was going to talk more about Disney's penchant for spoilers in this film franchise, but I think the fact that you go into the film knowing that James is CAPTAIN FIRK DING BLASTIN HOOK really spoils a huge twist later on.  You don't know exactly when it's going to happen, but once it does, you're left going "ooohhhh, right, yup, I see where this is going."

Disney.  Less is more.


The whole "power swapping" deal would have been a fine movie on its own, but being able to combine it with the story of the pirates builds this up to, and I know I've said this before, being up there with some theatrical Disney releases for solid storytelling.  I think the only thing that keeps it from being a full-fledged theatrical movie itself is the fact that you needed to know who Tinker Bell's friends were already in order to fully appreciate it.

This is, I think, the most solid of all the movies so far.  It has the best interactions, it has a large, epic plot that doesn't just reply on "oh no, the seasons are going crazy again," and Tom Hiddleston plays a wonderfully wicked James.  There are great sword fights and action sequences, lots of twists and turns, and huge stunts done with fairy talents that we've never seen anything even remotely like before.

I don't endorse watching things without paying for them, but there's a lot of cough "clips" of the movie on Youtube to watch, and if you're going to watch one without watching them all, I think this one is really the best one to do it with.

Besides The Great Fairy Rescue, this is the movie that's going to put this franchise on my Top Eleven at the end of the year.  It's just all-around FUN.

Oh, and it also has two of my favorite shorts that go with it.

First, there's just something about watching a group of goofballs drive the "stoic" one insane.

Then there's this one, which I may or may not just toss on if I want a good laugh.

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