Monday, May 18, 2015

Tink Week And A Half: Day Six

In 2011, a 22-minute short taking place in the midst of the other Tinker Bell stories aired on television.  Pushing the main character of the series into the background, the story featuring a jack paired with the biggest "girly girl" in the land in order to compete in a series of contests is, for lack of a better phrase, great.  It's that simple.  It's great.  It's character-driven, small scale (no pun intended), and filled with humor and action.

The fact this didn't become a full-length movie saddens me.

It's The Pixie Hollow Games.

First off, that's a brilliant logo.

Before we get into the actual stories, I want to point out that there was a surprising amount of hype leading up to the airing of this program.  There were a series of shorts that aired detailing how different fairies trained, how preparations were made, and even a full-length "teaser" trailer for the event as a whole.

Personally, though, my favorite is the Vidia "How I Train" video.  It's one of the few times I've actually seen "super speed" done in anything that was remotely interesting.

There are a few other shorts, including Tinkerbell's difficulty getting banners put up, a history of the games, and Fawn's attempt to train some frogs for one of the events.

The movie itself is surprising, because not only does it push Tinker Bell into the background, the actual starring character is Rosetta, of all people.  It's time for the Pixie Hollow Games again, and a new garden fairy named Chloe (voiced by Brenda Song) is anxious to take part.  She's athletic, dirty, and with a boyish "pixie" cut (again, no pun intended), and of course she gets paired up with the absolute worst partner imaginable in Rosetta, who up to that point had simply skipped out on the games entirely.

It's a true underdog story, as the garden fairies have not only never won any of the games in recent history, they "haven't even come close."  In fact, they're expected to do so poorly that Rosetta shows up for the opening ceremony in a full ballgown, because "if I'm going to look bad, I'm not going to look bad, know what I mean?"  We're also introduced to our "nemesis" of the series, two storm fairies (who actually create balls of lightning and then punch them to make thunder!) named Rumble and Glimmer (voiced by Jason Dolley and Tiffany Thornton, respectively).  They're working on getting their fifth consecutive game victory so they'd have a prize ring for each finger.

Strangely enough, the garden fairies make it past the first event (the first time it's ever happened, apparently), but only because they actually take the healing fairies out of the competition, meaning they automatically move forward.

The games themselves are pretty clever.  You have "leap frog" featuring real frogs in linked harnesses, dragonfly water skiing, mouse polo, and and twig spheres, an American Gladiators type event involving running in giant balls.  Rosetta, realizing how much the games mean to Chloe (and after Chloe stands up for Rosetta when the other garden fairies accuse her of not trying), actually contributes a lot to the games, and is even responsible for the garden fairies placing high in a few events.

The whole thing comes down to a race at the end where, I kid you not, each remaining team of pixies has to take part in a car race.  Granted, all the cars are powered by fans, but (not to spoil too much) we see that some of the designs of the cars actually allow them to full-on transform from regular cars to off-road vehicles.  I guess Tinker Bell brought back a lot of knowledge from The Great Fairy Rescue.

I'm not going to spoil the ending, as there are a few interesting twists towards the end, leading up to one of the more satisfying conclusions out of any of the films so far.

The Good:

The personalities are on display for most of the characters in this short.  From Silvermist's sweet lack of any thoughts in her head ("I love your rock!  ...why do you have it?"), to Vidia's trademark snark when Rosetta is put on the team (" going to be good."), to even the side characters like Fairy Gary, Clank, and Bobble.  There's a garden fairy who cries all the time whether she's happy or sad, making a cute little contribution to the cast.  But the star personality, by far, is Rosetta, extending her dislike of dirt, mud, and other substances found readily in nature to a full-blown OCD phobia of them.  Early on a bit of mud get splashed on her, and she simply flips out, going "gedditoffme, gedditoffme, gedditoffme" before Silvermist can splash it off her.

There's a moment late in the series where they actually seem to want to address it.  One of the rounds ends in a slide of snail slime, which Rosetta refuses to do, instead walking along the edges to get to the bottom of the leader board.  When Chloe tries to encourage her to do it "the easy way" Rosetta's voice almost breaks as she says, "I want to, I just can't."  Granted, this changes later when Rosetta realizes what her prissiness is doing to Chloe's dreams, and she's able to accept that sometimes you have to get a little dirty if you want to compete.

I also love the personalities given to the "villains."  Glimmer herself isn't so bad, but Rumble is a full-blown egotistical jock with not much in the way of brain power ("Who's the fastest?"  "Rumble is!"  "Who's the strongest?"  "Rumble is!"  "Who brings the thunder?"  "Rumble is!  I mean, Rumble does!").

The detail work in the animation is also rather remarkable.  It's not always easy to give a sense of action while also keeping things in scope when you're animating things.  If it's too quick, you lose any context of where things are happening and you feel disconnected.  If you spend too much time making sure everybody knows where everything is, you can lose some of the pacing.  This short kept me in mind of movies that do action scenes well (Jackie Chan films, The Protector).  I've heard that the new Mad Max movie has some pretty amazing car chase scenes, and if I have to go on the record as saying "the two best instances I've seen of races/chases utilizing the space they're in while still showing speed are Mad Max and a Disney Fairies short" then I don't know what to make of the world.

The Bad:


I mean, everything I can find online says that it originally supposed to be the fifth film of the series called Tinker Bell: Race Through The Seasons with more time on each of the cast members (apparently it was going to feature EVERYBODY from the previous films), but was instead retooled into just a special featuring Rosetta, which is rather strange when you think of it.

If for no other reason, this wound up being the premiere of Megan Hilty as Rosetta, taking over for Kristin Chenoweth (this actually came out the year before Secret Of The Wings), but based on how much better she is in the role, I suspect this was recorded AFTER the last film.  She's much better fitted in the character, and while you still hear where her attempts to impersonate Kristin Chenoweth falters some, she's much more solid now.

Oh, and Iridessa once again just seems to "be there" in the short, not really doing anything at all until it comes time for her team to be eliminated from the contest.


For whatever faults it might have, this short proves that not only can Disney bank on getting quality works out of Tinker Bell, but there's also a lot they can do with just the supporting cast.  Had the film series progressed past the most recent one (all indications are that the studio is done making Tinker Bell movies for the foreseeable future), they could easily have expanded out with other shorts or films.  In fact, the most recent one primarily stars Fawn, but we'll get to that eventually.

There's solid characterization, we get a deeper look into a supporting character that up until now was pretty much a background character in every sense of the word (I think only Iridessa has had a less impressive showing so far), and rocketed her into being a star in her own right.

Yes, it's cheesy, but it provides some solid messages and has a lot of fun, and in the end, what more can you really want from a fairy version of the Olympics?

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