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Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue Blu-ray & DVD Review

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue: Blu-ray + DVD cover art - click to buy combo pack from Amazon.com Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
Movie, Blu-ray & DVD Details

Director: Bradley Raymond / Writers: Bradley Raymond, Jeffrey M. Howard (story); Bob Hilgenberg, Rob Muir, Joe Ansolabehere, Paul Germain (screenplay)

Voice Cast: Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell), Lauren Mote (Lizzy Griffiths), Michael Sheen (Dr. Griffiths), Pamela Adlon (Vidia), Lucy Liu (Silvermist), Raven-Symonι (Iridessa), Kristin Chenoweth (Rosetta), Angela Bartys (Fawn), Rob Paulsen (Bobble), Jeff Bennett (Clank, Driver), Jesse McCartney (Terence), Cara Dillon (Narrator), Faith Prince (Mrs. Perkins), Bob Bergen (Additional Voices)

Songs: "Summer's Just Begun", "How to Believe", "Come Flying with Me"

Running Time: 76 Minutes / Rating: G

Blu-ray: 1.78:1 Widescreen, DTS-HD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
DVD: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: September 21, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase with Embossed, Holographic, Textured Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and 3-Movie Pack (DVD, Blu-ray)

Buy DVD from Amazon.com • Buy Blu-ray + DVD from Amazon.com

By Kelvin Cedeno

It's been two years since the world was introduced to the new computer-animated, Mae Whitman-voiced Tinker Bell. Back then, Tink fans were horrified to learn what Disney was doing with arguably its most iconic character after Mickey Mouse. The entire Disney Fairies concept just reeked of marketing, an excuse to give little girls another franchise option besides the similarly whored-out Disney Princesses.
Many were expecting a movie that was nothing short of atrocious. As it turned out, Disney's intentions may still be thinly veiled and commercial, but the aptly titled Tinker Bell was rather harmless. It even showed a certain level of craftsmanship people hadn't anticipated from direct-to-video department DisneyToon Studios.

Fast-forward to 2010. There has since been a second film in the saga, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, that most deemed superior to the initial entry. Interestingly, the expected boatload of tie-in Disney Fairies merchandise hasn't taken off as well as Disney would've liked. Both Tinker Bell movies have sold incredibly well, and the titular character's merchandise is just as popular as ever, but products featuring her carefully-marketed friends and their world of Pixie Hollow haven't exactly flown off the shelves. Such results have even caused Disney to rethink its decision to make Pixie Hollow a prominent part of the Fantasyland expansion at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Will the series' third outing be the one to finally push all of that merchandise? Only time will tell. For now, we can only take that third installment, entitled Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, at face value.

Like a mom on the night before a project's due date, Tinker Bell helps Lizzy with her field journal of fairy research. Dr. Griffiths isn't the kind of dad who does things or says stuff or looks at you. But the love is there.

The center of a purported five-film, five-year series, this latest adventure has Tink and her friends heading off to Fairy Camp to help bring summer to the mainland. It's established immediately that fairies must hide themselves from humans, a rule that doesn't seem to have been enforced much in the previous films. Tink has become a valuable asset to the fairies of Pixie Hollow, but she feels her utility is fading after seeing how well her repair jobs have been lasting.

Fascinated by the contraptions she sees on the mainland, she decides to use her newfound free time exploring the area, much to cynical fairy Vidia's chagrin. When the two come across a miniature house specifically designed for fairies, Tink can't help but want to go inside. Vidia's protests fall on deaf ears, so she shuts Tink inside to teach her a lesson. No sooner does this happen than a human girl comes and brings the house, Tink and all, to her nearby summer residence.

The girl, Lizzy, is the miniature house's architect and, we learn, quite the fairy fanatic. Flabbergasted at finding Tink, Lizzy tries to keep it a secret from her father Dr. Griffiths. Should he discover the fairy, Griffiths is likely to take her to his scientific colleagues for research, where Tink would end up pinned to a card under glass for eternity. Initially alarmed at her exposure to a human, Tink begins to warm to Lizzy and even helps her create a field journal with extensive fairy research.

Meanwhile, Vidia informs the rest of the fairies of Tink's apparent capture. The group, consisting of water fairy Silvermist, light fairy Iridessa, garden fairy Rosetta, animal fairy Fawn, and fellow tinkers Bobble and Clank, start a search and rescue. Unfortunately, summer storms prevent them from flying to Lizzy's house. Should they wish to see their friend again, they must brave the waters separating the house from Fairy Camp.

A guilt-racked Vidia leads Iridessa, Silvermist, Rosetta and other fairies on the rainy rescue mission. The rain clearing up brings a tear to Lizzy's eye, for it means there is no longer a good excuse for Tinker Bell to stick around with her.

Three films in, it's apparent that the creators are learning what works and what doesn't in this franchise as Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue is the strongest entry thus far. That's not to say it offers a truly groundbreaking experience. The premise is awfully reminiscent of 1997's Fairy Tale: A True Story, even taking place in more or less the same time period. Plus, the friction between a child and an unbelieving parent has been done again and again. Even with that in mind, this still manages to be a breath of fresh air.

What differentiates this movie from others is how low-key it is. The majority of the story takes place in Lizzy's room. Animated features are often so terrified of boring children that they fly from set piece to set piece in an effort to mimic liveliness.
Most scenes here almost feel like a play in how they seemingly progress in real time, fitting considering the theatrical origins of the lead character. The lack of a fast-paced plot ensures there's more time for Lizzy and Tink to get to know one another and thus the relationship is more convincing. This also means there are less of the obvious playset opportunities that pervaded the first two films.

Speaking of merchandising tie-ins, Tink's melting pot of fairy friends serve a greater purpose here than they ever have. That still doesn't mean they're fleshed-out characters. They're still defined by their talents and that's it. Even so, their portions feature a surprisingly creative sense of adventure at times, and their existence makes the movie's last act possible.

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue is not a great film. The character development of both Vidia and especially Dr. Griffiths isn't particularly believable. Tinker Bell herself still lacks the arrogance and feistiness that made her role in 1953's Peter Pan so memorable. Though that may comfort concerned parents, it also heavily robs the character of her personality.

Where it lacks in some areas, the movies makes up for in others. Lizzy and Tink's friendship is sweet and allowed to play out naturally. The fact that Lizzy can't understand Tink means that there's a lot of pantomime, and that helps the fairy feel more like her original mute self despite the neutering. The animation is almost shockingly good for a direct-to-video film, with many of the backgrounds almost passing for live-action. Throw in a proactive thread for Tink's friends to follow and some truly effective moments of flight, and you have a film that stands up pretty well to all of the preconceived notions inevitably thrown at it. Whether or not it can invigorate the franchise to Disney's liking remains to be seen, but at the very least, it offers a charming and fairly painless experience.

Tinker Bell must have streamlined the pixie dust process, because Lizzy needn't think a happy thought to take flight.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Great Fairy Rescue's 1.78:1 Blu-ray transfer is every bit as excellent as it ought to be given the nature of the project. Colors are warm and vivid without feeling too saturated or noisy. Detail is finely realized throughout, most noticeably in the lush backgrounds. There seem to be no noticeable digital defects like edge enhancement, artifacting, or ringing. That makes this another top-notch transfer from Disney.

The DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack is also presented well. The most active sequences obviously stem from the subplot of the fairies at "sea." Rain and rushing water fill the surrounds and enclose the listener realistically. The scenes of Lizzy of Tink are, of course, more reserved, though a scene of pixie-dusted Lizzy crashing into furniture into her bedroom offers nice effects. Dialogue is clear throughout and avoids feeling too canned while the music broadly compliments the voices and sounds without overpowering them. This is a very satisfying track.

As usual, the Blu-ray includes a standard DVD, whose anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation likewise delights with its impressive delivery of attractive sights and sounds.

The cast of Disney's "Rapunzel", er, "Tangled" appears in a desperation-smacking preview for the film. Tinker Bell pulls a whisker on Lizzy's menacing fat cat in this fully-animated deleted scene.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

For once, the Blu-ray and DVD versions feature identical bonus material with the former offering them all in high definition.
These begin with an exclusive sneak peek at Tangled (3:38). Comprised of cast and crew sound bites and footage largely pulled from the teaser trailer, calling this an "exclusive" seems deceptive to those closely monitoring this Disney Feature Animation film's progress, as the clip has been readily available online a good week and a half before this disc even streets.

Next come five deleted scenes with introductions by director Brad Raymond and producer Helen Kalafatic (14:44). Technically, these are four scenes as one of them is presented both in storyboard and preliminary animation forms. The most significant cuts are an alternate prologue showing Dr. Griffiths as a child and, in a rare move, a fully-animated action sequence that takes the place of a more emotional beat in the final film. These are interesting to see, and Raymond and Kalafatic offer good explanations as to why these were cut.

Bridgit Mendler, the latest Disney Channel crossover star, evidently believes the children are our future, thus teaching them well if not exactly letting them lead the way in her "How to Believe" music video. Cinnamon sticks, pine tree, or skunk: Do YOU know what fairies smell like? You will, after playing the "Fairy Field Guide Builder."

The music video for "How to Believe" (3:01) performed by newest Disney Channel starlet Bridgit Mendler is also included. The video features Mendler helping several children put on a talent show for no one in particular as film clips are interspersed. It's a forgettable video for an equally forgettable end credits tune.

"Fairy Field Guide Builder" is a set-top game that relies on knowledge of the three Tinker Bell movies sorted by different topics. Once the player gets the many questions on a topic right, Tink herself offers a rundown of fairy customs and culture for that category. Completion of all four categories results in an extra field guide entry that describes characters seen in next year's Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods. It's not very challenging, but it's nice to collect all the fairy lore in one place.

If Zoe Periale knows just one thing, it's how to "Design a Fairy House" that wins an Epcot Flower and Garden Festival contest. Where's my Vidia? There's my Vidia! Squint to see the spunky fairy popping up outside the fairy house on the DVD's main menu.

Finally, there's "Design a Fairy House" (1:51). Despite the title, this isn't a how-to,
but a look at a Tinker Bell-themed contest Disney ran at last spring's Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Children were encouraged to design fairy houses, which director Raymond and producer Kalafatic judged. Winner Zoe Periale explains the different elements she incorporated into her house, which she displays. The piece is too brief to really satisfy.

There's also a link to Disney's BD-Live which wasn't yet active at the time of this review.

There are a couple of DVD exclusives, but they are merely the Sprouse Brothers' Blu-ray pitch and a briefing on digital copies.

The Blu-ray opens with ads for Disney Blu-ray, Toy Story 3, Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition, Tangled and Disney Movie Rewards. These can also be found at the start of the "Sneak Peeks" listing, where they're followed by additional previews against piracy and for Disney Parks, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, The Search for Santa Paws, Disneynature's Oceans and The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, The Lion King: Diamond Edition, and Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods. The DVD relegates Toy Story 3's promo to the big lump and advertises Mendler's "Good Luck Charlie" instead of Disney Parks, but otherwise is identical.

On both formats, the Celtic-scored main menu animates Vidia popping up around the Tink-trapping fairy house. The Bonus Features menu takes us inside where Tink flits in to observe the scant extras pages. The BD's right-expanding pop-up selections are held in translucent white boxes framed with vines and pixie dust. Accessing this during playback shows a static image of the fairy house while the movie continues. The disc's loading icon features Tink hovering next to the word "Loading" while colored beads show progress.

The two discs come housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with side snap. The case itself has a cardboard slipcover featuring embossment and glitter. Inside, there's a Disney Movie Rewards code along with a pamphlet for other Disney releases and (of course) Disney Fairies merchandise. In a nice move, the spine features a portion of the Pixie Hollow tree that aligns with the covers of the first two, presumably forming the entire image once all five films are placed together.

Buckets collecting water from roof leaks give Tinker Bell a good idea. It's tinker time!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

No one will mistake Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue for an exceptional and memorable piece of work, but it still has its moments, feeling less like a product than the previous two. The Blu-ray combo presents the film with excellent video and strong audio. The bonus material isn't anything to write home about, though the deleted scenes are interesting. Established fans of the Tinker Bell series have no reason not to pick up what's the strongest installment yet. Those on the fence could certainly do worse than giving this an open-minded rental.

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Producer Helen Kalafatic and Director Bradley Raymond are two of the most important people behind the creation "Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue" -- click to read our interview with them.

Related Interview:
The Makers of Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue - Director Bradley Raymond and Producer Helen Kalafatic

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Reviewed September 15, 2010.