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The title logo for Disney's franchise-launching "Tinker Bell" movie.
Tinker Bell: A Report on the Forthcoming Animated Disney Movie

By Christopher Disher

A new direct-to-video release from DisneyToon Studios is set to stretch the mythology of J. M. Barrie's Never Land fairy world.
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Tinker Bell and Other Creative Check Designs
The Lion King 1 director Bradley Raymond helms the four-part Tinker Bell DVD series that aims to give a new voice to the beloved Disney fairy -- quite literally. As a fully-speaking teenaged fairy girl, Tink will accentuate her adolescent world view through events of rejection, defeat, and genuine soul-searching. It should sound quite familiar; the theme can be found in The Little Mermaid, Toy Story, Aladdin, The Incredibles and nearly every other animated Disney film ever created. It's Tink's turn to champion the frustrated struggles of juvenescence, even if they are limited to the realms of Pixie Hollow.

The franchise starts with Tink's birth and each feature develops a new story of its own. With four films, the possibilities to explore different aspects of fairies, Never Land, and Pixie Hollow are numerous. It is likely fans will wonder about Peter Pan's involvement in the films. When asked at the Tinker Bell question and answer session, producer Jeannine Russo said they worked with the idea of introducing Peter into the story.

She said, "Right now, there are four films planned and yeah, we might have a surprise coming up." She wouldn't divulge any further details about the other child characters, Wendy included, but alluded to still more "surprises" in that regard.

By its very nature, the film franchise appears destined to capitalize on little girls' fascination with fairies. Tinker Bell is marketed more towards girls already, with many products currently on the shelves. Kathy Franklin, Disney's VP Global Franchise Development for Girls, says a lot of additional Tinker Bell products are being released for the film.
The five major fairies of "Tinker Bell" emote in the colorful Pixie Hollow.
Many of these toys tie in to the virtual fairy world, which was officially unveiled at the 2008 Toy Fair in February. But the plans for Tink don't stop with her girl appeal; the producers want the film to attract boys as well.

Peter Pan aside, two boy fairies are already in the film and are said to have a "Laurel and Hardy" or "Timon and Pumbaa" dynamic to them. This aspect was very important to Raymond, who grew up loving fairies as a child and expressed the desire to make the films relatable to all children. In addition, the second film will concentrate on Terence and Tink's relationship while the third, Russo says, "is about little boys' fascination with fairies in the real world."

The four movies are supported under the guidance of John Lasseter. He added a dynamic and creative presence to the story meetings and greatly inspired the direction of the film. Raymond, who said working with him was "like a dream come true," spoke in full praise of his creativity, "he created the idea that fairies go to the mainland and they change the seasons... He knows how to bring a magical world to a relatable place..."

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Inspired, Raymond began to feel the creative juices stir within him. He used the magical world of fairies to explain the seemingly magical happenings of the natural world. "[I saw a] half green and half orange [leaf]. And I was already working on this project, I'm thinking, 'Wow, the fairy was in the middle of the night cleaning and time was up and they left and they had not finished painting in the leaf.' So, children are gonna be able to have that question answered," told Raymond in how fairies explain the changing of seasons.

By the sound of it, Raymond and crew would have been in dire straights without the creative acumen of John Lasseter. He not only added ideas to the pool, he also invoked discipline and motivation to get things accomplished.

Lasseter isn't the only heavyweight attached to the picture. Mae Whitman replaced Brittany Murphy as the voice of Tinker Bell.
Something over there catches the eyes of the Pixie Hollow fairies.
Jesse McCartney, Anjelica Huston, and Kristen Chenoweth are supporting voice characters for Terence, Queen Clarion, and Rosetta respectively. Even though many may be disappointed in Tink finding her voice, Raymond and team said they worked hard to stay true to the pre-established mythology.

To work around the problem of having a mute fairy pantomime for 80 minutes, Raymond reasons, "...she always talks... it just came out in jingles because humans can't understand fairies... So, when you go outset into her world, you're going to the Pixie Hollow where the fairies are from, they are able to talk and they can understand each other..."

Politics aside, how does the film look? I saw a selection of rough scenes cut with a scratch track and temp score from Cast Away. The animation wasn't yet fully rendered but the general environment appeared nicely wrought. The characters were charming but lacked the universal appeal of such iconic personalities as Woody or Mr. Incredible.
Even so, true judgment can't be passed until the film is finished and seen. One thing is for sure: as a franchise pic, it's going to make lots of money.

A more accurate gauge for the film's animation quality can be observed in a music video I saw, which featured fully rendered video in high definition. The image was stunning. Celtic singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt performed the music. The lyrics were hard to understand because the words weren't enunciated very well, but the musicality to both the vocals and instruments was wondrous.

The first movie will be released on October 28th on standard DVD and Blu-ray formats. The other three films will follow in successive years, each claiming an October release. The producers decided against the theatrical route because, as Russo said, "As far as the type of quality of film that we produce, the Disney Company, regardless what the medium is, we always just go for the highest level of quality."

At the end of the Q&A, I got in the last question. I asked Bradley Raymond what he's ultimately trying to communicate with this film. He said, "Well, that's a really good question. I think the best message of this film is being proud of who you are. How many times in life do we -- whatever your life is or if you have a talent that you're ignoring like Tinker Bell, and I think for little girls it's a really important message to really be proud of who you are and that's a really strong message in the movie. I think that's the primary message that I hope everybody gets from it."

Preorder Tinker Bell on DVDTinker Bell comes to DVD and Blu-ray on October 28th.

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Related and Recent Reports:
Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition -- DVD Review Interview with Mary Costa (voice of Aurora) El Capitan Premiere Report
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning -- DVD Review Catalina Island Premiere Report & Video
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition -- DVD Review Interview with Henry Selick (the director)

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Published October 19, 2008.