Every once in a while, a critic must suck up his pride and cover a film that would have never registered on his radar. For me, that is what I experienced with the latest entry in the Disney Fairies series, Secret of the Wings. Though this Tinker Bell-themed movie presents nothing new to the direct-to-video blueprint, I must admit that this “flitterrific” film offers pleasant amusement. Let’s fly right into this review.
We have seen this type of film before. An adventurous spirit yearns to explore a forbidden region. In this case, Tinker Bell (voiced by the effervescent Mae Whitman) longs to visit the mysterious Winter Woods, a region unknown to the fairies of Pixie Hollow. “We don’t cross the border,” warns Fawn, the animal fairy. I wonder if some underlying symbolism exists with that quote. Yet again, nobody would expect a Disney Fairies film to hold political commentary, as the intended target audience is far from voting. Once Tinker Bell steps on the other side, fascination overwhelms her soul, and the magic makes her wings sparkle. Now the fairy is known as the “border crosser.” Tink never even signed any papers! Uh-oh. Who would have guessed this would be both unintentionally funny and socially on-the-nose?
Tinker Bell glimpses into the Winter Woods from aboard a basket carried by an owl.
Yet they must drift apart because of the dangers that could await if Tink stays, but not without a plan to reunite. Through the power of friendship and magic, the Pixie Hollow gang designs a snow-making machine, intended to allow Periwinkle to access this new environment – but not without conflict. The rulers from both lands ban the girls from meeting up again. Ever. But that cannot stop these two forces of nature.
Having never glimpsed into Pixie Hollow before, I found this world to be nearly as mesmerizing and detailed as any Pixar film. John Lasseter, who has served as executive producer for all of these Tinker Bell productions, exhibits his influence by invoking a sense of wonder into every facet. Certainly the film is under the hands of the Disney ToonStudios crew, but his support casts a nice amount of smart magic into this environment. For instance, bookworms, resembling little Heimlichs from A Bug’s Life, restock books at the Pixie Hollow library, but not before munching on the pages. How endearing.
Though the formulaic plot offers little novelty, Secret of the Wings radiates a glimmer over each scene. I was especially impressed by the compelling drama during the latter half, when I was genuinely interested in the outcome of the threat that enters Pixie Hollow. The wonderful innocence of these characters, as well as the charming fine points, composes a world that encourages viewers to want to see more of – even past the 75-minute-long running time. The inventive and imaginative lot of personalities, especially the tinker duo of Clank and Bobble, entertain with charm and clumsiness. I would love to see a film based around these nerdy guys. Perhaps that could extend the Disney Fairies’ reach to young boys. Now I am just giving Disney ToonStudios ideas.
Tinker Bell meets Periwinkle’s friends Spike and Gliss
Secret of the Wings looks and sounds positively dazzling. Crisp imagery, from the falling leaves to the gleaming water, could not appear any more visually-appealing. Nevertheless a few features lacked realism, most notably the fur of the Winter Woods cat. That represents more of an exception to the rule, though, as that is evocative of the animation quality than the actual presentation. The audio rarely disappoints, as the superior sound makes you feel like you are within Pixie Hollow. Add to that a bewitching Celtic-like score by composer Joel McNeely, and you have a superb acoustic experience. A 3D presentation of the film is also featured on an additional disc.
“Pixie Hollow Games,” a twenty-two minute featurette, first aired as a television special last year. This Olympics-themed competition showcases fearful garden fairy Rosetta’s entrance into the games, complete with fireworks and fairy spectacle. This almost trumps the overlong opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics. “Sit on the frog” chants the audience who forces apprehensive Rosetta to compete in the silly leap-frogging contest. Rosetta overcomes her insecurities to make the garden fairies proud. While I doubt this tournament concept could have worked as an entire film – hence why a feature-length version of this was scrapped and retooled into a special – I was entertained by the ingenuity of the diversions. Nothing says fun like watching fairies covered in mud race through Pixie Hollow. A solid bonus feature inclusion.
Music videos of songs featured in the film, including typical pop pieces “Dig Down Deeper” by Disney Channel star Zendaya and “Great Divide” by the McClain Sisters, serve the purpose of supplementing the bonus feature quantity.
A very short one-minute clip called “Fright Light” involves a mouse chased by rats into a scary, glowing pumpkin. That’s it. No joke.
The two sisters share the same special wings
Absolutely a few laughable moments – for adults, at least – enter the frame in how cookie-cutter this storyline is structured, but I almost forgot I was watching a “young girl” movie. When creative content transcends gender and age, you want to see that recipe replicated. Chances are that formula will carry through even more Tinker Bell films. I will be just one of many rooting for the Pixie Hollow gang to continue casting enjoyment to their younger – and even older – fans. Who would have guessed that? Certainly not this pessimist. Props to Tink and Peri. You go girls!
Bonus Features: C
Overall Grade: B
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Return back next week for another edition of Disney In Depth. Catch alerts for upcoming editions of the column by following me on Twitter. Have a good week!