Despite the presence of John Lassiter as executive producer, this is another example of Walt Disney Pictures undermining their classic movie legacy with B-level direct-to-video follow-ups. TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE is not bad, but it is strictly juvenile, with few of the qualities that make the best Disney films entertaining for the whole family. Younger children will probably find it amusing; parents will probably just pop the disc (DVD or Blu-ray) into the player and cook dinner while the kids remain occupied with the colorful adventures.
The story feels a bit unfocused, with two narrative threads stretching out what could have been a short-subject into feature length. In the first, Tinkerbell is captured by the daughter of a naturalist, and her fairy friends speed to the rescue. In the second, the lonely daughter manages to teach her scientifically-oriented father to believe in fairies again. In effect, the real drama is with the humans; Tinker Bell is just a catalyst, and the fairy rescue (so prominent in the title) is just filler to provide a little excitement.
The backgrounds and designs are amazingly detailed and eye-catching (especially when seen on the Blu-ray disc), but the animation lacks the expressiveness of the best work seen in Disney films, either their own in-house productions or those from Pixar Animation Studios. Unlike most sub-par CGI, which looks cartoony, the figures in TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE actually display realistic texture; unfortunately, the texture resembles plastic. It’s as if the goal was to create animated figures that resembled the inevitable collectible action figures that will be found in stores. Also, the fairies move in a staccato-type of motion, apparently used to suggest supernatural speed; it’s a semi-clever way to take the lack of smooth animation and turn it into a feature rather than a bug.
Tinker Bell has been somewhat toned down from the character seen in PETER PAN (1953). No longer tempermental, she is now simply curious and a bit bland. Why the writers decided to take her name literally (she is a “tinker” who fixes things) is a mystery to this reviewer.
One interesting quirk of the characters in TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE is that, although many of the cast use British accents (appropriate to the setting), the fairies themselves are a equitably diverse group of ethnic types, at least in terms of their appearances.
Walt Disney Home Video is offering the film on DVD and in a two-disc DVD & Blu-ray disc combo pack. The image quality on the DVD is almost good enough to compete with the Blu-ray; it will certainly do on smaller televisions or portable DVD players. The Blu-ray transfer is startlingly beautiful – easily good enough to serve as a promotional display for the superiority of the Blu-ray format.
Unlike some previous Disney releases (such as PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME, which featured different bonus features on the different discs), TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE includes the same extras on both discs. Worth noting: it is much easier to navigate the DVD menus when searching for these features.
Bonus features include:
TANGLED: Exclusive Sneak Peak. Brief clips of the director and cast, intercut with footage seen in the trailer for the upcoming theatrical animated film, based on “Rapunzel.”
Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Director Brad Raymond and Producer Helen Kalafatic. Mostly presented in story-board form.
- “A Real Live Fairy” – abandoned prologue of the father, seen as a young boy, humiliated when his sighting of a fairy turns to disaster and disbelief. Would have immensely helped with the characterization of the father, making him more sympathetic.
- “Lizzy’s Bedtime Story (storyboards)
- “Lizzy’s Bedtime Story (production) – the same scene, the second version taking it to the next step, with basic CGI
- “Tea Party” – a scene included in the script because a survey of children showed most would like to have a tea party if they were lucky enough to capture a fairy; omitted because it did not advance the story.
- “Cat Attack” – original explanation for why Tinkerbell left the human home, replaced with a scene of her saying goodbye to the daughter; presented in full animation, with some great images of the cat pussy-footing its way over plates held airborne by pixie dust
“How to Believe” Music Video. Typical innocuous music video, featuring Disney-channel singer Bridgit Mendler intercut with scenes from the film.
Fairy Field Guide Builder. A game in which you move the cursor to select images that answer questions based on the film.
Design a Fairy House. Footage of children who were asked to design their own version of a fairy-sized house. Cute.
The Blu-ray also includes the previously seen promo of Disney Channel stars Dylan and Cole Sprouse extolling the virtues of the format, plus a short how-to vid on using a digital disc (not included on this set) to download the film onto your computer.