On my trip to Disney Studios last month, I had a chance to see a preview of The Pirate Fairy, a direct-to-video prequel to Disney’s classic film Peter Pan. This is the sixth in Disney’s line of such Fairy prequels, each starring Tinker Bell and her growing cast of supporting characters, and they’re all lots of fun, especially if you’re already a fan of the original.
For the screening, Disney brought me—and the excellent group of parent bloggers I was there with—out to DisneyToon Studios, the place where Disney makes their direct-to-video features. They have an entirely different staff and separate workflow systems for making their films than Disney Animation Studios, which produces feature films like Frozen.
They had the whole place decked out in Pirate Fairy decor, and my old friend Joe Dunn—who provided the art direction for the decorations—stopped by to say hi while I grabbed a coffee before the show. Despite the separation of the two studios, some teams, like his, provide services for them both.
We got to interview a number of the people behind the show, including the director, writer, character designers, and so on. I’ll have more to say about that next week. They had two screening rooms in the building, and we settled into one of them to watch the movie on the big screen. While most people will see the film on their TVs at home, Disney did arrange for a limited release in some theaters around the country, so we weren’t the only ones in store for such a treat.
Before I review the film, you should know I’m a huge fan of Peter Pan, from J. M. Barrie’s play and book on up to the latest efforts. I even wrote a tabletop RPG for kids based on it back in 1991. At the time, the publisher gave up on it due to copyright concerns—the rights issues surrounding Peter Pan are a snarled mess—but I still have it up on my site to download for free, if you like. (Just scroll down until you spot Neverland: The Imagination Game.)
All that said, I loved it. It’s not a deep and dark film about the human condition, of course, but it’s perfect for kids. It’s faithful to the backstory of Peter Pan and hews closest to it of all the films in the Fairy line. You get to see some familiar faces like a young Captain Hook and an even younger crocodile—the one who ate Hook’s hand, although that’s not showed here—and the film adds even more vibrance to the Fairy mythology Disney’s built out over the entire line of movies.
Tom Hiddleston (who plays Loki in the Marvel movies) does a great job voicing the young Hook, and Christina Hendricks of Mad Men and Firefly fame shines as the new fairy Zarina, who takes on the titular role. The story is good fun and highlights the tug between curiosity and community, as well as the importance of knowing whom you can really trust. There’s a huge reveal at one point which, if you know your Peter Pan, you’ll see coming from a mile away, but you can imagine your kids gasping at in surprise. Either way, it’s a pleasure to watch from start to end.
One huge highlight of the film is the introduction of Crocky, the crocodile. He’s hilarious and, honestly, too damn cute. They sent us home with a stuffed toy of him, and my daughter Helen snagged it the moment I got in the door.
Take a look at the trailer for the Pirate Fairy below. If that whets your appetite, check out Disney’s official site for the film too. It’s chock full of all sorts of information, images, and even games for the film. Then hold out for the weekend and grab it when it releases, next Tuesday, April 1, 2014.