More than 60 years after Walt Disney’s talented team of artists created the animated feature film Peter Pan, the legacy of its iconic characters only continues to grow. Tinker Bell has become a popular character in her own right, thanks to a series of movies produced by DisneyToon Studios, a division of the animation powerhouse devoted to home-video exclusives. Disney recently celebrated the fifth release in that series, The Pirate Fairy, with a red carpet premiere, held just steps away from the very building where the original Peter Pan was made.
Up until now, the Tinker Bell movies have only tangentially referenced the source material, but this one features the closest connection yet to the Neverland in J.M. Barrie’s original story. The Pirate Fairy introduces Zarina (voiced by Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks), a curious and bold fairy who leaves pixie hollow and joins up with a motley crew of pirates. When she returns to steal the fairies’ precious blue pixie dust, Tinker Bell and her friends must set out after her to get it back. To do that, they’ll have to face a legendary adversary, but that’s all I can say for now. The rest is too good to spoil.
The event featured stilt walkers dressed as pirates (one even had her own ship made out of balloons), live music, and photo ops with Tink herself in front of Skull Rock. There were activities for the kids, including coloring, stickers, and a sand pit where they could dig for “buried treasure.” Each child attending also got a foam pirate sword or a set of fairy wings (or both). Among the special guests were Hendricks, director Peggy Holmes, producer Jenni Magee-Cook, and the voice of Tinker Bell herself, Mae Whitman. I got a chance to talk to them on the red carpet, except for Whitman, who was pulled away just as she reached me.
Holmes talked about the significance of the location before heading in to introduce the film to an enthusiastic audience. “It’s so exciting to do the premiere here on the Disney lot where the characters of Peter Pan were created,” she said. “It was right here in the building behind us. So it’s really exciting to be here today and share the movie with everybody.”
Magee-Cook elaborated a bit more on the connections between the two films. “That was a real responsibility that we had. I mean, we were working with the art and introducing the beginning before Peter Pan was around. So we wanted to be honest and true to what we were building on and we wanted to continue that forward and make everybody happy with what we were doing.”
I asked Hendricks about what drew her to the role of Zarina. She said she’d been a fan of the movies even before signing on. “I was just thrilled to be part of Disney and the Tinker Bell series,” she said. “I probably would have played the crocodile if they’d asked me to. But then I got to know her and she was so spunky and so smart and such a great little character. She was really fun to play.”
Hendricks also appreciated that the film is empowering to young girls in particular. “The movie is about knowing who you are and being proud of who you are and not trying to be something you aren’t. It’s about knowing yourself and developing that talent of yours as best you can.”
The Pirate Fairy is available on DVD and Blu-ray beginning today, April 1.