The Disney Fairies are a big hit at my house. Ever since we introduced my daughter to them with the original Tinker Bell movie back in 2008, each subsequent offering has been promptly watched … many, many times. Since that first movie, we’ve watched Tink and her gang help a father and his daughter reunite, save Pixie Hollow, compete in Fairy Olympics, and find Tinker Bell’s lost sister. Then, with last year’s The Pirate Fairy there came an–ahem–sea change. Tinker Bell wasn’t even in the title of the movie! The focus was much more on the development of Zarina, the titular Pirate Fairy, rather than our plucky heroine.
That trend continues with this year’s offering: Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast. While Tinker Bell is back in the title, she’s definitely not the focus. Luckily, instead of developing a brand new character (only to drop her in the next film), Neverbeast puts the spotlight squarely on one of the original Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust gang: Fawn (and no, your ears aren’t deceiving you, that’s Ginnifer Goodwin voicing her this time around). Someone at Disney was paying attention, because if there’s anything my daughter loves more than the Fairies in these movies, it’s the baby animals to which Fawn and her Animal Talent friends tend. Right off the bat (spoiler, there are no bats), we get a meadow full of them, as Fawn shows off what she’s best at.
Unfortunately, Fawn is also good at getting distracted by her desire to help animals first and think about the consequences later. This brings her into early conflict with the leader of the Scout Fairies, Nyx. Voiced confidently by Rosario Dawson, she’s the Vidia to Fawn’s Tink. The Scout Fairies are trained enforcers, working together and using weapons and squad tactics to take down and turn back threats to Neverland. Think of them as the thin, glittery-gold line between the other talent fairies and that which would like to eat them for snacks. My daughter flat-out loved them. She was marching around imitating their poses before the final credits even rolled. Nyx and her squad provide a much different vibe for Neverbeast. Nyx herself is a more nuanced antagonist for the Fairy-verse; she believes that she has to make hard, often un-fairylike, decisions to keep her people safe. Even more so, she sees Fawn’s pie-eyed world view as dangerous. While Fawn sees Nyx as close-minded.
So it’s no surprise when the Neverbeast makes his appearance, that the two fairies come to very different conclusions. Fawn is at first fascinated by him, then quickly falls for the single-minded, somewhat scary-looking creature, even going so far as to give him a name, Gruff. Nyx, however, sees Gruff as an unknown threat that must be catalogued and stopped. The upside to that is we get a hysterical research sequence with Nyx and Scribble (the bookish fairy introduced back in Secret of the Wings) in which Scribble attempts some rather awkward flirting.
To say much more about the plot would spoil it; but suffice to say, if you watched the clip we ran last week with director Steve Loter, you won’t be surprised to find out that overcoming your first impressions and accepting that which you might find scary is a large part of the story. What’s surprising is how much nuance goes into delivering this point. There are misunderstandings, betrayals, and a selfless sacrifice that comes straight out of the first Avengers movie. Despite how easy it would be to slap the Disney Fairies stamp on the packaging and walk away, Loter and his crew have gone the extra mile to make a movie that doesn’t dumb things down for the intended audience. Heck, we even get insight into fairy mortality (be ready for questions)!
As always, the animation is gorgeous (and gets better with every iteration). The music, expertly done by KT Tunstall, provides a perfect backdrop. I do wish some of the additional characters, Bobble, Clank, Fairy Mary, or Periwinkle (I mean, c’mon, Tink goes to the Winter Woods and everything!) had made appearances; but that’s a minor quibble. Those are mainly players in Tinker Bell’s story and, start to finish, Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast is Fawn’s show. Full of action, humor, and emotion (if you’ve ever had to say goodbye to a family pet, I challenge you to remain dry-eyed for the final scenes), Disney Studios has another Fairy hit on their hands. Even better, I won’t mind having to rewatch it one bit.