Children's & Middle Grade · Fantasy · TV & Movies

“Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast”: Maybe the Best Yet

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast cover

Oh my god y’all this movie. Took me an extra week and a half to get it watched, but it’s totally worth it. Here’s the description:

Return to Pixie Hollow for a heartwarming adventure, Disney’s TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVER BEAST. An ancient myth of a massive creature sparks the curiosity of Tinker Bell and her good friend Fawn, an animal fairy who’s not afraid to break the rules to help an animal in need. But this creature is not welcome in Pixie Hollow — and the scout fairies are determined to capture the mysterious beast, who they fear will destroy their home. Fawn must convince her fairy friends to risk everything to rescue the NeverBeast.

Let’s get the comparisons out of the way. They’re all favorable. First, I always compare the Tinker Bell series to a mix of My Little Pony and A Bug’s Life. This movie tips more toward MLP, with a “magical beast” plotline instead of a “tiny nature people” concept. The movie also reminded me of the classic Doctor Who episode “The Creature from the Pit,” which (spoiler alert) is about not judging monsters by their appearances, with a very similar sort of aesthetic. And I didn’t miss that Star Wars reference at the beginning, you sneaky little fairy-writers! I’m pretty sure I guffawed.

Each installment in the Tinker Bell series expands on the Disney Fairies universe. This one doesn’t introduce anything drastic like a new season or pirates, but we expand on the background worldbuilding we’ve seen over the past five movies. For example, we hear the term “fairies and sparrow men” for the first time — in the tie-in books the male fairies are called sparrow men, but this is the first time it’s used in the movies. Male fairies are also just called “fairies” with everybody else, so if there’s any significance to the gendered term, I don’t know what it is. We also get to revisit the male bookworm fairy from Secret of the Wings, and apparently he’s kind of a big deal in the fairy library.

Fawn-movie
Fawn

Tinker Bell actually takes a supporting role here and the movie focuses on one of her friends — Fawn, the animal fairy. This is unsurprising since they’ve been diverting the focus to other characters for several movies, but this is the first full-length movie to focus on one of the previously-existing supporting characters. I’m happy for the chance to change things up, and it works well as a way to get deeper into Pixie Hollow’s rhythms (instead of hanging the plot on interruptions or outside activities).

We establish that Fawn has a history of sheltering wounded dangerous animals, like Hannah the baby hawk (har har). This is  nice comparison to Tink’s history of breaking more foundational laws, linking the two together, so I love that Tink chooses to trust Fawn’s judgment. There’s not really a “moral of the story,” which is great — kids deserve complex movies too! — but Fawn’s main theme is “Heart gets you in trouble, head is your friend!” because Queen Clarion tells her that’s her problem. She’s too sympathetic toward all animals and should think more about what she’s doing. Instead of learning to be cold-hearted or totally disregarding the advice, she gets to a place where “for once, my head and heart — they’re actually telling me to do the same thing.” It’s perfect! I also liked seeing her study the Neverbeast’s behavior — especially cool for any budding biologists out there, and it demonstrates that tinkers aren’t the only smart fairies.

As usual there’s also a new character Nyx, a badass scout. Yay! Her arc didn’t have much space, though, so it seems a little lacking. She learns that she misjudged Fawn and Gruff (the Neverbeast), but why was she so driven in the first place? So uncompromising and hostile toward Fawn? Maybe this will show up in another movie? The rest of the fairies have their trademark personalities and funny banter. I laugh out loud watching these movies, and I think they’ve gotten funnier each time.

The animation returns to Secret of the Wings levels with the lovely, complex, furry, expressive character Gruff. He’s another nonverbal character (this series is great for those). He’s occasionally catlike and doglike, but not really either… he’s a new animal design that’s really interesting. The special features on the DVD talk about how they combined different animals to make him look new, but also so those elements would also feel familiar (and thus reassuring). I got attached immediately, bought every emotional state the movie tried to sell me, and then they drop the bittersweet ending — the fairies have to say goodbye to Gruff, because he goes into hibernation for hundreds of years until the next comet and storm, so they’ll never see him again. And all the fairies give him this beautiful journey to his bed and there’s a super sad song at the end and I cried about a Tinker Bell movie just shut up I’m fine…

disney.wikia.com
disney.wikia.com

It’s hard to define why, but this was the most emotional Tinker Bell movie for me. Possibly because it’s an animal movie, or because it’s more a straightforward fantasy movie, or because the setting is more intimate, or just because the script is great. Obviously, use your own judgment for yourself and your kids. Gruff doesn’t die, but I was literally crying, and I’m still thinking about it.

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