Why “Tinker Bell” is a great movie.

So, Disney decided to make some new movies focused on Tinker Bell from the Peter Pan universe, and released “Tinker Bell” in 2008.  I checked it out from the library last week and finally saw all the whole thing with my daughters tonight.  Let me give you a very quick plot synopsis:

A young girl trying to find her way in a new place struggles to change herself into what she thinks she wants to be, only to find that she was already what she wanted to be.

Not exciting for me.  The flesh has been painted onto those bones a thousand times, usually with the “new place” being school and “wants to be” being popular.  Whatevs.

But now let me synopsize Tinker Bell:

A young fairy (Tinker Bell) is born on Neverland.  Through a sorting ceremony she is selected to be in the guild of tinkers (makers/fixers) and not one of the “Nature” fairies (who are responsible for things like the changing seasons, caring for animals, etc).  Tink shows extreme talent as a tinker, but a MacGuffin pushes her to make a dedicated attempt to join any other guild.  Many attempts at this fail.  She eventually fails very publicly and catastrophically.  After some soul searching, she realizes she can use her skill as a tinker to make tools that will erase the effects of the catastrophe.

So why is this different to me?

  1. The biggie for me, the thing that even made me pay attention to the movie, is that her skill was “making”.  Not singing or cheerleading.  I know that they were handed the “tinker” role by J. M. Barrie, but they didn’t have to run with it.  The fact that she was a literal tinker wasn’t covered in the 1953 Peter Pan, which is the only real work they had to respect in this movie.  They could easily have ditched the literal tinker aspect of her character and no one would have made a fuss, but they didn’t.  They kept it and made Tink a “maker”, which I think is great.
  2. I absolutely love that the MacGuffin doesn’t involve a boy in any way.  The plot’s not driven by Tink’s desire to get a boyfriend, by someone else’s attempt to steal her boyfriend, etc.  Absolutely none of her sense of self worth in this movie is driven by a relationship she does or doesn’t have with a boy.  It was a very refreshing experience to watch a movie where the female lead was fulfilled by making a device that can paint ladybugs and not by a dude smiling at her.

The movie was by no means perfect – the fact that she was “born” and started working the same day never stopped bothering me for instance – but it was significantly better than any other kids straight-to-DVD movie I’ve watched in a long time.  Maybe it’s not that great, and I’m just being mislead by my incredibly low expectations going in, but I would encourage my girls to watch this movie again, which is not something I expected to say when we got it.

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