The heartwarming story explores the ancient myth of a mysterious creature whose distant roar sparks the curiosity of Tinker Bell's friend Fawn, an animal fairy who's not afraid to break the rules to rescue the NeverBeast before time runs out. The fairies meet Gruff who is a massive creature and the subject of an ancient Pixie Hollow myth. Hidden in a dark lair on the fringes of the fairies' beloved home, Gruff is discovered by curious and empathetic animal fairy Fawn, who sees something special in his glowing green eyes. His penchant for stacking rocks mystifies Fawn and her friends—but Gruff's true purpose is the real surprise.
So, there I was again, a grown, adult male, sniffling and misty-eyed at the end of another 'Tinker Bell' movie. Where do we go to turn in our Man Cards?
In the history of Disney's direct-to-video movies, the 'Tinker Bell' series has to be the best, and most consistently good (technically the company occasionally releases these movies theatrically in very select markets, but for all intents and purposes these are DTV movies). Somehow their generic predictability works in their favor. A clever way to harmlessly disarm the viewer. The trick Disney is playing is a sly one. My black-hearted emotional receptors are continuously fooled with each 'Tinker Bell' iteration. No, they aren't full-on Disney classics, but they deserve to belong in their own lower pantheon. How many direct-to-video movies has Disney made? How many of them have been good? Surely, the 'Tinker Bell' movies are instant DTV classics – whatever that means.
With the exception of 2013, Disney has been churning out one 'Tinker Bell' movie a year. Considering the quality of both the storytelling and the animation, it's quite a feat. These movies could've easily descended into mediocre chaos after the first installment. Yet, with each subsequent entry into the series, the stories feel thoughtful; the characters continue to grow; and the animation continues to dazzle.
'Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast' is the longest title in the series. It's also one of the most enjoyable. I know that's saying a lot, because I've enjoyed all past 'Tinker Bell' movies, but this one hits a soft spot. Give me a good misunderstood animal drama any day. 'Legened of the NeverBeast' takes a lot of its beats from 'Lilo & Stitch' or 'How to Train Your Dragon.' An eccentric loner stumbles across a fantastical creature. Both are outcasts of a sort. Both form a strong bond. And that's it for me. The walls of critical cynicism melt away.
What's funny, is calling this movie a 'Tinker Bell' movie is a bit disingenuous, because Tinker Bell is at best a bit playerin this story. Even as the film aims its focus away from the star of the series, it still maintains the jovial spirit it's become known for.
The main thrust of the story is focused on Tinker Bell's close friend Fawn (America Ferrera). As an animal fairy fawn is fond of all sorts of furry folk. We quickly find out that Fawn has incurred the wrath of the scout fairies – Pixie Hollow protectors – because she fancies bringing home dangerous animals who are in need of fairy assistance.
She soon finds a mysterious beast that appears to have just woken from a long hibernation. The NeverBeast is wonderfully animated. It's a weird mashup of a possum, a yak, and Stitch. The beast lumbers around the woods surrounding Pixie Hollow, building large towers of rocks for no apparent reason.
The purpose isn't readily understandable, adding to the mystery. It's a decent mystery too. There's a constant wonder in what he's doing, why he's doing it, and what purpose it serves the story.
While the mystery is fun in its own right, the most satisfying part of the movie is the bond formed between outcasts. Though the movie's climax is actually quite thrilling. The most action-packed ending of any of the 'Tinker Bell' movies.
So, come for the unlikely friendships and unusual comraderies. Stay for the action, and the surprisingly emotional core.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray, DVD, and a Disney Movie Rewards code that controls your Digital Copy access. It also comes with a nice embossed slipcover for those of you that are into that sort of thing.
The animation may not look as intricately refined as a Pixar movie that's been in the works for three or four years, but that doesn't mean these movies don't look great. What it lacks in subtle textures, it makes up for in detail and vibrant color.
Like its predecessors, 'Legend of the NeverBeast' is a colorfully wondrous sight. Clarity is perfectly rendered. Detail is spot-on. I always point to the miniscule detail put into the powdery pixie dust when explaining how such small details are so visible in these movies. This one is no exception. When pixie dust is sprinkled its tiny flecks glow, and sparkle and are individually discernable on screen. Queen Clarion's dress is a wonderful example of the amount of detail and thought that goes into creating some of this animation.
As always lines are definite. Artifacts are non-existent. Banding could so easily creep in during scenes set against gradient blues in the sky. However, banding isn't an issue. Gradients, whether they be dark or light, are free from artifacting of any sort. Dark areas are nice and deep. Overall, another great looking 'Tinker Bell' Blu-ray to add to the collection.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track outdoes the previous movies in the series. This is mostly due to the enthralling action-packed climax which utilizes a lot more of the available soundscape. Not too many 'Tinker Bell' movies have been packed with thundering bass, but this one definitely is. Likewise, 'Legend of the NeverBeast' boasts one of the more immersive mixes in the series.
It's all about that climax, which drives the series into unfamiliar territory. We've had some action here and there, but nothing quite like what's provided at the end of this. Lightning and thunder crash. The entire sound field swirls with roaring winds as an impending storm threatens to destroy Pixie Hollow. The roars of the NeverBeast rumble the sub-woofer nicely. Directionality is wonderfully done. Action move around the room flawlessly. The rear channels are full of soundtrack music, ambient sound, and immersive sound objects once the action gets going.
Up front the sound is clear. Voices are never dull or unintelligible. Even when the sound mix whips itself up into a fury, dialogue is still able to be heard over the ruckus. I think this is the best sounding 'Tinker Bell' movie to date.
Rumors are that this is the last 'Tinker Bell' series film. If that's true, Disney did a great job keeping the quality there. There's enough to enthrall the kids while simultaneously pleasing adults who allow the movies to envelop them. I'm powerless against them. I have to admit that. That said, they are some of the best work Disney has done in the DTV market. 'Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast' is recommended for all.