It kind of defies logic, right? I mean, these direct-to-video Disney movies focused on the character of Tinker Bell shouldn't be consistently good. Tinker Bell was always a secondary character even though her marketability was off the charts – shirts, toys, fairy wings for your little girl, etc. It's easy to see why Disney chose to go forward with a series of movies focused on the life and times of the feisty fairy. What's more of a mystery is how they've been able to keep that series reliably decent over the course of four films. What initially felt like a cash-in of epic proportions now feels like a savvy creative move engineered to explore a well-known character's rich backstory. I know, it's weird to me too.
'Secret of the Wings' has been a long time coming. When 'Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue' came out there was talk of a new 'Tinker Bell' adventure waiting for us a year down the road. Then it seemed to get pushed back. The title, 'Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods' was axed. Why? I'm not really quite sure. All of the movies up until now have been titled 'Tinker Bell and the Such and Such.' Even though 'Secret of the Wings' belongs in the franchise it's gone a completely different way as far as naming goes. The explanation is just as mysterious as the winter woods Tinker Bell visits.
This time around, Tinker Bell - and her ever-curious nature, finds out about the Winter Woods. A cold, unforgiving place that lies just over a small stream. On one side of the stream the climate is temperate and summery, on the other side ice forms on the river banks and snow covers the trees. There are fairies on the other side, but they're accustomed to the harsh coldness of winter. If a warm fairy crosses the boundary their wings are liable to freeze and break off. It's a dangerous proposition.
After escaping a deadly pirate adventure and exploring the world of humans up close and personal, Tinker Bell isn't afraid of the cold. Plus, she's excited to investigate a strange wing-shimmering phenomenon that happened to her when she was close to the Winter Woods' border. The only fairy that can help her lives deep within the harsh wilderness and she's determined to get there.
I don't really want to spoil what happens after this even though a few of Disney's needlessly informative trailers end up spoiling it anyway. The 'Tinker Bell' movies are fun because the creative team behind them has thought up simplistic, entertaining ways to explore Tinker Bell's world. It's all about the journey, which is helped along with the stunningly gorgeous animation that accompanies each entry.
Like the three movies that came before this one, 'Secret of the Wings' manages to harness that fun-loving free spirit in order to tell its story. It's a simple one, but it does take on some weightier issues like segregation, immigration, and prejudice to name a few. These movies aren't just for the little girls in your family, although they'll certainly eat them up. The 'Tinker Bell' movies have defied expectations and gone above the call of duty. They could've been content with providing a colorful world of fairies flying around for 90 minutes, which would've been enough for any eight-year-old girl. Yet, with each movie they've crafted inventive, loveable stories populated by thoughtful characters. A proposition that was completely oblivious to the Eisner-era of direct-to-video Disney Animation. If I have one complaint, though, it's the generic pop songs that are used within the movie's soundtrack. They're cloying and obvious, but expected at the same time.
'Secret of the Wings' is just as good – or better as my wife joyously exclaimed – than the previous films. Its rich animation draws you in and its imaginative storytelling will keep you interested. I never thought I'd have this much fun with a series that unabashedly targets pre-teen females, but I do.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This release comes in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. It's packaged in a regular-sized keepcase. It's a region free release.
'Secret of the Wings' comes in both 2D and 3D versions. This review is for the 2D version of the movie, which is just as amazingly dazzling as the other films have been. This is the other aspect of this franchise that has really impressed me. A direct-to-video franchise is expected to skimp on costs, which would in turn mean creating less-than-stellar CG animation to go along with the cost-cutting measures. With these 'Tinker Bell' movies however, there has been no such thing going on. Each one has exhibited top-notch animation which provides demo-quality imagery when harnessed on a Blu-ray.
Following in suit, 'Secret of the Wings' propels its visuals with extremely detailed and lushly vibrant animation. Not only is it colorful enough to keep the kiddies interested, but it's also intricately detailed throughout the movie. Fields of thousands of individual flowers, hundreds of grass blades, innumerable legions of snowflakes are all clearly defined. Edges are free from any sort of compression problems like jaggies. They are smooth and easily discernible. Clarity is picture-perfect here. One of the best examples of how intricate detail can get is watching how perfectly visible each and every speck of pixie dust is. It's simply stunning.
Colors are extremely vivid. From the leafy greens and earthy browns of Tinker Bell's home to the bright whites and icy blues of the Winter Woods, this presentation shines with color. Blacks are deep, but never crush. Shadows are strong and full of depth. In short, this presentation mirrors the demo-quality of the previous releases. It's definitely one to show off.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix also mimics its predecessors. It isn't as stunning as the video presentation, but it's a perfectly solid mix that will delight most listeners.
One thing to notice during the movie is how much action there is in the soundfield. While the rear speakers aren't as assertive as they could be, the mix does have quite a bit of depth when it comes to displaying ambient sound. Directionality is key as fairies flutter in and out of frame with their sound effects following them seamlessly. Dialogue is always clear and delivered through the center speaker, with the front speakers chiming in whenever the placement of out-of-frame voices calls for it.
On the low-end, we feel some bass as the more suspenseful moments of the movie get all intense. Thundering storm clouds approach and some nice thick bass adds to an already varied audio mix. While it may not wow as much as the visual presentation, the audio is no slouch.
I don't really have to feel all that embarrassed anymore to exclaim how much I enjoy these 'Tinker Bell' features. Those of you that have seen the previous movies know what to expect now and know how entertaining they are. 'Secret of the Wings' builds on the momentum of its predecessors providing us with another awfully charming movie about fairies. With demo-quality video and strong audio, this one is highly recommended.