Monday, October 12, 2009

Tinker Bell Wears Pants

I have some serious affection Disney's Tinker Bell movie, and Disney Fairies in general. I think it's a cut above a lot of girls franchises out there, based on several points: 1) male and female characters all working together and being friends without weird undertones, 2) personal pride in talents and celebrating one's interests and actions as what makes someone special. Story was taken seriously in development, as can be seen in their decision to retool the story completely, pushing back the DVD's release for nearly a year, predated by a fantastic set of books and consumer products releases.

I could go on and on, which I will at some point, but right now, I'm going to talk about my favorite scene in Tinker Bell and why it makes me really excited about the "new look" that Tinker Bell has in the upcoming release . Tinker Bell has looked many different ways over the years, and that slide show I've link barely scratches the surface. If you think about mythical pixies and all their interpretations over the years there's a lot of lore to cover. Tinker Bell, as she appears in the Disney version of Peter Pan and also, in Disney Fairies, was based on Marilyn Monroe and for years has been seen as a teensy sex symbol as well as a beloved children's character. In rebooting her for a new generation of girls as an aspirational character, they did something amazing in Tinker Bell, they explained why she wore the clothes she did.

Upon arriving at her new home in Pixie Hollow, she is presented with some leaf-clothing that is about 8 sizes too large. In order to get down to the business of being a tinker, frolicking, exploring and generally being active, Tinker Bell cuts the clothes down to size so she can move and not be impeded by the sleeves of the dress. She also finds that her hair is in her face during the process, and pulls it back into her trademark pony tail.

The whole scene lasts about 20 seconds but speaks volumes to anyone watching about the kind of gal Tinker Bell is and why her clothes are a choice she makes. A functional and practical decision on her part is also one that ends up being stunning is not a bad thing, nor is the fact that her friends react by complimenting her, she's pretty but it doesn't affect how they treat her later on and she doesn't get a big head about it, despite the dramatic reveal in the next scene.

This scene warmed my costume designer's heart, and makes me feel happy as a parent to show the movie to my daughter. So, I'll eventually pick up the next DVD that comes out Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. John Lasseter seems to be continuing the emphasis on making sure Tink's apparel makes sense as you can see in her new look for the film.
"I began thinking what the costume design would be for each season," he says. Since Lost Treasure is set in autumn, "the weather is cooler, and her outfit should reflect that."

The result is a tad tomboyish and covers more of her body, yet still clings to her curvy figure. "We wanted to make Tink as real as possible in Lost Treasure," says director Klay Hall. "It made sense she was going to put on a jacket, leggings and boots. This is sort of a new phase for Tink, and the look brings her up to the current feeling we are trying to convey," such as the belt she uses to carry items she needs.

The fact that a female character is changing clothes in a property may seem small, but like my favorite scene, these small moments where motivation is addressed add so much to the story and the depth of character that can be displayed in a property. One small step for pants, one giant leap for storytelling.

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