Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Disneytoon Studios returns to Pixie Hollow with the heartwarming adventure “Legend of the NeverBeast.” The new story explores an ancient myth of a fabled creature whose distant roar sparks the curiosity of Tinker Bell’s good friend Fawn, an animal fairy who’s not afraid to break the rules to help an animal in need. But this animal—massive and strange with glowing green eyes—is not really welcome in Pixie Hollow, and the scout fairies are determined to capture the mysterious beast before it destroys their home. Fawn, who sees a tender heart beneath his gruff exterior, must convince Tink and the girls to risk everything to rescue the NeverBeast before time runs out. 

Film (3 out of 5 stars)
After headlining six previous installments based in Pixie Hollow, Tinkerbell (Mae Whitman) cedes the lead in this movie to one of her fellow fairies named Fawn (Ginnifer Goodwin), who loves all animals irregardless of how much danger they might present to the fairy population. It's that love that keeps getting Fawn in trouble with Queen Clarion (Angelica Huston). When Fawn gets caught trying to help a baby hawk by Scout Fairies led by Nyx (Rosario Dawson), the Queen tells Fawn that she needs to learn to start using head, not only her heart as she is putting all of the fairies in danger.

Fawn agrees, but when she hears an unfamiliar roar in the forest and immediately takes off to discover kind of animal it could be. Once she finds the creature, it's unlike anything that she's ever seen, but she instinctively believes that despite it's huge and different appearance, that it means no harm and she resolves to help it.The creature she names Gruff, keeps trying to build a stack of rocks in different areas of the forest and Fawn begins to help bring them closer. Nyx the scout also heard the roar and she later discovers Gruff and begins an investigation and finds out that Gruff is actually the legendary NeverBeast that had last appeared 800 years earlier. While Nyx believes that Gruff is there to cause harm, Fawn believes that he's there to help and it's just a matter of time before their viewpoints clash which will put Pixie Hollow in danger.

The Legend of the NeverBeast represents a step forward and a step back for the Pixie Hollow series. While the animation and attention to characters has improved, there's also some unfortunate setbacks as well. The movies in this series all follow the same basic plot, we get reacquainted with the fairies, one of them does something that inadvertently causes trouble, and then they all pull together to resolve the problem by the end. The only difference this time is that the lead isn't Tinkerbell anymore. 

Another troubling change is the fact that all of the males have been essentially removed from Pixie Hollow save for one nerdy librarian that doesn't accomplish anything. I understand that the focus of the series was meant to empower girls and to give them heroes of their own, which I completely support, but at the same time, with each movie, the male fairies have fared progressively worse. Even at the start of the series, the token males didn't add much to the plot but at least they were present. In this movie, we have the various animal, plant, tinker, and other assorted fairies including the new scout fairies and they are all female. 

If the goal was originally to compensate for the other movies that feature only males saving the day, this series has swung the pendulum to the complete opposite end to the point that you wonder exactly what happened to all of the male fairies. I don't understand why Disney can't make a movie that celebrates both females and males and makes them equally important and indispensable to the plot? This series is perfect opportunity to show kids that both sexes are valuable and also how they can work together. That issue aside, the movie entertained my son and the voice cast all did a fine job in their roles. I just hope that the next installment finds a better balance that provides some great role models for both boys and girls.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
This 1080p transfer looks excellent as almost all of Disney's releases do. Colors are vibrant and lovely to see in all of their varied hues and the contrast is spot on. The black levels are suitably dark and solid looking and detail is also exceptionally sharp. There's no digital defects to complain about and this movie looks just as good as the previous installments.
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast is one of the few direct to video releases to sport a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix and it sounds fantastic. This film really takes advantage of the upgrade too especially when it comes to the NeverBeast and the lightning storms at the end. The surround channels are very accurate and offer some very good directional atmosphere. The dialogue is also very clear and easy to understand. I think a lot of people will be surprised at how effective this 7.1 mix actually is.
Extras (1 out of 5 stars)
And now we come to the most disappointing part about this release. These extras are not only short, but they aren't that good and there's a lot of repeated content which is even worse when you consider how little special features have been included.
  • 5 Essential Ingredients to Getting Gruff - Director Steve Loter and his crew talk about what they consider to be the main aspects of Gruff which includes story, design, sound, animation and of course Gruff himself. 
  • My Dad's Movie: The True Story of The NeverBeast - Director Steve Loter and his daughter Calista to talk about how the movie was inspired by her. 
  • Jeff Corwin's Guide to Real-World NeverBeasts - Conservationist Jeff Corwin shares a collection of real "NeverBeasts" from all around the world that kids might enjoy. 
  • Deleted Scenes - We get four different deleted scenes with optional director introductions. 
  • Tink'n About Animals - A two minutes animal song sung by Tinkerbell and friends. 
  • Gruff Love - A two minute NeverBeast promo.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
This another formulaic entry in the Pixie Hollow series, but it's entertaining for children and the animation is getting better each time. It's unfortunate how males characters have essentially been eliminated from the series in the pursuit of female empowerment, but I'm hoping that future installments show that both male and female characters can be courageous and heroic together. The video and audio quality are both top notch, but the extras are solely lacking.

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