Were it not for the introduction of de rigueur 3D, this fourth computer-animated feature based on JM Barrie’s scantily-clad fairy would surely have fluttered straight to DVD.
The Secret Of The Wings is lightweight enchantment, which expands Tinker Bell’s universe into the magical realm of Winter Woods.
The contrast between the colourful flora of Tinker’s Nook and this snow-laden new landscape should provide the animators with myriad opportunities for visual invention.
Unfortunately, imaginative flourishes are in short supply and the level of detail of the animation on both characters and backgrounds merely adequate.
It is especially noticeable during major set pieces when Peggy Holmes and co-director Bobs Gannaway opt for long range aerial shots to capture changing seasons. The plot is as flimsy as one of Tink’s wings.
In the magical realm of Pixie Hollow ruled by Queen Clarion (voiced by Anjelica Huston), Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman) and her flighty friends busy themselves gathering berries and coaxing flowers to bloom.
Fairy Mary (Jane Horrocks) oversees the final shipments of baskets, which snowy owls collect and fly into the Winter Woods.
When the time comes for the animals to cross the rubicon, Tink helps Fawn (Angela Bartys) to lead the critters to the checkpoint and watches with envy as the four-legged charges magically sprout winter fur.
“There’s a whole other world over there,” coos Tink, all too aware that she and pals Fawn, Iridessa (Raven-Symone), Rosetta (Megan Hilty) and Silvermist (Lucy Liu) are forbidden from crossing the divide into the kingdom ruled by Lord Milori (Timothy Dalton).
Curiosity gets the better of the mischievous fairy and Tink hitches a ride inside the last basket to the Winter Woods.
Following a thrilling airborne ride, she lands rudely in a world of snowflakes and glittering beauty.
A visit to the Keeper (Jeff Bennett) of the library reveals that Tink has a sister called Periwinkle (Lucy Hale).
“Two fairies born of the same laugh!” gasps the Keeper with delight.He helps to conceal Tink from Lord Milori and allows the fairy sisters to spend time together.
They hatch a plan to smuggle Periwinkle into Pixie Hollow, unprepared for the repercussions of their actions.
If the occasional coo of delight from young girls in the screening is any indication then Tinker Bell And The Secret of The Wings appeals to the target audience.
Vocal performances are solid. Whitman is suitably chirpy and Huston and Dalton being gravitas to their roles as the guardians of neighbouring fairy realms.
A major plot revelation during the final act is heavily sign-posted.
Holmes and co-director Gannaway’s sweet yet slight adventure has its heart in the right place. Unlike the fairies, though, the film never gains altitude.
by Damon Smith